In early 2001 moviegoers worldwide got a taste of the savage beauty of Fiji's westernmost islands from Robert Zemeckis' film Castaway.
In early 2001 moviegoers worldwide got a taste of the savage beauty of Fiji's westernmost islands from Robert Zemeckis' film Castaway. The story revolves around a Federal Express employee (Tom Hanks) who becomes stranded on an uninhabited tropical isle after his plane goes down in the Pacific. The planewrecked air courier eventually spends four years on the island, and to achieve the desperate look needed to play his role, Hanks had to lose 40 pounds and grow a ragged beard. Thus Castaway was filmed in two stages eight months apart, with the second portion shot on location in the western Mamanucas in early 2000. For this event around a hundred members of the film crew descended on tiny Monuriki Island, between Matamanoa and Tokoriki.
At the time, concerns were raised that there might be a repeat of the damaging controversy surrounding the filming of The Beach in Thailand, when Leonardo DiCaprio and 20th Century Fox were accused of inflicting serious environmental damage on Maya Beach in Krabi's Phi Phi Islands National Park. The avoid this, Zemeckis was careful to have veteran naturalist and author Dick Watling prepare an environmental code of conduct for the filming, and the film crew followed Watling's recommendations carefully. Later, when environmentalists from the World Wide Fund for Nature in Suva investigated the affair, they gave Zemeckis and his team high marks.
Ironically, 50-odd feral goats have long ravaged the vegetation on Monuriki, threatening the island's rare crested iguanas with extinction. The filmmakers offered to pay the Fijian landowners a bounty of F$100 per goat to remove the beasts, but their offer was refused. To Monuriki's customary owners on nearby Yanuya Island, a steady supply of goat meat is worth more than money or iguanas. Although no Fijians appear in Castaway, it conveys well the spellbinding scenery of this exotic region. Excerpted from the 8th edition of Moon Fiji.