Wild: Press conference with Reese Witherspoon, Nick Hornby and crew
Wild is the first official film project to have been produced by Pacific Standard, a production company lead by Bruna Papandrea and co-producer and star Reese Witherspoon. Wild tells the story of inspirational walking woman Cheryl Stayed as she treks the Pacific Coast trail alone in order to reboot her life after numerous traumatic events.
We caught up with some of the cast and crew of epic hiking memoir Wild. Star and co-producer Reese Witherspoon, author Cheryl Strayed, screenwriter Nick Hornby and co-producer Bruna Papandrea gave us an insight into the film.
Reese, could you tell us what in particular about Cheryl’s story struck a chord with you?
Reese Witherspoon: So much really. It’s so interesting – as people are seeing the film they all take something different from it, but for me just the idea of this woman finding herself on a journey and doing it completely alone. Something I was thinking about even when we were shooting it is “Could I do this?” And I thought “Well yeah, I could probably hike, but could I do it all alone for 94 days without anyone?” That’s what I found really remarkable.
Bruna, when you and Reese founded Pacific Films, after getting the adaptation of Gone Girl off the ground, did you have a remit for the kinds of film you wanted to make?
Bruna Papandrea: Yes we definitely did: movies with men in them [laughs] – only men, there’s not enough roles for men! No, we definitely had a remit; we both shared the common goal of developing not just roles for women but strong, complicated roles for women. And what better piece of material to start with than Wild?
Cheryl, one of the striking things about your book is how very open and honest you are about your painful and self-destructive experiences, but was it scary to contemplate how that could turn out in a film?
Cheryl Strayed: It was a very different kind of scary. Writing is about revealing, it’s about opening up and it’s about telling the truth and for years I’ve been working that muscle. And I’ve taken a lot of risks in writing, but I’m in control of them – those are my words and I control what goes in and what stays out. But when I said yes to Reese and Bruna, and when I said yes to Nick, and to Jean-Marc [Vallée – director], I had to trust all of these people – and more – to honour my story and be true to my story. And when I sat down to watch it for the first time with my husband and Reese, Bruna and Jean-Marc, I just thought I had to let go, and I had to release the truth of my story into other artists’ hands. So yes, that was terrifying. But you know it turned out really well and I’m so proud.
Nick, you shot to fame as a screenwriter getting into the minds of modern men, but you seem to be doing a good job of getting into women’s heads. What would you say to those who don’t know the story and might have the impression this is a chick-flick?
Nick Hornby: Well, you know it’s about grief and about heroin addiction and promiscuity and being really, really tough both physically and mentally, so it’s not really like any chick-flick I’ve ever seen. And you know, it’s one woman who happens to be a woman … so I guess it’s a chick-flick like the Robert Redford film All Is Lost was a chick-flick.
Reese, can you tell us about your relationship with your “Backpack Monster”, and how it was shooting the film with it?
RW: Well, because when Cheryl started backpacking she had no experience, Jean-Marc wanted me to have no experience with the equipment. So when you see me putting together the tent, that’s me literally putting together the tent. We were filming for two hours, no one was helping me, I was like “Jesus f***ing Christ”, I literally could not figure out the f***ing tent. But the backpack, I thought “They’re going to stuff it full of newspaper, it’s no big deal”, but Jean-Marc said he thought it would be better with real weight. Trust me, I have never been so strong as I was after that movie.
At what stage of casting did your daughter get the role of your younger self, and was it your idea? Was she aware that she was playing you, her mother, as a five-year-old?
CS: Absolutely! So the film had started production and Bruna had met my daughter Bobby and said “She looks like a young Reese – would she like to come and audition?”. But they were like “We’re not just going to give this to her”, so I talked to her and told her that she would have to be in some unhappy scenes and some happier scenes and she just said “No”. But some time went by and they couldn’t find a young Cheryl, and she heard me telling to my husband and she just said from the back of the car “I want to audition”. We went to the audition, she sent me and my husband out of the room, and she did it alone with Jean-Marc and the casting director, and she got the role. Of course it was really emotional for me to watch my daughter being present with this man playing my father doing terrible things to her and to her mother and brother, and then on the contrary to have her dancing with Laura and leaping into Laura’s arms. I really was watching my life flash before me.
Reese and Cheryl, how much did you talk before filming? And Reese, was there anything in particular that really stuck with you while you were out there in the wilderness?
RW: Actually we spent a lot of time together when the script was being developed; I had the benefit, too, of having her on set almost every day. In some ways I was a little scared by that in the beginning, but she was actually this incredibly loving and supportive presence.
CS: There was so much that we talked about in preparation for the role. One of the things I admire about Reese so deeply is – every great actress does this – but you have to begin with the self. To be brave enough to tell your truth in order to be able to tell a story that matters to anyone else. That is the way into the universal narrative. So many of the conversations we had weren’t about the film, they were about our lives, our childhood, the relationships we’ve had and talking about ourselves as mothers.
Wild is released nationwide on 16th January 2015.
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Watch the trailer for Wild here: