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The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille

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Contact: dan coplan   
Starring: Cecil B. DeMille, Jesse Lasky, Jr., Charlton Heston
Director: Peter L. Brosnan
Writer: Peter L. Brosnan
Producer: Daniel J. Coplan
Runtime: 88 min
Synopsis: Have you seen “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston? Did you know that in 1923 DeMille made a silent version of “The Ten Commandments.” He shot the film in Santa Barbara County, California, about 150 miles North of Hollywood, and built a huge City of the Pharaoh set. Designed by Paul Iribe, the “father of Art Deco,” it was the largest set in motion picture history. When filming wrapped, the city mysteriously vanished.

In 1982 Peter Brosnan was sitting in a bar and someone told him that there were ancient Egyptian Sphinxes buried somewhere in the California Dunes. It sparked his imagination and he embarked on what turned out to be a thirty year battle to prove the existence of these Sphinxes and the discovery of the Lost City.

After searching in the California desert, he located what he believed was the site of the 1923 filming. In 1990, with a grant from Bank of America (whose founder, A. P. Giannini, helped DeMille finance the film in 1923), Hollywood Heritage Museum sponsored an archaeological survey of the site. Using ground-penetrating radar, archaeologist Dr. John Parker proved conclusively that major anomalies existed under the sands, leading Brosnan to speculate that portions of the Lost City were still intact and recoverable. Further archaeological work on the site was planned, but hoped-for funding from Hollywood never materialized. Peter Brosnan walked away from the project, his dreams forever lost to the shifting sands of the dunes.

Then something remarkable happened, the media found his story, and his phone kept ringing. For over past three decades his story has been a darling in the media, by every major media source, including, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Daily News, People Magazine, The London Times, CNN, NBC Nightly News, CBS News, David Letterman, The Johnny Carson Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, and FUJI TV in Japan has covered it. “The Lost City” story even ended up on the front page of the LA Times.

The movie gods smiled on the project. That LA Times story caught the eye of a philanthropist who tracked Brosnan down and offered to fund the entire archaeological excavation and the documentary film. With some hesitation Peter Brosnan accepted the offer.

From 2010 to 2011 plans were made to start digging on the site in October 2011. After 29 years it finally looked like his dream would come true.

About a week before the dig was to start one of the Archaeologists got a call from a local Chumash Tribe member demanding that Chumash monitors be hired. The Archaeologist told him there wasn’t enough money to do that and turned him down. The Lost City team was to start the excavation on October 12th. On October 11th, 24 hours before work was to start, the Archaeologist got a call from the Santa Barbara Planning Commission. He was told that all permissions for the excavation had been revoked. Someone in Santa Barbara didn’t want this project to happen.

Was it just coincidence, that the project, which had long been ruled exempt from the Coastal Development Permit requirement, was now required to obtain that permit? Had there been collusion between the Chumash Tribe, which owns and operates a casino resort in Santa Barbara, and member(s) of the Planning Commission? Peter Brosnan began investigating.

Then the local press got hold of the story which forced the County Board of Supervisors to hold public hearings. The public outcry encouraged the Planning Commission to rethink their position. Eventually they admitted they were wrong. But, by that time, the very narrow window within which the dig was to have been completed had closed.

The excavation was delayed for another year. In frustration, John Parker, the Archaeologist quit. He will no longer talk about “The Lost City” project.

Once again Peter Brosnan watched helplessly. In the 29 years since he first visited the site, large portions of the set, including the huge Ramses statues had been destroyed by nature, vandals, and vanished. Hope and time were running out. In his heart Peter believed that the mysteries and secrets kept by the taunting sands of the dunes might surrender a Sphinx to him in good condition. Something to redeem his wild 30 year quixotic quest.

The Philanthropist was steadfast. Undaunted and determined Brosnan found a new Archaeological team. One year later in October 2012, everyone in Santa Barbara wanted to be Peter’s friend. The Chumash donated a monitor. The excavation began. They had only 14 days to find a Sphinx. But something was wrong.

After 7 days surveying and digging all they had found was sand.

One day Archaeologist Jack McIlory noticed an odd piece of plaster sticking out of the ground. He began moving sand away from it. What he uncovered might just blow your mind.

“The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille” has been 33 years in the making. It is a compelling story about two obsessed men. One, Cecil B. DeMille, who invented the way stories are told via the moving image and told the story of Moses twice; and, the other, Peter Brosnan obsessed with proving the existence of an ancient city in the middle of nowhere.

The film answers the question: Why did DeMille remake “The Ten Commandments?”

It also explores the pathos of a man, Peter Brosnan, who walked away from this project three times in frustration, only to be called back a fourth time.

It is an iconic tale of a reluctant hero, who finally surrenders to his destiny and accepts that he was chosen to follow this quest and tell this story.

  Copyright: Lost City Productions, LLC
 
Genre: Documentary, Adventure
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