Ann Axtell Morris, One Of The US’s First Female Archaeologists, Gets Recognition In New Tom F...

Tom Felton, known for his role as Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter, produces new film ‘Canyon Del Muerto,’ telling the epic story of Ann Axtell Morris, one of the US’s first female archeologists. 

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‘Canyon Del Muerto’ is a new feature film produced by actor Tom Felton, telling the story of Ann Axtell Morris, one of the US’s first female archaeologists who worked with the Navajo tribe in the 1920s to discover the Anasazi, North America’s earliest civilization. Morris will be played by Abigail Lawrie. 

The film is currently expected to release in the spring, also starring Felton as Morris’s husband Earl, who’s historically known as the model for the Indiana Jones character. The film will explore how Morris’s accomplishments were overshadowed due to the prejudice against women at the time, and her husband’s fame. 

Jonathan Nez, the president of the Navajo Nation, called the film an “extraordinary showcase of our land, our people, and our culture. The film was initially granted access to shoot in the sacred landscape of Canyon de Chelly on Navajo tribal lands in Arizona. Felton recently expressed his excitement to highlight this “epic story.”

“It’s an epic story that hasn’t been told before. Ann Morris was only recently acknowledged as a credible archaeologist, even though she set the tone for the next 100 years of young women having the opportunity to enter the field.”

“When I first read the script I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard Ann’s story before. I love archaeology. I’ve always been into digging up the past; Jurassic Park always had a little piece of my enthusiasm as a kid. I was in love with the Model T cars, the tools, the equipment,” Felton stated

The film itself shows Morris and her husband’s journey across the US south-west alongside their Navajo guides, who discouraged the couple from taking the trip into Canyon Del Muerto. The Navajo believed the land to be cursed, referring to it as the Canyon of the Dead Man. 

“Earl was quite a straight shooter, whereas Ann is the fire of the story. She was a very plucky young lady. The stories of Ann’s health issues and Earl’s ineptness to bring his wife into an equal, level playing field led to a very heavily written, ambitious script with loads of beautiful detail,”  Felton said.

Felton also explained how he and Lawrie attended an archaeology boot camp in preparation for the film, and to ensure that every onscreen detail was accurate.

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“We had to get our hands dirty, learn the actual methodical nature of the discipline. It’s painstakingly difficult and slow. We were immersed. Most of the dialogue is based on Ann’s letters.”

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Felton also went on to explain the transition of going from actor to producer for such a historic film:  “It was nice to be part of the decision-making team, but it was definitely more challenging than I thought. 

Usually as an actor, you turn up, do your thing, and then you leave. This time I was more involved in the construction of the film – how we’re going to spend our time, which scenes were the most important to do and get right before moving on in such a limited time.”

“There’s so many moving pieces that no one’s really right. The cinematographer wants to get another shot because the sun’s going down at the right time, the producer wants to move things on because they’re running out of time with an actor. 

It’s quite terrifying to be honest, but it’s delightful when you see it all come together,” Felton stated.