1492: Conquest of Paradise

1492: Conquest of Paradise is a 1992 epic historical drama film directed and produced by Ridley Scott and starring Gérard Depardieu, Armand Assante, and Sigourney Weaver. It portrays a fictionalized version of the travels to the New World by the Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus and the effect this had on indigenous peoples.

1492: Conquest of Paradise
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRidley Scott[1]
Produced byAlain Goldman
Ridley Scott
Written byRoselyne Bosch
Music byVangelis
CinematographyAdrian Biddle
Edited byWilliam M. Anderson
Françoise Bonnot
Les Healey
Armen Minasian
Deborah Zeitman
Distributed byGaumont (France)
Lauren Films (Spain)
Release date
  • 8 October 1992 (1992-10-08) (Spain)
  • 12 October 1992 (1992-10-12) (France)
Running time
156 minutes
Budget$47 million
Box office$59 million[2]

The film was released by Paramount Pictures to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage.[3] The premiere debuted at almost exactly the same time as Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, often leading to confusion between the two films.


In the beginning, Columbus is obsessed with making a trip westwards to Asia, but lacks crew and a ship. The Catholic theologians at the University of Salamanca heavily disapprove of it, and they are not keen on ideas that go against the writings of Ptolemaeus. After continuous warnings at the monastery, he becomes involved in a brawl with the monks, ending up lying in the monastery courtyard to pay penance. His eldest son, Diego, one of the monks, looks on disapprovingly. As Columbus continues his penance through a vow of silence, he is approached by Martín Pinzon, a shipowner from Palos, who introduces Columbus to the banker Santángel. Queen Isabella I (Sigourney Weaver) owes money to Santángel. Columbus meets with the queen, who grants him his journey in exchange for his promise to bring back sufficient amounts of riches in gold.

Columbus tricks many crewmen by telling them that the voyage would only last seven weeks. He goes to confession at the monastery to absolve his sins, and the monk reluctantly gives him absolution, as he is unable to inform the crewmen without breaking his oath. The next morning, three ships leave for the trip to Asia, with the flagship being the Santa Maria. During the voyage at night, Captain Méndez notices him navigating by the stars, a skill previously known only to the Moors. Columbus then happily teaches how to use the quadrant to find the North Star and that the 28th parallel must be followed to find land. Nine weeks go by and still no sign of land. The crew becomes restless and the other captain turns against Columbus. He tries to reinvigorate them, to let them see the dream that he wishes to share. While some of the crewmen were still not convinced, the main sail suddenly catches the wind, which the crewmen see as a small act of God's willingness. At night, Columbus notices mosquitoes on the deck, indicating that land is not far off. Some days later, Columbus and the crew spot an albatross flying around the ship, before disappearing. Suddenly, out of the mist they see Guanahani ("San Salvador") with lush vegetation and sandy beaches, their first glimpse of the New World.

They befriend the local natives, who show them gold they have collected. Columbus teaches one of them Spanish so that they are able to communicate. He then informs them that they are to return to Spain momentarily to visit the Queen and bring the word of God. They leave behind a group of crewmen to begin the colonisation of the New World. Columbus receives a high Spanish honour from the Queen and has dinner with the council. They express disappointment with the small amount of gold he brought back, but the Queen approves of his gifts. On the 2nd expedition, Columbus takes 17 ships and over 1,000 men with him to the island; however, all the crewmen left behind are found to have been killed. When the tribe is confronted by Columbus and his troops, they tell him that other strangers (possibly another tribe) came and savaged them. Columbus chooses to believe them, but his commanding officer Moxica is not convinced. They begin to build the city of La Isabela and eventually manage to hoist the town bell into its tower, symbolising the arrival of Christianity in the New World.

Four years later, Moxica cuts the hand off one of the natives, accusing him of lying about the whereabouts of gold. The word of this act of violence spreads throughout the native tribes and they all disappear into the forest. Columbus begins to worry about a potential war arising, with the natives heavily outnumbering them. Upon return to his home, he finds his house ablaze by Moxica and his followers, confirming his unpopularity among a certain faction of the settlers. Soon, the tribes arrive to fight the Spaniards and the island becomes war-torn, with Columbus' governorship being reassigned with orders for him to return to Spain.

