Syracuse alum’s bestseller “Wild” hits silver screen
November 20, 2014
Syracuse University Los Angeles (SULA) hosted a pre-release screening of the film “Wild” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on Nov. 20, complete with complimentary popcorn and soda served in reusable “Wild for Syracuse University” branded cups for the alumni and guests in attendance.
The film, which hit theaters nationwide on Dec. 5, is based on the bestselling memoir by the same name written by SU alumna Cheryl Strayed G’02, played by Reese Witherspoon, who earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for the role. Laura Dern, who plays Strayed’s mother, is also nominated as Best Supporting Actress. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby, “Wild” is a story of how Strayed found self-acceptance after enduring a three-month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
A talkback followed the advance screening of the film along with a discussion about casting, location scouting, and transforming the story from page to screen. The panelists included Strayed, David Rubin, the film’s casting director, Nancy Haecker ’91, the location manager, actor Nick Eversman, and Jenelle Riley, deputy awards and features editor at Variety, who served as moderator for the evening.
When asked about how involved she was with the film’s production, Strayed, who earned her MFA in fiction writing from SU, said she was on set most of the time and saw seven or eight different cuts of the film before the finished product.
“I didn’t realize how much work went into each facet of the film. It was interesting to see how it evolved from the first cut right up to its premiere.”
Strayed thanked Rubin for the film’s tremendous cast. Rubin noted that throughout the filmmaking process, it was important to keep in mind that this was a “real story of a real person.” He focused on finding actors that could disappear into the landscape and capture a simple moment in time.
Haecker, the film’s primary location scout, studied at Newhouse. Just as when she scouted locations in Oregon for Sean Penn’s "Into the Wild," Haecker found that it was important to shoot the entirety of the film on location. “The film is about a woman hiking the PCT, so I wanted to stay as true as possible to the trail itself.”
Up-and-coming actor, Nick Eversman, plays one of the young hikers that Strayed meets on her journey. Eversman felt fortunate to be given an opportunity to be involved in such a beautifully structured film. “I was able to live out many human emotions that a lot of us don’t allow ourselves to feel in everyday life.”
Strayed is currently in the process of writing another book as well as trying her hand at screenwriting. For her, writing is about “keeping faith with each step.”
“It took years after going on the hike before the idea of the book came to fruition. I never do something in hopes that it will become something else. I don’t believe that every book makes a great screenplay. However, Hornby’s reconstruction of the novel beautifully brought my story to screen.”
More than 200 people attended the event where they also had a chance to meet and mingle at a pre-screening reception.
“We are excited to be able to offer our students and alumni these wonderful opportunities to meet and learn from such accomplished professionals,” said Joan Adler, assistant vice president of Regional Programs - Los Angeles. “After the screening, the moderator and panelists stayed to talk with members of the audience. Cheryl Strayed stayed even longer, posing for photos, signing books, and chatting with our students, alumni, and guests.”
Written by Maggie Applegate, a senior television, radio, and film and French studies duel major currently participating in the SULA Semester program.