When Sandra Bullock was first approached by Paramount about producing and starring The Lost City, an action-adventure romantic comedy that’s an ode to a vanishing genre, she said thanks, but no thanks. However, she couldn’t stop thinking about the project and returned to the studio with a solution: reverse the roles and make the lead actress more heroic and brave, and bring female sensibility to the lead actor’s character. It was a move Channing Tatum would welcome if she were to star in the film about a romance novelist and her cover model who embark on an adventure.
“There were no obstacles for the female character. And the male character that we’ve seen before,” says Bullock The Hollywood Reporter. “I like that I’m not 25,” continues Bullock, 57. “And I think it’s great that there’s a man who’s willing to be a lot of aspects of himself that traditionally haven’t been shown in films like this because they had to be the action hero. And Chan was so wild. Let’s just do it.”
Nowadays, Bullock and his colleague Liza Chasin are along with the rest of the Lost City Team, celebrate the film, which surpasses $100 million domestically, in a huge effort after being the first pandemic-era film to lure women back into theaters en masse, particularly older women.
Looking back, Bullock, who runs Fortis Films, knew she would need a real production partner if she wanted to continue Lost City and discovered it in Chasin, who founded 3dot Productions a few years ago after leaving her longtime post at Working Title. Bullock has known the respected producer for years, but the two had never worked together.
“I just wanted a partner,” says Bullock, who has produced more than 20 films, including many of her own. “I was so tired of doing everything myself. [I thought]’Where are the producers listed on the call-off sheet?’”
The Paramount film has exceeded all expectations since opening at the North American box office on March 23, surpassing $100 million over Memorial Day weekend. It is currently around $105 million domestically and $187.7 million worldwide.
Other handy stats: Lost City is the second highest-grossing comedy at the domestic box office since the pandemic began Free guy ($121.6 million) and the third highest-grossing film with a female lead behind A Quiet Place Part II ($160.1 million) and Black widow ($183.7 million). It is also the top-grossing original IP image of 2022.
Ashley Brucks, Paramount’s senior executive vice president and head of development, along with former film president Emma Watts, hired Aaron and Adam Nee to direct Lost City based on a screenplay they co-wrote with Dana Fox and Oren Uziel, based on a story conceived by Seth Gordon. Daniel Radcliffe co-stars, while Brad Pitt has a cameo (just as Bullock has a cameo in Pitt’s upcoming film fast train).
Bullock and Chasin insisted on a theatrical release, although Bullock directed her last two films, birdhouse and The Unforgivable, for Netflix. (These two films are in the streamer’s top 10 list of most-watched English-language films of all time in the first 28 days.)
“Yes, streaming was thriving, but we had no doubt that this was theatrical. We shot it for the cinema. It was about scope and scope,” says Bullock. The film was shot on location in the Dominican Republic in 2021, adding to the adventure factor. “When you can finally go back to the movies, what greater gift can there be than seeing a movie you haven’t seen at the cinema in a while,” Chasin says of the action-adventure-comedy romantic genre.
Indeed a long time. Romanticize the stone, starring Kathleen Turner – who also plays a romance novelist – and Michael Douglas was released 38 years ago. The genre slowly lost ground as the superhero fare grew; One of the last big offerings was in 2008 Fool’s Goldwith Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson.
The Lost City started out with a relatively modest $30.5 million but continued to grow its audience (it’s known in the industry as “getting leg”).
“Women of a certain age who are under 18 don’t go out on the first weekend. We have other shit to worry about…like family and career. Therefore, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a movie that sticks around. This film was worth going to the cinema for,” says Bullock.
Women accounted for 56 percent of all ticket buyers over the opening weekend, followed by 59 percent the next — by far a pandemic record. “One of the major accomplishments of this film was attracting this segment of the audience,” said Chris Aronson, Paramount’s director of domestic sales. In the second weekend, the number of moviegoers aged between 35 and 44 rose from 18 per cent to 20 per cent, while those over 55 rose from 13 per cent to 14 per cent. Of course, younger female adults also showed up. On the first weekend, 23 percent of ticket buyers were between the ages of 18 and 24 and 24 percent were between the ages of 25 and 34.
“The success of The Lost City is a testament to Sandy’s creative vision and instincts. It proves that a well-made, female-centric film appeals to all viewers and reminds us that people still want to laugh together. This is the gold that Sandy, Liza, Dana and the Nees mined,” said Daria Cercek, co-president of Paramount Motion Picture Group.
Paramount’s marketing team, led by Marc Weinstock, premiered the film at the SXSW film festival in Austin, where Bullock has a home. The star says: “I thought we were a bit ‘too’ the studio to get in. I was like, ‘Oh my god, if we don’t get in, I can’t walk the streets of Austin.’” Bullock had nothing to worry about. Lost City was a festival sensation. But advertising is their least favorite part of the business. “I shrink when it comes to press, when it comes to being in the public eye and when it comes to doing a photo shoot,” says the star. “I just break down. I’m not good at that, but I love working with people to create something.”
During interviews around the time of SXSW, Bullock revealed that she was taking a break from acting and producing to focus on her two children (she worked back-to-back on The Lost City and The Unforgivable). Overall, the Oscar winner has acted in 50 films.
“I don’t want to be dependent on anyone but my own schedule,” says Bullock. “I’m so burned out. I’m so tired and unable to make healthy, wise decisions, and I know it.” She declined to say how long that break will last. “I really do not know it.”
Adds Bullock: “Work has always been stable for me and I’ve been so lucky. I realized that it might have become my crutch. It was like constantly opening a fridge and looking for something that was never in the fridge. I said to myself, ‘Stop looking for it here because it doesn’t exist here. You have it nice; Create it, find it, and be okay with not having work to validate yourself.’”
Bullock says produce The Lost City working with Chasin was a fabulous experience, as was working with Paramount, which gave her the kind of creative freedom and respect she hasn’t always experienced. “I love working with artists, so Liza and I were a really good match,” says Bullock. “When I’m going out with a bang, I want to date the right person.”
Chasin adds about her future: “Sandy and I are going to do something together. It might just bake cookies. We don’t know what it is yet – it could be a movie – but it’s going to be great.”
So where is the possibility, a Lost City Consequence? Top sources say they would like to find more treasure with Bullock and Chasin.