Christopher Columbus is accused of nepotism and offering administrative positions to his personal friends, thereby injuring the pride of the nobles such as Moxica; so, he is replaced by de Bobadilla. It is revealed that Amerigo Vespucci has already travelled to the mainland America. Therefore, Columbus returns to Castile. Columbus is sentenced to many years in prison, but he is bailed out by his sons soon after. When summoned by the Queen about seeing the New World again, he makes a case for her about his dream to see the New World. She agrees to let him take a final voyage, with the proviso that he neither go with his brothers nor return to Santo Domingo or the other colonies. Columbus and his son go to Panama. The closing scene shows him old, with his youngest son writing down his tales of the New World.



The production info is based on the Paramount Pictures pressbook.

The idea for the film began in 1987 when French journalist Roselyne Bosch was researching an article for the upcoming 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas. While examining copies of Columbus' letters to Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand, Bosch realized there was interesting material for a screenplay and began additional research on the events surrounding the voyages such as biographies on Columbus and original documents and translations. Bosch then teamed with French producer Alain Goldman. Hoping to set their sights on attracting a major film director, they met with Ridley Scott as well as Mimi Polk Sotela, producer of Thelma and Louise and vice president of Scott's production company.

Bosch remembers, "I chose to explore the most exciting theory about him – that he was a rebel who pushed the limits of his time; not just geographically, but also socially and politically. You can't imagine a more complex personality that his. There are several men in one."

After Bosch teamed with French producer Alain Goldman, the duo set their sights on attracting a major film director. "Bosch's approach satisfied my curiosity about what kind of leader, seaman and father he was," says Goldman.

Goldman and Bosch met with director Ridley Scott and Mimi Polka-Sotela, executive vice president of his production company and producer of Thelma and Louise. According to Polka-Sotela, "We thought Roselyne's approach was very interesting. As a journalist, she had clearly done her research and her approach was to be honest but fair about Columbus – his obsessions, what he did in order to try and fulfill his dreams: both the positive and the negative results from the pursuit of this quest." According to Scott,"He was a bright light emerging from a dark age, a man looking for renaissance."

Ridley Scott and Alain Goldman joined forces in the autumn of 1990 and the film went into pre-production. While Bosch was finishing the script the producers, CAA, Sinclair Tenenbaum, and Marriott Harrison Solicitors secured financing for what became an international co-production through Odyssey Distributors, and in North America with Paramount Pictures.

Gerard Depardieu was cast in the lead and prepared for the role researching Columbus's letters.

Armand Assante was cast as Sanchez, treasurer of the Spanish crown. According to Ridley Scott, "Sanchez actually existed, but very little is known about him. He personifies the nobility and the forces that eventually brought Columbus down."

Sigourney Weaver was cast as Queen Isabel. According to Scott, "I think Sigourney has a kind of stature as well as a vulnerability that I think Isabel must have had. And that's where the impact lay in the relationship between her and Columbus. It would be silly to suggest it was ever anything approaching sexual, but there was something that obviously impressed Isabel about him."

Michael Wincott was cast as the villain, the disturbed nobleman Adrian de Moxica, who incites a brutal mutiny in the New World. According to Wincott, "Moxica is a creature of his lineage, a man of absolute and corrupt power. To him, Columbus is a peasant and a foreigner, and taking orders from someone so beneath his station is total humiliation. It would have been impossible for them to get along."

Scott and his production team scouted in Spain for more than four months before choosing locations in such historic cities as Caceres, Trujillo, Seville, and Salamanca. The filmmakers were given permission by Spanish authorities to film in world-famous monuments like the Alcazar and Casa de Pilatos in Seville and the Old Cathedral of Salamanca. In Spain, 350 carpenters, laborers and painters worked on the film. Era appropriate props were specially constructed and later-era replicas were secured from antique dealers and prop houses in Madrid, Seville, Rome, and London.

