Wild is based on the uplifting true story of Cheryl Strayed, a grieving and conflicted recent divorcee, who decided to walk the 1000 mile Pacific West Trial from the Mexican Border to the 'Bridge of the Gods' in Canada.
It's an entertaining film, with Cheryl keeping up a constant monologue, provided by the brilliantly funny Nick Hornby (so expect a lot of exasperated cursing!) mixed with poignant literary quotes she collects and leaves littered in the various guest books along her path. It's a spiritual journey on-screen which mirrors Reese's own journey within the role and the production of the film (Reese's production company produced the film.)
Reese is stripped down in this powerful and physically demanding role as the protagonist, Cheryl. She offers her thoughts when approaching this film, which she branded as 'the toughest role' of her career so far, along with the real-life Cheryl Strayed who was on-hand during the making of the film to help bring this film to life.
What made you want to make this book into a film?
Reese: I was completely gripped when reading the book for the first time. It was the idea of a woman going on a journey completely alone that really spoke to me. Could I do that and last all of that time? That's what I found remarkable about the story and couldn't wait to start making the film.
It's a very personal film in a lot of ways. There are aspects that I have been through including divorce and different struggles, but for me it was more of a story about finding yourself.
Did you find the role hard? It looked physically exhausting!
Reese: There is a scene at the beginning of the film where I am putting up a tent, and failing miserably! That was all real- I didn't have any idea what I was doing. The director also thought that the way I was holding myself when walking would only look realistic if I actually carried all of my equipment around with me… let's just say that I have never been as strong as I was when I finished that movie!
However, apart from the physical pain, this was definitely the hardest movie that I have ever made. It was the grief, the divorce and the story of Cheryl that resonated with me and became part of an emotional honesty that I was able to put into the role.
Cheryl, how was it for you to see the process of your own story played out?
Cheryl: I wanted to tell this story for a long time, even if it was a hard process to tell it. I think that you have to be brave enough to tell your truth before you can share it with others, which was why I started the process of writing the book. It was interesting to give my story to the filmmakers as suddenly I had to trust them to tell my story and honour it, which meant that I had to begin to let go of the story and allow it to transform. It was therapeutic in a personal way.
Wild is out in January 2015.