The Big Picture

  • Lost in London is a unique movie that was shot and screened live in theaters within a few hours, making it a miracle of filmmaking.
  • Woody Harrelson’s directorial debut captures a comedic night on the town in London, featuring a star-studded cast including Owen Wilson, Willie Nelson, Bono, and Daniel Radcliffe.
  • Despite the challenges and logistics of shooting a live movie, Harrelson’s performance and the chaotic events of the night make for a hilarious and fascinating comedy experiment.


Making a movie is a long, arduous process that can be both rewarding and straining all at the same time… but not always! Sometimes, a movie can come together in a few months, or even a few days, from the writing process to the final edit. Then, in the case of Lost in London, a movie’s production and release can all happen within just a few hours. That’s right, this Woody Harrelson-led comedy was shot and screened live in theaters on January 19, 2017. In his directorial debut, Harrelson captures a slice of his own life by telling the true story of a night on the town in London, one that ended up with him in jail. Featuring a star-studded cast that includes Owen Wilson, Willie Nelson, Bono, and Daniel Radcliffe, Lost in London has tons of fun and familiar faces for us, and Woody, to run into along the way.

Instead of making a film that takes place over a long period of time and includes tons of very well-considered edits, carefully constructed shots, and pacing choices, Lost in London is like Woody Harrelson performing free-form jazz. This feels like the most natural comedy you’ve ever seen in your life. That being said, this movie does have a lot of intentionality behind it, and for an artist as great as this, that should come as no surprise. Harrelson had to have everything fully prepared so that the live shoot didn’t fall apart while being screened in theaters. Lost in London is kind of a miracle of filmmaking that shouldn’t have been pulled off as well as it was.

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Lost in London

Within the course of one night, Woody Harrelson finds himself in a misadventure in London that winds him up in jail.

Release Date
January 19, 2017

Director
Woody Harrelson

Cast
Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Daniel Radcliffe

Runtime
100m

Main Genre
Comedy

How Long Does Making a Movie Usually Take?

Movies don’t always have to take an eternity to make, but even the shortest productions can feel never-ending. A finished movie is always like a little miracle. They’re evidence that a group of artistic minds were able to traverse production issues, financial barriers, and creative disagreements, and through it all, they still managed to shape and mold a completed film. Most movies don’t even get past the earliest days of pre-production, dying in the conception, writing, or financing stages. Then, when it comes time to actually shoot something, one of a million things could go wrong. An actor could get hurt on set, a light could go out, a camera could stop working, the weather could end up nasty, or someone could just flat out not show up. There are many reasons that movies take a long time to make, but half the time it’s because of setbacks, not creative decision-making.

Still, some movies have still been able to be made in a very short amount of time. Look at most of Roger Corman’s filmography — he made a name for himself by shooting movies in just a few days. Then, there’s the recently released indie horror hit, Skinamarink, which was filmed in seven days. You can’t forget a found footage horror film as simple as The Blair Witch Project, which was shot in eight days. Horror is a genre that famously can be haphazardly thrown together and still be effective, but a biographical comedy-drama is a totally different story.

‘Lost in London’ Is a Miracle of Technical Artistry

The idea of making a movie about a famous actor’s wild night in a city as big as London, and not only shooting it in real-time in the middle of the night but also broadcasting it live into theaters, sounds like a nightmare. For a guy as laid back as Woody Harrelson, this was a challenge worth accepting. Harrelson didn’t just star in the movie, nor did he only write it, Harrelson directed and produced the film as well! However, given the fact that this movie is rooted in his own life, the narrative aspect couldn’t have been as much of a challenge. For Harrelson, or any filmmaker for that matter, Lost in London would be a dare of technical artistry more than anything.

In an interview with Collider’s Steve Weintraub, Harrelson described the importance of casting this film by saying, “Well, I had to come out in … I guess it was October, so this is October, what would be a year and a half ago, whatever. I had to go over and work on the casting, and then I left.” He then praised the film’s casting director and the opportunity to get into rehearsal sooner than expected, “…I got to get into rehearsal sooner than I would have, and really terrific actors. Shaheen [Baig], who is the casting person, just really good. She’s the lady who does Peaky Blinders and knew she’d be good, but she was great. She brought in a lot of super talented actors.” This is all an understatement. The fact that he got people on board like Owen Wilson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Willie Nelson, as well as lesser-known talents like Eleanor Matsuura and Zrinka Cvitešić, is no doubt a major key behind this movie working as well as it does. You don’t pull off a movie like this without having the very best talent on hand as well, nor without a ton of rehearsal time.

Woody Harrelson’s Traumatic Night Made for a Great Comedy

Woody Harrelson was a bit hard on his own performance, though, and blamed having to focus on every other aspect of making the movie for being at fault by saying, “That’s one of the things I really wish had turned out better. I think of all of that, all the logistics I was so concerned with, I wish I’d have delivered a better performance.” It’s a shame because he’s absolutely hilarious in this movie. He’s playing himself, so it’s not like he has to try too hard, but there’s no reason that he should be upset with this performance. Given that he basically put all of his eggs in one basket with a movie about his own life, it makes sense that he’d be overly critical of Lost in London.

Earlier in that very same interview, Harrelson described the entire process of drumming up Lost in London, between coming up with a movie based on a night in his life to deciding to shoot it live, saying, “The incident happened 2002, I couldn’t get it out of my head as it happens when you have one of the worst nights of your life, and I kept thinking about it, but then I started shifting my thoughts and thinking, ‘You know, you look at this from another perspective, it’s kind of funny.’ You know? And then I thought, ‘Man, I could make this into a comedy.’ Then I later started thinking, ‘Geez, you know, if I could just deal with that little gap where I finally fall asleep and I could make that work, I could actually shoot this in real time.’ That’s how it all developed.” It’s amazing that his ambition so casually snowballed out of a night that was initially so traumatizing for him.

That said, the events that take place do make for a fantastic comedy. Watching Woody Harrelson run from the police on foot and by car, run into folks like Radcliffe, Nelson, and Owen Wilson, traverse through numerous locations, and end up in jail, is all so chaotic and hilarious. You’ll never know what’s coming next. This is even more amazing when you remember that it was done in one shot and broadcast live into theaters! You’ll probably just stand up and give this thing a standing ovation in your own living room. How nothing went wrong on set, we’ll never know, but at least we ended up with this fascinating comedy experiment.

Unless you’ve got the guts of Woody Harrelson, maybe you should avoid filming a movie live and broadcasting it in theaters. The only way that anyone will ever beat the production time of Lost in London is if they shoot a feature in one take that is less than 100 minutes long. Until then, it looks like Harrelson will hold the title for the shortest production time on a feature-length film!

Lost in London is available to watch on Peacock in the U.S.

Watch on Peacock

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