Director Werner Herzog wanted Mario Adorf as captain of the ship, but Adorf refused to do the takes that involved the ship drifting throughout the rapids. Eventually, six men besides Herzog himself volunteered to do it. Of the six, three were wounded; one had two broken ribs.
Based on a true story. Carlos Fermin Fitzcarrald was a Peruvian rubber baron, the son of an Irish-American father and a Peruvian mother, who developed the Madre de Dios basin by portaging a ship overland. It was disassembled, however, not moved intact. The rivers connected by the Isthmus of Fitzcarrald are the Rio Mishagua and Rio Manu; the Ucayali was part of the downstream shipping route. Fitzcarrald died at age 35 when his ship sank.