Casa Fitzcarraldo is a hotel and restaurant in Iquitos, Peru. It is an oasis of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of the city with fantastic garden, pool and 4-storey treehouse with a great view of the sunset over the Amazon. It is owned and managed by Walter Saxer, a Swiss, who produced the eponymous film amongst many others for German director Werner Herzog. The film took 5 years to make and was released in 1982.
When the film was shot, the house was purchased and used as a base by the crew as back then there were no roads or houses in the surrounding area. Walter kept the house and has converted it into the present day hotel and homage to the movie. Old photos of the movie and its production adorn the walls.
The movie is a true story about Brian Sweeney “Fitzcarraldo” Fitzgerald, an Irishman living in Iquitos at the time of the rubber boom who had grand dreams of building an opera house in the amazon. To finance the opera house, he purchases a steam ship to transport rubber. He then attempts a crazy manoeuvre to haul the ship by rope over a mountain as a shortcut.
Jason Robards was originally cast in the lead role as Fitzcarraldo, but got ill meaning a complete recast and reshoot. Originally Mick Jagger was cast as Fitzcarraldo’s assistant, but due to his touring commitments with the Rolling Stones, had to be cut from the movie. Walter told me Mick was a very nice down-to-earth guy who loved hanging out with the cast as it was the only place in the world at that time where he was not known!
The movie is famous for the supposed antics of the notoriously bad-tempered lead actor Klaus Kinski, although Walter assured me all rumours of Herzog pulling a gun on Kinski were false. Walter also confided in me that Kinski in fact took over the directing of the film and saved it from failure.
Walter kept me amused every evening with his fantastic stories of movie shoots the world over, including getting stranded in a storm on top of one of the world’s most dangerous mountains, Cerro Torre in Argentina, for the 1991 movie Scream of Stone. He survived the storm, but the army helicopter they had hired for the shooting had to be tied down to stop it blowing away in the night. The next morning they awoke to find the thick steel blades of the machine had been bent 180 degrees!