The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969)

G | 110, 113 or 121 mins | Drama | October 1969

Full page view
HISTORY

The Royal Hunt of the Sun is based on the Peter Shaffer stage play depicting Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro’s occupation of the Incan Empire. The show debuted to glowing reviews at the National Theatre in London, England, on 8 Dec 1964 before moving to Broadway’s ANTA Playhouse, where it ran from 26 Oct 1965 to 11 Jun 1966.
       Just days after its U.S. opening, the 29 Oct 1965 NYT announced that Filmways, Inc., purchased the rights to produce a motion picture adaptation distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). The deal included a cash sum of $200,000, plus additional payments contingent on the show’s Broadway success. Shaffer signed on to write the screenplay for $100,000, with a promised percentage of the film’s profits upon release. The following spring, however, the 23 Apr 1966 NYT reported that Filmways had “quietly abandoned” plans to move forward with the project amid disagreements over Shaffer’s contract and disapproval from the Spanish government, which viewed Shaffer’s depiction of Pizarro as “distorted…sadistic, greedy and power hungry.”
       Shortly after the dissolution of the Filmways-MGM deal, the 23 Jun 1966 edition announced that independent film producer Eugene Frenke picked up the option for $150,000, plus a percentage of the distributor’s gross. Although the Broadway production had since closed, the show’s success was expected to continue with performances at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, CA, and a national tour.
       The project remained in limbo until the following year, when the 16 Aug 1967 DV and NYT noted the involvement of Cinerama, Inc., as part of the company’s effort to expand into feature film production. The motion included worldwide ... More Less