Costume Designer Charles Knode created more than 3,000 costumes. According to Knode, "What we always tried to do was have clothing, not costumes. We tried to make everything look lived-in." Eight outfits were created for Queen Isabel, including a gold brocade gown with a 30-foot printed velvet train and gem-encrusted headdress.

According to Gerard Depardieu, "Once I'm on the set, it's like an explosion of joy," Depardieu says. "I am happy to follow the director and I don't want to convince him of a different approach to a scene. With Ridley Scott I've managed to build up exactly the kind of relationship I yearn for on the set." For settings for the New World, Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia were considered, but Costa Rica was chosen. According to Scott, "Costa Rica has been called 'the Switzerland of the Indies.' It's balanced politically, has no army, and has 95% literacy. Apart from that I needed to have islands, beaches, mainlands, and jungle, and I found it all in Costa Rica." While filming in Costa Rica, the production was based in Jacó, a small town on the Pacific coast. In addition to heavy humidity and 100+ °F (37.8+ °C) temperatures, the production crew had to deal with alligators, scorpions and poisonous snakes. A snake handler was on hand to help keep them away. Ten major sets were built, including three Indian villages, a gold mine, and Columbus's city of Isabel, a twenty acre set which included a cathedral, city hall, an army barracks, a jail, and a two-story governor's mansion for Columbus. Scenes in the New World were often enhanced by atmospheric effects such as mist, smoke, rain, and fire.

170 indigenous people of Costa Rica comprising four tribes, the Bribri, Maleku, Boruca, and Cabecar, were cast as the natives that Columbus encountered. One of the featured natives was Bercelio Moya, who played Utapan, Columbus's translator. Moya's father, Alejandrino, was cast as Chief Guarionex, and his grandfather, Florin, was cast as the tribe's shaman. Other members of Moya's tribe, the Colombian Waunana, helped build totem poles, dugout canoes, furniture, and weapons. According to cast member Alejandrino Moya, "I feel that the people we are portraying are both noble and dignified, and I would have been proud to have been part of their tribe."

Square Sail, a British-based company, refashioned the Santa Maria and Pinta replicas from the hull up from two early 20th century era brigantines. The Nina was constructed in Brazil specifically for the film for the film's 500th anniversary by the Columbus Foundation. The Santa Maria and Nina sailed from Britain to Costa Rica, arriving 10 December 1991 where they joined the Nina.

Filming commenced on 2 December 1991 and ended 10 March 1992, according to imdb.com


Renowned Greek composer Vangelis composed the score. Its main theme, "Conquest of Paradise", was used by former Portuguese Prime-Minister António Guterres at his 1995 election and it was used by the Portuguese Socialist Party as its campaign and rally anthem,[4][5][6] although it was replaced by the main theme from Gladiator (curiously another Ridley Scott film) since the first José Sócrates legislative elections campaign,[7] which doesn't prevent the theme from still being deeply associated with the Socialist Party.[8]

Russia used it in the 2nd round of the 1996 Russian presidential election[9]

The theme is also used at the starting line of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc ultramarathon. The German boxer Henry Maske (former world champion (IBF) in the Light heavyweight category) used the main theme as his official entry theme during his professional career. Other usages of the theme include New Zealand Super 15 Rugby franchise the Canterbury Crusaders, as they run onto the field, often accompanied by actors dressed as knights and riding on horseback, and rugby league team Wigan Warriors who play in the Super League, as well as being played before the start of every match in the 2010 and 2014 cricket World Twenty20 championships as well as the 2011 Cricket World Cup. In these events the theme was played right before the national anthems of the two competing nations, as the flags of the two nations were carried into the ground, accompanied by the players of the two teams. The theme was also played in the Top Gear: US Special and became a signature piece for World Professional Champion figure skaters Anita Hartshorn and Frank Sweiding. Despite the film's dismal box office intake in the United States, the film's score became a successful album worldwide.


