Entertainment The real Indiana Jones: Tom Felton and Abigail Lawrie uncover lost history in latest film
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Canyon Del Muerto, which does not have a confirmed release date yet, follows the epic true story of North America's first female archaeologist - although she was not validated with that title during her lifetime. Among the outstanding cast includes Tom Felton, fresh off the West End, who portrays one of the real-life archeologists that inspired.
Set in the 1920s southwest,follows married couple Ann and Earl Morris, played by Lawrie and Felton respectively, as they work to uncover North America's earliest and most mysterious civilization, the Anasazi, in what is known as the Canyon of the Dead Man.
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Ann's work as an archaeologist has been thoroughly hidden from the public until very recently, with most of history denoting her simply as the wife of a famed archaeologist rather than a pioneer in her own right.
Speaking at a London screening on October 3, director Coerte Voorhees revealed that he had also first encountered Ann through her husband: "Ann Morris first came through the story of Earl Morris, who I was very inspired by. He was a prototype along with (Ewen Bremner's character Sylvanus Morley) for George Lucas and Steven Speilberg for Indiana Jones - there was some inspiration there.
"When we found Ann, it's just this undeniable story of a 21st-century woman stuck in the 20th-century context.
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"The story really became about the vindication of Ann Morris and we wanted to tell and preserve the legacy of the Navajo people and the Anasazi civilisation which is the oldest civilization in North America that pretty much no one knows about."
The film breaks ground in many ways, like being the first to shoot in the sacred and culturally significant landscape of the Canyon de Chelly on Navajo tribal lands.
Coerte reinforced that his primary objective with this film is to tell the story as realistically as possible, meaning it went went international - a demanding venture for Felton in his first stint as a producer especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Felton confessed that when Coerte suggested filming in the real locations Ann worked, the actor thought he "was slightly mental" adding: "I still think he's slightly crazy but he managed to pull it off!"
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The actor declared embarking on the project was "terrifying from the get go" but visibly beamed with pride when seeing the final film unfold, gleefully telling the small audience: "I had a whale of a time and obviously enjoyed thoroughly working with everyone and actually getting my hands dirtier than was predicted."
To freshen up their archaeology skills, Felton and Lawrie went to an archaeology bootcamp before shooting and discovered how hard the field actually is. Felton admitted: "It takes a long time and in our minds, it was slightly more Indiana Jones-glamorous."
Felton made a nod to the "merry crew of misfits" as he recalled the logistics of making Coerte's vision come true: "I felt much of the time it was a pirate ship with captain and his first mates were anyone who was up for it. It was clearly a labour of love from the get-go.
"They weren't willing to sacrifice going to these impossible locations to swap them for green screens. Which sounded very exciting but actually transporting a hundred crew members to that location took several hours in, several hours out let alone dealing with the elements."
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While Felton had plenty of material from the original Earl Morris to work with, as well as his contributions to Indiana Jones, Lawrie was left with very little to help get in the mindset of a woman forgotten by history.
The Tin Star actress admitted she had never heard about Ann before the film and had to turn to letters Ann had written to her mum, and her friend Elizabeth Bixler.
She revealed: "A lot of the dialogue in the script is from her letters and the narration is directly from the letters. She was a woman born at the wrong time but didn't let that stop her.
"There are a lot of things about her that I didn't understand and she's very different to me but I found that interesting. She is a woman whose story I'm glad that we've told."
Hanako Footman, who stars as Elizabeth in the film, similarly relied on letters to help ground her performance. Although a conversation with one of Elizabeth's relatives revealed far more than letters ever could.
She explained: "We spoke to a relative of Elizabeth's and he was pretty set that Elizabeth was in love with Ann. Elizabeth didn't get married until she 50 or 60 years old. I think this was her long-lasting love with Ann that maybe wasn't necessarily reciprocated."
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Canyon Del Muerto has taken years for Coerte and his brother John, a producer on the film, to create. Before any crew could step foot on location, the duo spent a long time arranging and collaborating with the Navajo Nation and the national park which have cultural and environmental stakes in the canyon, which the Voorhees brothers scouted 23 times over three years before filming.
The film's commitment to authenticity doesn't end with location and archaeology skills but also follows through to showing the Native American culture surrounding the canyon, the ruins and the startling handling of the deceased by 20th-century archaeologists.
As John explained: "With this subject specifically we wanted to show it in an authentic, historically accurate way that went about to show the consequence of what happened as well.
"It's a difficult subject to handle but we present it in a way that's respectful and actually provokes conversation about the subject of archeology and how much is it justified to go in and disturb the dead to learn about them, then later put them back in the place that they were resting?"
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