The Royal Hunt of the Sun is based on the Peter Shaffer stage play depicting Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro’s occupation of the Incan Empire. The show debuted to glowing reviews at the National Theatre in London, England, on 8 Dec 1964 before moving to Broadway’s ANTA Playhouse, where it ran from 26 Oct 1965 to 11 Jun 1966.
       Just days after its U.S. opening, the 29 Oct 1965 NYT announced that Filmways, Inc., purchased the rights to produce a motion picture adaptation distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). The deal included a cash sum of $200,000, plus additional payments contingent on the show’s Broadway success. Shaffer signed on to write the screenplay for $100,000, with a promised percentage of the film’s profits upon release. The following spring, however, the 23 Apr 1966 NYT reported that Filmways had “quietly abandoned” plans to move forward with the project amid disagreements over Shaffer’s contract and disapproval from the Spanish government, which viewed Shaffer’s depiction of Pizarro as “distorted…sadistic, greedy and power hungry.”
       Shortly after the dissolution of the Filmways-MGM deal, the 23 Jun 1966 edition announced that independent film producer Eugene Frenke picked up the option for $150,000, plus a percentage of the distributor’s gross. Although the Broadway production had since closed, the show’s success was expected to continue with performances at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, CA, and a national tour.
       The project remained in limbo until the following year, when the 16 Aug 1967 DV and NYT noted the involvement of Cinerama, Inc., as part of the company’s effort to expand into feature film production. The motion included worldwide distribution for all theatrical projects financed by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), regardless of whether they were shot using Cinerama’s widescreen process. ABC was considering signing on as co-producer of The Royal Hunt of the Sun, having already invested fifty percent in producer Philip Yordan’s Custer of the West (1968, see entry) and Krakatoa, East of Java (1969, see entry), which were both shot in Spain. The 17 Jul 1968 DV and 24 Apr 1969 LAT also named Springfield Productions and Cinema Center Films (CCF) as affiliated companies.
       Although contemporary sources reported conflicting start dates, principal photography was underway by the early summer of 1968. The first few months of filming took place in Spain, where Yordan claimed to have “no trouble” gaining the Spanish censor’s approval. According to the 28 Sep 1968 Var, locations included Almeria and Granada, with interiors shot at the Sevilla and Roma studios in Madrid. While dailies were processed at Madrid’s Fotofilm facility, lab and sound work was to be completed in England. A 6 Oct 1968 LAT article estimated that the production remained in Spain for thirteen weeks before relocating to Peru. The 30 Oct 1968 Var noted that this marked the first time a major motion picture would film in the South American country, owing to the participation of President Fernando Belaúnde Terry. Described by the 16 Oct 1968 Var as a “film buff,” Terry hoped to encourage the development of a local film industry that would make Peru a viable competitor in the international market. A 2 Oct 1968 Var brief also stated that Peruvian Army troops offered to accompany the unit during filming of high-altitude scenes in the Andes Mountains. Production was completed early the next year, as reported by the 5 Feb 1969 Var.
       Actor Christopher Plummer, who played “Pizarro” in the Broadway production, signed on to portray the Incan king, “Atahualpa,” in the film. According to the LAT, the brown body makeup took more than two hours to apply each morning, and the actor studied with an Incan dialect coach to prepare for the role. Plummer reportedly suggested that some of his character’s speeches be translated into the ancient language for the final film.
       Despite concerns raised by the 28 Sep 1968 Var regarding the excessive runtime (then estimated to be more than three hours) and lack of female characters, the film found a distributor shortly before production wrapped. A 29 Jan 1969 DV news story named The Royal Hunt of the Sun as one of thirteen properties acquired by the National General Pictures Corporation (NGP), which planned a limited “roadshow” release across the U.S. A 17 Sep 1969 Var brief detailed the rollout, beginning with an 8 Oct 1969 premiere at the Fine Arts Theatre in New York. Engagements in Toronto and Montreal, Canada, were set for 10 Oct 1969, with play dates in Los Angeles; Philadelphia, PA; Detroit, MI; and Boston, MA, five days later. According to the 9 Oct 1969 DV, CCF and NGP hosted two preview screenings for more than 1,000 Los Angeles teachers and administrators before the film began its regular run at the Beverly Hills Music Hall.
       Items in the 27 Aug 1969 Var and 3 Sep 1969 DV noted that U.K. distribution was handled by the Rank Organization. The picture debuted mid-Sep 1969 at the Cork Film Festival in Ireland, followed by a 2 Oct 1969 premiere at London’s Odeon, St. Martin’s Lane, with proceeds benefitting the Children’s Fund Association. The picture was scheduled to open in London on 20 Oct 1969.
       After the Cork Film Festival, an 8 Oct 1969 Var brief announced that Rank decided to cut nine minutes from the film’s 121-minute runtime. Subsequent U.S. reviews reflected the change, citing durations of 110 and 113 minutes. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
16 Aug 1967
p. 4.
Daily Variety
29 Jan 1969
p. 1, 30.
Daily Variety
3 Sep 1969
p. 12.
Daily Variety
9 Oct 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
16 Oct 1968
p. 32.
Los Angeles Times
6 Oct 1968
Section S, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
24 Apr 1969
Section I, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
15 Oct 1969
Section F, p. 1.
New York Times
29 Oct 1965
p. 51.
New York Times
23 Apr 1966
p. 15.
New York Times
23 Jun 1966
p. 31.
New York Times
16 Aug 1967
p. 36.
New York Times
7 Oct 1969
p. 41.
Variety
26 Apr 1967
p. 96.
Variety
17 Jul 1968
p. 22.
Variety
28 Sep 1968.
---
Variety
2 Oct 1968
p. 32.
Variety
16 Oct 1968
p. 32.
Variety
30 Oct 1968
p. 29.
Variety
5 Feb 1969
p. 37.
Variety
27 Aug 1969
p. 26.
Variety
17 Sep 1969
p. 28.
Variety
8 Oct 1969
p. 32.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Lighting cam
2nd unit photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dressing
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd re-rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Stills camera
Stills camera
Dial coach
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Royal Hunt of the Sun by Peter Shaffer (London, 8 Dec 1964).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
October 1969
Premiere Information:
Cork Film Festival screening: mid-September 1969
London premiere: 2 October 1969
New York opening: 6 October 1969
Los Angeles opening: 15 October 1969
Production Date:
May or June 1968--early February 1969
Copyright Claimant:
Royal Films
Copyright Date:
2 October 1969
Copyright Number:
LP38736
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
gauge
70mm
Lenses
Franscope
Duration(in mins):
110, 113 or 121
MPAA Rating:
G
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro persuades King Carlos V to finance another Peruvian expedition in search of the Incas' gold. Provided only with two priests and Estete, the king's personal representative, Pizarro recruits 167 volunteers and appoints Hernando De Soto second in command. Upon arriving in Peru, Pizarro arranges a meeting with Atahualpa, the divine king of the Incas who has been warned by his followers that the Spanish invasion will lead to disaster. After Pizarro announces to the Inca priests that he, too, is a god, the Peruvian ruler arrives at Spanish headquarters, where Dominican priest Valverde tries to convert him to Christianity. The conversion proves unsuccessful, however, and the Spanish priests demand that Atahualpa be taken prisoner, whereupon the Inca ruler is seized and his escort murdered. Pizarro asks for a ransom in gold large enough to fill Atahualpa's cell, and as the Incas work to fulfill the demand, Pizarro becomes acquainted with the noble leader and is partially convinced of his divinity. As the ransom is delivered, officers in Pizarro's command, fearing Inca reprisals, threaten to mutiny unless Atahualpa is executed, and the priests, unsuccessful in their attempts to convert the Incas, concur. Although Atahualpa guarantees Pizarro's personal safety, the Spanish soldiers sentence Atahualpa, despite Pizarro's protests. The Inca leader dons a golden mask, assuring everyone that the Sun God will not allow him to die. After the execution, Pizarro, with faith in the ruler's prediction, removes the mask to find Atahualpa dead. He then begins to realize the enormity of the crimes he has perpetrated against the ... +


Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro persuades King Carlos V to finance another Peruvian expedition in search of the Incas' gold. Provided only with two priests and Estete, the king's personal representative, Pizarro recruits 167 volunteers and appoints Hernando De Soto second in command. Upon arriving in Peru, Pizarro arranges a meeting with Atahualpa, the divine king of the Incas who has been warned by his followers that the Spanish invasion will lead to disaster. After Pizarro announces to the Inca priests that he, too, is a god, the Peruvian ruler arrives at Spanish headquarters, where Dominican priest Valverde tries to convert him to Christianity. The conversion proves unsuccessful, however, and the Spanish priests demand that Atahualpa be taken prisoner, whereupon the Inca ruler is seized and his escort murdered. Pizarro asks for a ransom in gold large enough to fill Atahualpa's cell, and as the Incas work to fulfill the demand, Pizarro becomes acquainted with the noble leader and is partially convinced of his divinity. As the ransom is delivered, officers in Pizarro's command, fearing Inca reprisals, threaten to mutiny unless Atahualpa is executed, and the priests, unsuccessful in their attempts to convert the Incas, concur. Although Atahualpa guarantees Pizarro's personal safety, the Spanish soldiers sentence Atahualpa, despite Pizarro's protests. The Inca leader dons a golden mask, assuring everyone that the Sun God will not allow him to die. After the execution, Pizarro, with faith in the ruler's prediction, removes the mask to find Atahualpa dead. He then begins to realize the enormity of the crimes he has perpetrated against the Incas. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.