Box officeEdit

1492: Conquest of Paradise opened on 66 screens in Spain, grossing $1 million in its first five days.[10] In the United States and Canada, it opened 9 October 1992 in 1,008 theaters. The version released there was edited to 150 minutes, with some violence and brutality removed in order to achieve a PG-13 rating.[11] The film was a flop in the United States, debuting at number 7 with a gross of $3,002,680; worse than the opening of Christopher Columbus: The Discovery earlier in the year, and went on to gross just $7 million.[12][13][14] It opened in France on 12 October 1992, grossing $1.46 million for the weekend from 264 screens.[10] In its second week in Europe, it was the highest-grossing film with a gross of over $7.7 million, including $1.77 million in its opening week in Germany from 213 screens. It did not open well in Italy with $261,800 in its opening weekend from 33 screens.[15][16] By the end of 1992, it had grossed $40 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $47 million.[17] It went on to gross $59 million.[18]

Critical responseEdit

Overall, the film received mixed reviews from critics,[19][20][21][22][23] with the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes giving the film a 32% rating based on 22 reviews with the critical consensus: "Historically inaccurate and dramatically inert, Ridley Scott's retelling of Christopher Columbus' exploits is an epic without grandeur or insight".[24] However, film critic Roger Ebert said that the film was satisfactory, and that "Depardieu lends it gravity, the supporting performances are convincing, the locations are realistic, and we are inspired to reflect that it did indeed take a certain nerve to sail off into nowhere just because an orange was round."[25] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of "B+" on scale of A+ to F.[26]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Berkman, Meredith (16 October 1992). "Coming to America". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  2. ^ "1492: Conquest of Paradise: Box Office / Busieness for". Retrieved 13 October 2015.[unreliable source?]
  3. ^ Mathews, Jack (3 May 1992). "MOVIES : Voyage of Rediscovery : With '1492,' director Ridley Scott and writer Roselyne Bosch aim to portray Christopher Columbus not as a legend but as an extraordinary though flawed person". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 October 2010.
  4. ^ Conquista do Paraíso, Hernâni Matos, blog Estremoz Net, 24 July 2013 (Portuguese)
  5. ^ A Conquista do Paraíso, neves, aj, 19 August 2010, blog Voz do Seven 2 (Portuguese)
  6. ^ [Da avaliação de Passos Coelho], cbs, blog La force des choses, 10 April 2011 (Portuguese)
  7. ^ Bandas Sonoras, blog À Espera de Godot, 13 September 2011 (Portuguese)
  8. ^ Da avaliação de Passos Coelho, cbs, blog La force des choses, 10 April 2011 (Portuguese)
  9. ^ "КАШИН". Telegram.
  10. ^ a b Groves, Don (19 October 1992). "Smooth sailing for '1492' in debuts". Variety. p. 60.
  11. ^ 1492: Conquest of Paradise at the American Film Institute Catalog
  12. ^ Cohn, Lawrence (19 October 1992). "National B.O.". Variety. p. 10.
  13. ^ Fox, David J. (13 October 1992). "Weekend Box Office A Bang-Up Opening for 'Under Siege'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  14. ^ 1492: Conquest of Paradise at Box Office Mojo
  15. ^ "Top 10 Europe's Big Pics". Variety. 26 October 1992. p. 31.
  16. ^ Groves, Don (26 October 1992). "Italians snub their local hero at B.O.". Variety. p. 40.
  17. ^ "U.S. pics at home and abroad". Variety. 4 January 1993. p. 56.
  18. ^ "1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) - IMDb". www.imdb.com.
  19. ^ "Columbus As A Hollywood Hustler". Newsweek. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  20. ^ "1492: Conquest of Paradise". The Washington Post. 9 October 1992. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  21. ^ "1492: Conquest of Paradise". Variety. 31 December 1991. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  22. ^ "1492: Conquest of Paradise". Deseret News. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  23. ^ "1492: Conquest of Paradise". Entertainment Weekly. 16 October 1992. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  24. ^ "1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)" – via www.rottentomatoes.com.
  25. ^ 1492 Review by Roger Ebert
  26. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on 20 December 2018.

External linksEdit