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FOG! Watches Woody Harrelson’s Live Film ‘Lost in London’

Lost In London is a live movie that was streamed to 550 theaters in the US and Britain.

Yes, a live movie, not a play, but a movie shot live and streamed live. No retakes… one camera in one continuous 2 hour take.

This was rife with the possibility of catastrophic failure and yet it happened more or less the way it was meant to. Harrelson puts it “No one has ever shot a movie and live broadcast it into cinema’s before… no one has ever been that stupid… until now.”

The idea of shooting a movie live is a daunting one to say the least but streaming it live is adding an almost unrealistic element of danger to the proceedings. If you have ever worked on a movie set you know ALL the things that can go wrong… now imagine that with the world watching you and no second take.

What is Lost In London though? This is a (somewhat) fictionalized account of the night in 2002 that Woody Harrelson had the worst night of his life. He refuses to say just how much of the film really happened that night but does say “More of the film happened than didn’t”.

Harrelson (who also scripted and directed) plays himself in an escalating series of events snowballing out of a single dumb mistake resulting in a police chase, losing his family (almost), beating up his best friend, alienating all of London and finding out that fame is indeed fleeting.

As stated before this is mostly based in reality from a time when Harrelson’s drinking was out of control. Some embellishments are added for comic effect and others for practical ones (for instance Owen Wilson plays himself in this movie but in reality it was Leonardo DiCaprio who was the one Harrelson got into a fist fight with… Leo was unavailable to shoot the movie so it was re-written for Wilson).

Other parts of the movies OBVIOUSLY didn’t happen but are there for thematic effect (Willie Nelson didn’t really appear to Harrelson in his jail cell to help him set his life straight). Bono appearing on a cell phone as himself being so high he is thinking that he is Jamaican probably didn’t happen either.

The film is also a way for Harrelson to work out some demons. Some biting satire on Hollywood stardom and the ghost of being famous and more directly on Harrelson’s own career. Numerous references to his… less than stellar choices of the 1990’s.

This being a live event problems were bound to come about but surprisingly they were mostly minor. A few times you can see little things didn’t happen as planned (Harrelson throwing a newspaper into a fire and missing for example) but the biggest was something that is not even noticeable until it’s pointed out. There is a scene with two police officers attempting to get Harrelson his phone call and one of them leaves… the actor had more lines but forgot he had those lines. Harrelson and the other cop vamp and make the scene work.

Until the Q&A after the movie I had no idea that was not meant to play out that way. Another issue is that the Waterloo Bridge is a key moment to the ending of the film and they almost lost access to the bridge. It turned out that WWII ordnance was found under the bridge FOUR HOURS before the live broadcast and the Royal Navy shut down all access. With no backup bridge this nearly scuttled the production. 2 hours before air time it was cleared.

With this being a single take for 2 straight hours and it being (mostly) in real time Harrelson is in EVERY scene of the film and if he was not engaging this entire thing would not work. Luckily he gives the damn performance of his life here. He owns the screen for (literally) the entire movie. The film is not quite real time as there is one time jump as Harrelson is sleeping off a high in a jail cell but still the camera does not cut away, simply pans to a clock, pans away and pans back to the new time. Simple and yet effective.

This being a Fathom event there was a Q&A with the cast and crew which shed some great light on the production. Prior to the film many famous people shot (on their phones) little messages to Harrelson about how nuts this whole thing was.

Lost In London kind of needed to be seen live though, I wager the DVD release will be awkward. You will know it was shot live but without the live broadcast feel it kind of loses something.


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