The Legend of Tarzan is a 2016 American action adventure film based on the fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Directed by David Yates and written by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer, the film stars Alexander Skarsgård as the title character, with Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent, and Christoph Waltz in supporting roles. Principal photography began on June 21, 2014, at Warner Bros. Leavesden Studios in the United Kingdom, and wrapped four months later on October 3.
The film premiered at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on June 29, 2016 and was released in the United States on July 1, 2016, in 2D, 3D, IMAX and IMAX 3D. The film received mixed reviews and has grossed over $312 million.
As a result of the Berlin Conference, the Congo is divided up between Belgium and the United Kingdom. The Belgian government is on the verge of bankruptcy, having gone into heavy debt to build a national railway and other infrastructure. In response, King Leopold II of the Belgians decides to extract the Congo's rich mineral deposits, sending his envoy Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz) to secure the fabled diamonds of Opar. Rom's expedition is ambushed and massacred, with only Rom surviving. A tribal leader, Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou), offers him the diamonds in exchange for an old enemy: Tarzan.
In London, the man once called "Tarzan" has long since left Africa behind and settled down with his wife, American aristocrat Jane Porter (Margot Robbie), and has taken up both his birth name and ancestral family residence as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke. In the eight years since returning from Africa, Lord Greystoke's story as Tarzan has become legendary among the Victorian public, although Lord Greystoke himself wishes to leave the past behind him. Through the British Prime Minister (Jim Broadbent), he is invited by King Leopold to visit Boma and report on the development of the Congo by Belgium, though Greystoke politely declines the invitation. An American envoy, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), who recognises John from the stories of "Tarzan", privately reveals to John, Lord Greystoke, that he suspects the Belgians are enslaving the Congolese population, and persuades him to accept it in order to prove his suspicions. Jane is disappointed when John tells her that she cannot come, as he believes the trip to be too dangerous, remembering how both his parents died as a result of the jungle's brutality following their shipwreck there - his mother died of disease, and his father was later killed by the Mangani apes, leaving the baby John to be raised as Tarzan by his ape "mother" Kala and "brother" Akut. However, John later relents, and allows Jane to accompany him.
John, Jane and Williams take their trip to the Congo. There, the trio encounters a tribal village that knew John and Jane during their stay in the jungle. Jane explains to Williams that her husband was once considered an evil spirit by the African tribes, including that of Chief Mbonga. She recalls how, when she was younger, she and her father lived in the tribal village helping to care for local children. There she met Tarzan, who shielded her from a vicious ape attack, saving Jane's life but was severely injured in the process. Jane took the injured Tarzan home, and nursed him back to health, and the two fell in love. That night, as the tribe sleeps, Rom and his mercenaries attack the village and kidnap John and Jane and kill the tribe's leader. They then escape to a nearby steamboat with Jane and several of the tribe's members, but Williams is able to rescue John.
With the aid of the tribe's warriors, John and Williams intercept a Belgian military train carrying captured slaves, providing Williams with the evidence he needs to expose King Leopold. They also discover that Rom intends to use the diamonds to pay for a massive army to subdue the Congo, and allow Belgium to mine its wealth for Leopold's benefit. As John and Williams continue onward, John encounters the adult Akut, who is now leader of the apes. Aware that Akut considers him a deserter, John challenges him to a fight and loses. That night, as John recovers, Williams recalls the massacres of Native Americans during the Civil War, comparing his actions to be as bad as Rom's and Leopold's.
On Rom's steamboat, Jane dines with Rom, before escaping and swimming to shore. Jane stumbles into an ape nest, where she is rescued by Rom, whose men then shoot and murder many of the apes. John saves the remaining apes, reconciling with Akut, before pursuing Rom. He is cornered by Mbonga and his tribe, where it is revealed that John once killed Mbonga's only son for previously murdering Kala. A defeated Mbonga tearfully accuses John of lacking honour, as his son was just a young boy when John killed him. John spares Mbonga, just as Akut and the apes arrive to subdue the tribe. Rom takes Jane and the diamonds to Boma, where he plans to take control of the army. John, Williams and Akut trigger a massive stampede of wildebeest through Boma, destroying the town and distracting the soldiers, allowing John to rescue Jane. As Rom attempts to escape by boat, Williams sinks it with a machine gun as John swims aboard. Rom tries to kill John, before John throws Rom into the water, where he is devoured by crocodiles.
Williams returns to England and presents the Prime Minister with evidence exposing the slave trade in the African Congo. One year later, John and Jane, having remained in Africa and settled in Jane's father's old house, welcome their first child, as John, Lord Greystoke, returns to his rightful place among the apes as Tarzan.
