In “Wild,” director Jean-Marc Vallée, Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon and Academy Award nominated screenwriter Nick Hornby bring bestselling author Cheryl Strayed’s extraordinary adventure to the screen.
After years of reckless behavior, a heroin addiction and the destruction of her marriage, Strayed makes a rash decision. Haunted by memories of her mother Bobbi (Academy Award nominee Laura Dern) and with absolutely no experience, she sets out to hike more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail all on her own. “Wild” powerfully reveals her terrors and pleasures –as she forges ahead on a journey that maddens, strengthens, and ultimately heals her.
Read what Laura Dern told us exclusively during roundtable interviews:
Q: The line about “I’ve never been me, I’ve been a mother, I’ve been a wife, I was never in the driver’s seat.” When you’re saying lines what are you thinking about, or feeling when you’re handed lines like that?
Everything, you know I mean we hear them and it just cracks our hearts open, and it doesn’t matter if we’re a man or a woman, to consider you know how to put yourself in the way of beauty to consider gratitude … I mean listen we’ve all read slogans and we’ve all clung to books that remind us about being grateful and that sounds great. But when we see someone whose walked through hell and has earned her gratitude to say happy people sing like as an actor, as a human, as a mom, as a woman, to feel those moments and know not only from the script in book from all that Cheryl shared with me, all that her mother walked through is unimaginable and she found that place and that is so inspiring, I just feel so lucky.
Q: Are you tired from press?
A: Are you kidding? I get to talk about Bobbi and Cheryl, this is like the most beautiful opportunity. Just to talk about grief by the way, which no one talks about, they give you a pill for that in America. You know?
Q: You’ve got two movies this year that you’ve gotten huge acclaim for. People have been talking, it’s awards season, they’re talking about Oscar nominations and whatever. How do you feel about it with this movie and “The Fault in Our Stars?”
A: Well first of all, I would answer this so differently 20 years ago because awards rarely honored a small independent film and so we would always be the little engine that could and hope for the critics to honor it and I started learning over time because I would start going oh no we’re just happy to do the work. Now it’s like, ‘Are you kidding?’ Thank God for you guys, thank god for critics thank God for accolades because people will see the movie. So we need this support so desperately. I mean my gift have been given a billion fold. I got to know Bobbi through her daughter; she gave me that gift, you know? That’s irreplaceable in my life so I’m good. But the fact that through all of you and through potential other opportunities more people will see ‘”Wild,” and they go, ‘is that a woman on a hike or what?’ To spread the word that this is something essential for all of us is gorgeous so I say go team thank you for the support, I hope everyone I love sees it, I hope that.
Q: Do you think those two mothers that you played are very similar women, not just because they are played by you? But they both seem to have this vitality and this engagement with fighting for the best that life that can offer?
A: Well, I you know see them differently just as an actor because I try to get inside of who they are and so to me their just such different people but it’s hard to not consider them given that both films address cancer, and both are mothers. Hopefully, I’ll play many mothers in my life and each will be entirely different and unique. But I see in “The Fault in Our Stars”, John Green sees her as this you know progressive hippie who suddenly they got pregnant and they had a kid and then one day her little girl gets this horrific diagnosis and she has to become a grown up and like figure out how to be a mother, whereas this—and life is not really impacted her in a negative ways until this time she has to walk to normalize for her daughter. Whereas this experience is all about trauma from day one. I mean her mother was walking through and trying to guide her children through hell, most days for a long time until she made the incredibly brave choice in 74 when there were no hotlines and nobody was talking about abuse or ‘get out, you stay’ and they had no money and she figured out a way to free her children and herself of that story and gave them this enormous life and could have the level of wisdom and integrity and joy that she gave her children in just unparalleled circumstance. So that’s like wise beyond her years, like she wasn’t playing catch up with anything other than whens she’s going to stand up for herself and then has to come to the place where she realizes just when she was really ready to explore all that she was, you know life got taken from her.
Q: Have you ever been checked out of society and been on a journey to find yourself?
A: Emotionally yes, physically I never will like “Cheryl Stray”, Cheryl’s like what did you think when I first saw the movie? I said I was so happy because I’ll know that you got to do that for me and I’ll never have to take that hike. If I go, I will take all of you with me, we will have duvets in our backpack and there will be a chef. Perhaps a weapon too, I mean I love nature for a few hours at a time.
Q: I feel like the film “Wild” for me and for it’s going to teach some to be a better daughter, a better son, what did you learn from the film?
A: So many things starting with never waste one day sharing your love of yourself, your compassion towards yourself but also telling the people you love, that you love them. That really was a strong experience for me. And also that you know that essential question she offers her daughter about putting yourself in the way of beauty like we just get so caught up in what we decide is a struggle and there’s just beauty everywhere and people loving us everywhere and we just miss it. It’s just so easy to miss. She was such a muse and I’m so lucky to know her and it’s so incredible that Cheryl would describe her mother as the love of her life and lose her and yet she’s given her mother to all of us, like we know her mother in ways we never would have if it weren’t for the memory of her and that’s kind of incredible and [she spoke to you about her daughter being in the film] so it just continues in very beautiful ways.
Q: What do you do when you have a down day because you’re always such a positive person? How do you pull yourself out of there?
A: You know I speak to really smart people including my two kids who are smart.
Q: How old are they?
A: 9 and 12.
Q: Would you let them see this movie?
A: No, but you know eventually … I mean there’s sexually in it, drug use and things like that which every parents going to have a diff opinion, they hear about it all the time on the news, and they’re very — kids are so aware because they have a device that tells them everything., but more just on a personal note I saw my father die in a movie when I was a kid and it really upset me so I may be wrong, they may have a different separation ability, but I didn’t. Then actually I watched my mom in “Chinatown,” I watched her dead too. I was like, it freaked me out. It’s just a cognitive skill to kind of know the difference between the movie and life.
Q: It seems like you know people think of you as one of America’s great actors and you’ve been working for, it’s been 15-20 years something. Do people just come to you all the time with things they want you to do, do you have to pick and choose, is there a balance with your family about how you work? How does it go?
A: Well, no matter what an actor will tell you in these rooms, like all our careers there’s an ebb and flow to all of it, so there are quiet times and there are very exciting times, times where the opportunities and keep coming and there’s times where you are fighting to get the opportunities. And I’m lucky because I was raised by two people who stayed true to the craft of the acting as their goal and redefining who they are as actors and pushing themselves into places that scare them and that was the focus. And not focus on other careers or comparative, keeping their eyes on their own papers, our 4th grade teacher told us and that’s really great wisdom. So I’ve always tried to be on that ride and I think knowing that from them, instead of judging my own career as the barometer, I’ve already seen how it goes and keep the company of great friends who help with that, too. But, it is a very beautiful time and I am getting to do so many things that I love and Reese is such an inspiration and reminder. The show I did for HBO, “Enlightened,” which was so great, that was a great experience for me even though it put me for three years just doing one thing, so I missed out on doing other things I wanted to do, it taught me a lot about development and producing and story and so now I’m developing a couple of things which are really exciting and fun.
Q: The news just the other day that you are doing a comedy with Judd Apatow is that maybe taking a leaf from Reese’s book. If I want a good female role I’m going to make it myself.
A: Oh yeah well and I was already on that bandwagon for sure with HBO I’m developing something since “Enlightened,” then with Judd, something that’s really fun and exciting, so you know continuing to do that while also being very lucky that I have a family of directors who are family forever and I believe will work together forever and then hopefully create new experiences to come.
Q: Do your kids seem interested?
A: They’re artists for sure whether they choose that its profession, I don’t know yet. Both of them love film and they’re also incredibly musical, their dad’s a great musician, so they got it all and although my daughter said the other day, she’s 9, she’s like mom you’re an actor, your parents were actors, daddy’s a musicians, his parents are both musicians could there had been like a vet somewhere? I just laughed. She’s waiting for some family to show up with just something different. It’s like movie, music stuff. So either they will be over it or they will be totally in, but I see it in them for sure.
Q: Actually for you as a daughter, what was it like seeing your dad go through that amazing “Nebraska” campaign?
A: Yes, it was beautiful, oh my God it was so great, I mean, you know, the greatest experience you can have with your father is to have him at the awards and everybody is in their outfits and some nerves … and he’s sitting there like, ‘Kid can you believe it? I’m 79 years old, I’m doing what I love and they invited me to their dinner party.’ And I said ‘Isn’t that great dad?’ Then he said, ‘Now go get me a coke.’ I said ‘It’s the middle of the Academy Awards, you can’t leave,’ he goes, ‘You can do it, just leave and go get a coke.’
I say ‘I’m not leaving dad.’ And Benedict Cumberbatch whose so lovely happened to be sitting next to me, I don’t know him at all and he’s like, ‘Does your father need a coke? I’ll get him a coke.’ He went and got him a Coca Cola which I thought was so adorable. That’s Sherlock.
Q: Don’t you have “Insurgent” up next?
A: No, I’m not doing it, Shailene Woodly who I worked with is doing it and my friend Naomi Watts is in it, but there had been talk about it. No, but there had been talk about it but because we had done “The Fault in Our Stars”, it was another being relatives, seemed a little odd. Because also Ansel Elgort is her relative in the movie and he’s also in our movie; then it would be like the entire cast of “The Fault in Our Stars.“
Q: You trained with Lee Strasberg, Are you still training, do you want to work out your muscle and if so and which coaches do you think are the greats of today?
A: Oh well my teacher, and I did study at Lee Strasberg in the actor’s studio and with Peggy Fury, I’ve had several great teachers. And with Lee himself I had the privilege of studying and watching him at the studio, but since I was 18 my teacher has been Saundra Seacat and I continue to work with her constantly and I hope I never stop learning and growing and she’s extraordinary and I had the most amazing and unique privilege on the last film, I did “99 Homes”, to work with Andrew Garfield and it was the first time I worked on a film where he also studies with Saundra. It was the first time I was on a movie where we shared our teacher, it was beautiful.
“Wild” is now playing!