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Harrison Ford Finds Lost Worlds


Digital Photo by James Hyder (c) Cinergetics LLC

Written by: BMZ Interview
Date: September 2001

Where are the Lost Worlds, and why did Harrison Ford find them so compelling? Lost Worlds: Life in the Balance Director Bayley Silleck explains.


Category: Interviews

From a surreal, flat-topped peak with the world's highest waterfall spilling over its crest rising straight up out of the South American jungle, to the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan, the new Big Movie Lost Worlds: Life in the Balance explores our interconnectedness with nature - and the alarming rate at which the world is being deforested.

The BMZ recently interviewed Director Bayley Silleck on camera in Los Angeles. The following is a small sampling of Mr. Silleck's answers. Visual excerpts can be seen as part of the "Discovering Lost Worlds" BMZ Original Clip.

BMZ: Where does the title Lost Worlds come from?

Bayley Silleck: "Lost Worlds" comes from the Arthur Conan Doyle book of the same name, "The Lost World." (The novel is) quite a different story in a sense. It’s about dinosaurs inhabiting a lost plateau in Venezuela. But in fact it is a real place down in the southeast corner of Venezuela near the border of Brazil and Guyana. And (the plateaus are) still today among the most unexplored and misunderstood places in the world. Little known places with species that have never been found.

BMZ: What's unique about tropical forests as ecosystems?

BS: Well of course tropical forests produce a tremendous amount of the oxygen that we breathe on Earth. They are the richest ecosystem in the world. And we know very little about rainforests. There are thousands, perhaps millions of species that we have never even identified, that science has no conception of, that live in rainforests. There have been experiments that showed 500 species of beetle living on one tree. One tree! So that gives you an amazing example of just how rich and fertile (forests are).

I didn't know this before we started doing the film, (but) most of the loss of forests has not been in the past 8,000 years, but in the last fifty. As narrator Harrison Ford says, "We've cleared more forest in the last fifty years than we did in all our previous history."

And forests not only exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen, but they moderate climate. They affect global warming. Trees actually absorb heavy metals out of the air. They can actually take toxicity out of the air.

I mean you don't have to be a tree hugger to see the value of a tree. We need rainforests. It's that simple. The Earth needs rainforests.

BMZ: What is the Rapid Assessment Program?

BS: Conservation International in Washington set up this program. They've identified something like 50 hot spots around the world that are particularly rich in biodiversity, and are particularly threatened. And basically we know nothing about these places. Very, very little.

The scientists who do this are like paramedics because they have to get out and take care of this patient before the patient goes into cardiac arrest. So the first thing to do is find out what lives there. And if we can find out what lives there we can begin to assess how valuable it is.

And who knows, (they could find) a cure for cancer. I mean the rosy periwinkle of Madagascar was a little tiny plant, just a few growing here and a few growing there. It’s now a cure for childhood leukemia. It's an extraordinary thing. How many rosy periwinkles are growing out in these hot spots that are about to be bulldozed or cut down for housing? I mean nobody knows.

BMZ: Why did you want Harrison Ford as narrator, and how did you interest him in participating?

BS: Right from the beginning, (Line Producer) Daniel Ferguson, (Producer) Goulam Amarsy and I all thought Harrison Ford would be a terrific narrator because he's obviously got a great adventurous image as Indiana Jones and so on. And he's the kind of guy the audience would like to go off with on an expedition to an exotic place. And we liked his low-key approach. We didn't want the bombastic “Voice of God” kind of narration, we wanted a guy who could just talk kind of straight to you, you know?

So I wrote a letter through Ed Wilson, who's a professor at Harvard who wrote "The Diversity of Life". And that was about a year ago and we didn't hear anything, and Harrison was apparently very busy. Then last fall I was talking to my sister on the phone. My sister is a kindergarten teacher in New York, and I was back in New York between editing sessions and she said, "How's the film going?"

And I said, "Fine, except we don't have a narrator yet." And she said, "Well, who are you thinking of?" And I said, "Well, Harrison Ford.” And, she said, "Oh, Harrison Ford. Has he answered you?"

"No, he hasn't answered us." So she said, "Look, why don't I call him?" And I went silent on the other end of the phone. I said, "Y-you're gonna call Harrison Ford? I mean, [LAUGHS] how are you going to call Harrison Ford?" She said, "Oh, I know him and his wife. His kids are at my school."

And I go, "Oh, my gosh." [LAUGHS]. And she said, "Do you want me to call him now?" And I said, "Yeah, now would be good," [LAUGHS]. So I hung up the phone and she hung up the phone. I was sitting by the phone in my New York apartment and, "Ring."

[LAUGHS]. I pick up the phone. And she said, "Well, I just talked to Harrison and, he's kind of interested, you know? He said you better get another package of material over to him as soon as possible and he'll consider it."

And Harrison was wonderful because he brings a lot of integrity. He's on the board of directors of Conservation International and he's a committed environmentalist. He's not just another movie star who gives lip service to some good cause. He's a guy who really goes to these places, gets his hands dirty, and he believes deeply and seriously in the material.

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