- Alexander Skarsgård as Tarzan / John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke. On his character Tarzan, Skarsgård said, "This is about a man who’s holding back and slowly as you peel off the layers, he reverts back to a more animalistic state and lets that side of his personality out." To get in Tarzan shape, Skarsgård spent four months in a training regimen before principal photography started and gained 24 pounds. Part of his training was for movement work with choreographer Wayne McGregor.
- Rory J. Saper as 18 Year Old Tarzan
- Christian Stevens as 5 Year Old Tarzan
- Rory J. Saper as 18 Year Old Tarzan
- Margot Robbie as Jane Porter Clayton, Lady Greystoke; Tarzan's wife.
- Ella Purnell as Young Jane Porter (body double)
- Samuel L. Jackson as George Washington Williams, an American entrepreneur and a veteran of the American Civil War
- Christoph Waltz as Captain Léon Rom, a corrupt merciless Belgian captain sent by King Leopold of Belgium to find diamonds and control the region.
- Djimon Hounsou as Chief Mbonga, the leader of the leopard men of Opar (an African tribe that controls the diamond region), and who wants revenge against Tarzan for the death of his son.
- Jim Broadbent as the British Prime Minister
- Casper Crump as Captain Kerchover
- Hadley Fraser as John Clayton II, Tarzan's father
- Genevieve O'Reilly as Alice Clayton, Tarzan's mother
- Yule Masiteng as Muviro, the tribe leader
- Simon Russell Beale as Mr. Frum
An updated version of Tarzan had been in the works since at least 2003, with John August writing. However, by 2008, it was reported that a different version co-writtern by Stephen Sommers and Stuart Beatle, that was said to resemble the Pirates of the Caribbean series, was in development. By 2011, Craig Brewer, who also rewrote a version of the script, was set to direct the film, although this did not come to pass. Instead David Yates was chosen to direct in 2012. Other directors in the running included Susanna White and Gary Ross. In April 2013 it was reported that the production was temporarily suspended due to budgetary concerns.
For a while, producer Jerry Weintraub (no relation to the 50s and 60s Tarzan producer Sy Weintraub) wanted swimmer Michael Phelps to play the title role feeling that he was the heir apparent to Johnny Weissmuller, the original actor who played Tarzan and also a famous competitive swimmer. Weintraub however changed his mind after watching Phelps host Saturday Night Live, reportedly deciding against the decision after watching the episode for only two minutes. Other early contenders for the role included Henry Cavill, Tom Hardy and Charlie Hunnam. On November 14, 2012, Alexander Skarsgård was added to the cast as the title role, by the choice of director Yates, while Samuel L. Jackson was also being eyed to play Williams in the film. Yates found Skarsgård to be the perfect Tarzan. He liked that he was born in Sweden but found a career in America, so "he has this wonderful quality of not quite belonging to one or the other" he said. On March 6, 2013, Yates wanted Jessica Chastain to play the female lead role as Jane Porter. On September 26, 2013, Christoph Waltz was in talks to play as a villain in the film; he was later cast as Captain Rom.
The studio had eyes on Margot Robbie and Emma Stone to play the female lead character Jane Porter. Emma Watson, Sarah Bolger, Georgina Haig, Lucy Hale, Lyndsy Fonseca, Eleanor Tomlinson, Gabriella Wilde, Lucy Boynton and Cressida Bonas were all considered for the part. On January 18, 2014, Robbie was confirmed to play the female lead as Jane in the Tarzan film along with Skarsgard, beating Stone to this role. On June 4, Djimon Hounsou was set to play Chief Mbonga in the film. On June 17, Osy Ikhile was added to the cast to play a supporting role but the character wasn't announced. Ella Purnell was cast as young Jane Porter. Casper Crump was cast to play Captain Kerchover. The release of the first trailer in December 2015 revealed that Jim Broadbent was also a part of the cast.
The principal photography on the film commenced on June 30, 2014, at Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, UK. The filming had begun on the day announcement was made for the expansion of the studio. Filming wrapped the same year on October 3. Making Africa seem authentic was especially important to the filmmakers since the film was shot in England, except for six weeks in Gabon filming background without the cast. A working waterfall and a 100-foot-long collapsible pier were assembled at Warner Bros.’ Leavesden studios. According to The Wall Street Journal, shooting the film in Africa would have made the budget even higher. Filming took place for a total of 70 days.
The film's score was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams. The soundtrack was released on June 16, 2016 by WaterTower Music and on CD on 24 June 2016. Hozier provided a single "Better Love", which was played at the film's end credits