Dern lends her acting sensibilities once again in “Wild” as she plays mother to Reese’s Cheryl who adores her to the heavens. In “Wild,” director Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and Academy Award nominated screenwriter Nick Hornby (“An Education”) 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 (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.
While Cheryl is the core of “Wild,” the film is populated by a diverse group of characters, both from the life Cheryl has just left behind and those she meets on the path forward. Among them, the one person who has impacted Cheryl in the most shattering and enlivening ways is her mother, Bobbi, whose brief, sudden battle with cancer sends Cheryl’s existence into a steep nosedive. Taking the role is Oscar®-nominated and three-time Golden Globe® Award-winning actress Laura Dern, who recently won a Golden Globe for HBO’s “Enlightened.” Known for her versatility and commitment, Dern came up on the radar for Witherspoon early on.
Witherspoon was stirred by what Dern brought to the role. “Laura completely transforms herself in every role, and this is no exception,” says Witherspoon. “She spent so much time trying to learn about Cheryl's mother. And then I think she tapped into what makes her such an extraordinary life force, so that you understand why Cheryl feels like she’ll never be okay again without the love that her mother gave her. Laura was just incredible at portraying that ferocity of love.”
“What a presence. What a voice, what a laugh. Contagious. Even though Laura has so much experience in front of the camera, it feels like she's acting for the first time when she hears action. She looks so excited, so thrilled to do her job, to try something new, something different, something crazy, something emotional, you name it. Laura is such a trooper,’ say Vallée. “Not only did we shoot all of her scenes, but we managed to create new ones to try to give more presence to Cheryl's mother in the film. Improvised scenes that we shot on the fly, between sets, during a makeup test, or a break. And every single one of them is in the film. Thanks to the great Laura Dern.”
The more Dern got to know Bobbi, the more she was awestruck by her. “I think what moved me most is that through all of the challenges of self-discovery and an abusive marriage and raising children on her own in poverty, she had no sense of martyrdom,” says the actress. “There was no victim in her at all. She felt blessed to be alive and to have the chance to redefine life for herself and her children, and to find joy in the unknown. And that is so powerful and inspiring to me as a woman. Just to get close to her through Cheryl’s memories felt like a great privilege.”
All of it was essential to understanding Cheryl, and Jean-Marc was so creative at coming up with ways to condense Cheryl’s entire childhood. We were recreating a lifetime of experiences, and that was a wonderful, exciting kind of challenge,” shares Dern.
“Wild” opens February 4 in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.
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