Based on the true adventures of first-time backpacker Cheryl Strayed, who trekked 1,000 miles through the Mojave Desert and forest-covered mountains of Oregon, Reese Witherspoon will give her most gritty performance to date in Wild. But the Oscar-winning actress explained to screenwriter Nick Hornby that it could have been a lot more risqué.
“When I first met Reese I wanted to make sure she wanted to do a film about the book that I’d read. There’s drug use, promiscuity and things you wouldn’t usually associate with a Reese Witherspoon film,” explained Hornby. “If she didn’t want to do any of that, I don’t think I would want to do the adaptation,” he continued. “It would just be hiking and redemption. She assured me that she really did want to do all that stuff. [In fact], she didn’t think there was enough sex in it; she wanted me to put some more in.
“There was this awkward conversation where [Witherspoon] described what she wanted to see. It didn’t appear in the film, anyway, it was bravado on her part.”
After losing her mother, Cheryl Strayed entered into a downward spiral of drug use and lewd behaviour, until she literally walked away from her demons, through momentous desert, forest and mountainous scenery. In order to play the part, Witherpsoon had to shoot on location in tough conditions.
“It’s very real,” explained Hornby. “A lot of that is [director] Jean-Marc Vallée insisting on it being real. He said to her ‘there will be no make-up.’ The way Reese tells it is that she thought ‘I know that look, the no make-up look, you can do that with make-up.’ But he said, ‘no, no, no, nothing at all’.”
Witherspoon wasn’t allowed a mirror at any point during the shoot, so she could never know what she looked like, and she had to carry a weighted backpack to simulate Strayed’s experience. “[Vallée] didn’t think the pack that she was carrying was heavy enough, so he filled it properly, and she had to carry it. Details like that were really effective in the making of the film, [Witherspoon] is very raw in it.”
Wild is released in the UK on January 15, 2015, watch clips and the movie trailer here: