Actor-turned-director Robert Pattinson is set to make his return to the big screen with the upcoming The Lost City of Z, based on the book of the same name by British journalist Jonathon Keating.

The adaptation will be produced by Wingate Media and will be distributed by Netflix. Set against the backdrop of the late 1800s British Colonialism in the beautiful and tropical Africa, the movie will star Robert as explorer H.G. Wells and Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) as his companion and translator Jane. Along with them will be an ensemble cast including Demián Bichir (The Hurt Locker, A Walk Among the Clouds), Ben Kingsley (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2012), and John Kani (The Legend of Tarzan, The Dark Knight Rises).

The story follows Wells and his team on their quest to find the fabled city of gold, which he claims will be the source of great wealth and power. Hoping to find a cure for a long-standing illness, the intrepid travellers set off on an expedition to Africa and are gradually seduced by the allure of the mysterious city.

Wells’ quest eventually leads him to the mysterious place he calls ‘Z’. What will he discover there?

The Man Behind the Curtain

Pattinson is known for his work as an actor, with roles in Twilight (2008), Water for Elephants (2011), and The Rover (2013). He began his directorial career with the short film Dogs, which he also wrote and starred in. The actor then went on to direct music videos for artists such as Taylor Swift and Adele and embarked on a film project with producer James Waugh. It was during this time that he became interested in adapting Keating’s The Lost City of Z for the big screen and in November 2014 he set up a production company, High Top Films, with Waugh and executive producer Jeremy Thomas.

Although The Lost City of Z is based on a true story, it is not entirely factual. For example, in the book, Wells and his team of intrepid explorers briefly set foot in what is now called Rwanda prior to heading off to Africa. Additionally, while the explorers did travel to Africa and reach as far as Mt. Kilimanjaro, they did not actually reach the ‘City of Z’ or see the golden hills that Keating describes.

However, Pattinson and Waugh are likely to use these deviations from fact in order to give the story more artistic licence. After all, as the saying goes: “Fiction is far more interesting when it’s not entirely true,” which allows the creative freedom to play with history and myth.

Pattinson In Search of Artistic Freedom

When asked why he wants to make an adaptation of The Lost City of Z, Pattinson said in an interview with Vogue: “Artistically, I see tremendous potential in adapting this story for the big screen. I love the idea of having a movie where you have no idea what’s going on. Something that’s constantly surprising and turns on the imagination.”

The director went on to explain that he had always wanted to take his talents behind the camera and that this was the perfect opportunity to do so.

“It’s a fantastic story that has all the elements of a great movie,” he said. “The chance to delve into an era where we can explore a whole new world, while also being creative with historical figures is something that really appeals to me.”

Speaking about the potential for artistic freedom, Pattinson said: “We could definitely go down the route of creative licence, which in my opinion, is always a good idea. Especially when adapting a true story, you want to give it your own spin and make it something new. Be bold, experiment and dare to fail.”

It’s clear that Pattinson sees The Lost City of Z as the perfect vehicle to showcase his talents both onscreen and behind the scenes. A movie where you don’t know what’s going on or where you’re going? With no set locations, the crew could potentially head to Africa and not be completely certain of the outcome.

An Out-of-this-World Setting

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of Africa’s Kilimanjaro, the explorers’ journey will be both thrilling and dangerous. In an interview with the New York Times, Pattinson described the epic adventure as “like a movie, an out-of-this-world setting” and “a real trip, something that we haven’t done in a long time.”

“Adventure is a word that can describe a journey to a foreign country that you may never return from, or encountering danger,” he said. “The best things in life are a risky business. It’s not until you’ve actually done them that you realise how amazing they are.”

The actor has already started to take location shots for the upcoming flick and has described the filming process as both “amazing” and “a real trip.” While in Kenya, director and crew will have the opportunity to see a big-game animal up close and personal, which Pattinson described as “an experience of a lifetime.”

Pattinson has a history of getting close to nature on the big screen. With an affinity for tropical climates and all things ‘jungle’, the director has previously portrayed nature lovers in The Twilight Saga and The Rover. For this new adventure, the crew will take inspiration from the golden hills of Africa and the lush forests of Bali, as well as the explorer’s own experience in Nepal. While high in the Himalayas, the explorers were treated to a breathtaking view of Mt. Everest, which they were unable to capture on camera.

Inspiration From History

With inspiration drawn from history, The Lost City of Z will depict a bygone era when people looked to the future with hope rather than dread. Describing himself as a “big history buff,” Pattinson sees the opportunity to bring this subject matter to life through a story that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

“This story is about an incredible adventure, the sort that not many people get the opportunity to experience. The story is also about an era when hope was more prominent than despair, when people looked to the future with optimism rather than fear. So as an exploration of that time period, it’s fascinating to me,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s a story that everyone can relate to, a universal tale of human perseverance and the human spirit.”

Despite the vast differences in culture and setting, the story behind The Lost City of Z is strangely similar to that of another legendary journey, H.G. Wells’ odyssey through time in The Time Machine. Like the explorer in the story, Wells travels through time in his time machine, which was first introduced in 1895 and became an instant bestseller. Like Wells, Pattinson is taking a risk by putting himself in the director’s seat since he has no experience as a filmmaker. However, this is what makes this project so interesting.

The stakes are high, not only is the director putting his own credibility on the line, but he is also essentially taking on the role of historical figure, in this case, portraying H.G. Wells as he would have been in 1894.

The Perils of Pernicious Plagiarism

Wells and his companions will face danger from all angles, not just from rival expeditions but also from within their own ranks. While climbing Kili in Africa, Pattinson’s health will be put to the test, as the altitude will play havoc with his respiratory system. The actor is used to working in harsh climates, having previously filmed Snow White and the Huntsman in Canada and completed shooting Twilight in the Australian outback. However, this will be the first time that he has actively sought danger in a quest for artistic success. Is this another risky gamble that will pay off?

In an interview with Variety, Keating described the struggle that he has faced since the publication of The Lost City of Z, saying that over 100 plagiarism allegations have been made against him, which he has vehemently denied. Although he does not plan to sue anyone over the scandal, he simply wanted to make sure that people knew the truth about what had happened.