Exploring the ChesapeakeThe New World

Photo: Jamestown settlement, recreated for the movie The New World
A scene from New Line Cinema's film The New World
Photograph by Merie Wallace, SMPSP/New Line Productions
Photo: Colonists at Jamestown, Virginia
A scene from New Line Cinema's film The New World
Photograph by Merie Wallace, SMPSP/New Line Productions
Photo: Boats at Jamestown, Virginia
A scene from New Line Cinema's film The New World
Photograph by Merie Wallace, SMPSP/New Line Productions

Price: I'm told that a lot of hand labor and natural materials were put into the fort that you built for the movie.

Green: All the natural materials that we could find, which is to say local materials, were used because it made sense for Jack in creating the most real experience possible to use the trees that were from the area, to use the mud that was from the area so that the wattle and daub looked real, all those kinds of things that would look right for that area.

Price: Is that unusual in Hollywood filmmaking?

Green: I can't speak for other Hollywood movies. I can't tell you. But I do know that he took it very seriously, and I think it really helped the movie. I think it created a very real atmosphere. And in terms of hand labor, of course there were modern tools used to some extent, but what he tried especially to do was to construct the fort in the way it would have been. For instance, these huge doors that open to the fort aren't on modern hinges; they are attached in a way that would have been done at that time. And he absolutely had people do as much handwork as possible.

Price: How did it come about that you were filming within a stone's throw of the original site of Jamestown?

Green: To be honest, it was a great stroke of luck. We didn't expect to find a proper location there. Lots of people live there, and we assumed that we would never find stretches of riverbank that were free of modern structures. We also wanted old-growth forest and the real majesty of nature. We thought, well, we'll probably find that in Canada, just because our imaginations are such that there are big untouched areas of Canada that would put to shame what we have left here. So we actually hired scouts up there and started seeing pictures and planned to scout; Terry and Jack Fisk and I were going to head up there.

And Jack said, "You know, we can't go north until we see what the real place looked like. So let's start here, we'll go to this re-creation, I'll get a boat together, we'll go up the Chickahominy and the James Rivers, and we'll look around. And then we'll head north."

We did that, and it was beautiful. We were stunned to find beautiful large stretches of land, including one that had only one structure on it, a big old cement fish house with a For Sale sign on it—we thought, well, we'll write that number down just in case.

Off we went to Canada and spent a long time and were disappointed; although we saw beautiful places, we would have to travel hundreds of miles between each one, and it wasn't making any sense. Jack just took it upon himself to go back down [to Virginia] and take that boat back out on the rivers and look around some more. He started sending us pictures and saying, "Guys, it's right here. We shouldn't go anywhere else."

So we contacted that old fish house and found that we could actually afford to rent that huge, beautiful clearing that it was on and take down the fish house—they didn't mind, they were trying to get rid of it anyway.

The clincher was the boats, when we realized that the thing we couldn't possibly afford was three historically correct period ships, but there were three right down the river [at Jamestown Settlement]. We did have to bring in a fourth ship because the re-creation of the Susan Constant had too deep a draft to go up the Chickahominy where we needed that ship to go in certain times. We actually brought a ship from upstate New York called the Half Moon to play the Susan Constant, and we used the Susan Constant as a different ship. But it was just an incredible boon that those ships existed and were beautiful and all we had to do was kind of bring them down so they looked worn and like they'd just crossed an ocean.

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