The Ninjabot

Four Explorers Who Deserve a Major Film

Posted on July 7, 2016 at 11:43 am by David "Snackbar" Edmundson

Hollywood loves historical epics, and yet there’s a surprising gap in these films when it comes to the age of exploration. It’s one of the most fascinating chapters of history, showcasing innumerable tales of bravery and achievement, and it’s probably a good bet that it’s up there on a lot of people’s lists of favorite aspects of history classes from school. Sure, there have been a few movies made about explorers and voyages to new frontiers. But when Pocahontas is arguably the most prominent film in the genre, it’s clear Hollywood could be doing more with these stories.

Keeping that in mind, here’s a quick look at four incredible explorers who would make brilliant movie subjects (and of course, just for fun, some casting suggestions for each one).

DaGama_1Vasco Da Gama
Vasco Da Gama’s claim to fame is that he was the first European to sail to India. He did so by sailing south from his native Portugal around Africa and up through the Indian Ocean, establishing what would become an invaluable trade route for centuries to come. Prior to Da Gama’s voyage, traveling to India had meant a far more treacherous route through the Mediterranean and across the modern day Middle East. Da Gama’s daring quest to find a better route would make for a wonderful tale of courage.

Visual depictions of Da Gama tend to be pretty varied, but generally they present a fairly imposing figure. And for that reason, the ideal actor would seem to be Javier Bardem. Oddly enough, Bardem has also been noted in a Screenrant rumor piece about a Spielberg-directed Montezuma project (in which Bardem would presumably play Hernan Cortes). That wouldn’t be a bad spot for Bardem either, but the idea of him getting a starring turn as Da Gama is quite appealing.

GeorgeAnson_1Vasco Da Gama
This guy simply doesn’t get enough credit. Read through his bio at Mandatory’s list of 10 great explorers and you’ll see that he might have just been charged with the toughest task any man had to take on in the age of exploration. He had to sail from England to Peru, sack an indigenous capital, convince the natives to fight with him against the Spanish, and hijack a Spanish galleon overflowing with gold on his way home. No big deal, right? Anson didn’t accomplish everything he set out to do, but he did survive a voyage in which a huge portion of his crew died off, and he secured the galleon in the end. It’s a story made for Hollywood.

So who could play Anson? Odds are the role would go to one of a handful of appropriately aged British A-listers, but one actor who would make some sense is Lee Pace. An up-and-coming actor with a very strong natural presence, he’s been the victim of a few rough roles (Ronan the Accuser in Guardians Of The Galaxy was particularly cheesy). But he’s likely more affordable than some of the A-listers and still has the natural star power to pull it off.

Pizarro_1Francisco Pizarro
It’s pretty baffling that the best Hollywood has done with the search for El Dorado is an animated Disney movie. The next closest thing to a cinematic experience about this incredible quest is in Lottoland’s Gonzo’s Quest game, which is effectively a slot machine with an exploration theme. That game, too, presents an animated adventure surrounding a fictional explorer named Gonzo who seeks riches in the New World via your own slot reel spins. But where live action is concerned, the very real search for El Dorado, led primarily by a handful of Pizarro’s deputies, has yet to be immortalized in film.

As for casting, frankly it hardly matters who plays the conquistador when the subject is a daring search for a city made of gold. The movie would be intriguing no matter what. But one interesting idea would be Jordi Molla, a Spanish actor who’s had a number of strong supporting roles. Pizarro is generally presented as having relatively sharp features, which matches Molla. Also, the actor has an almost sinister natural demeanor, which suits the general public’s image of a conquistador.

LeifErikson_2Leif Erikson
Columbus “discovered the New World” in 1492. The only problem with that popular myth is that, according to, Leif Erikson got there about 492 years earlier. A Viking soldier and explorer from Iceland, Erikson had a fascinating life that led him to sail west of Greenland (though some believe he was simply blown off course) and found a settlement called Vinland on modern-day Newfoundland. Given the success of the show Vikings, as well as our general fascination with dramatic history, the life of Erikson is perfect for cinematic adaptation.

There might be some trickiness with the accent, but Jeff Bridges, at least visually, seems perfect for the role.

These are only a few possibilities. History has given us countless remarkable stories of exploration, and very few have been turned into films. But if even one of these movies were made, it’s easy to imagine a whole sub-genre of adventure epics developing.

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