Monday night “Wild” was screened for the first time in Portland. It’s the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir of the same name.
OPB’s April Baer was at the premiere and joins me now. April, Portland doesn’t get many film premieres, does it?
April Baer: No sir! And the proverbial red carpet was rolled out.
Set scene: Cinema 21… NW Portland… Tented entry putting celebs under the glare of flashbulbs.
Stars came out: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Jean-Marc Vallee, the film’s director.
And of course, Cheryl Strayed was there, in a bright fuchsia dress, with her husband, the documentary filmmaker Brian Lindstrom. Big cheers when they got out of their car. Strayed seemed a little chagrinned.
“What a thrill. I love that Portland is a town that will shout for a writer. A lowly writer.”
Lowly might be stretching it a bit. The book and the film tell the story of Strayed’s emotional journey hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail, reeling with grief after her mother died of cancer.
Oprah Winfrey liked the book so much she re-started her TV book club to talk about it.
When Strayed sent a manuscript to Reese Witherspoon, pre-publication, the actress loved it so much she called Strayed right away to talk about optioning it for film.
Strayed worked closely with the film’s crew. Strayed said she was one of the few people on the development team who’d ever hiked. Nick Hornby, who wrote the screenplay, she says, was particularly curious for details.
“He would, email me and say, ‘Tell me some things that would happen on a hike.’ What was really important for me to convey was how hard it was - my feet hurting, my back hurting, being hungry - and in the midst of that, having the time of my life.”
Strayed says she thinks the film did a good job handling the intent of the story - even if the film takes some liberties with that time in her life.
Geoff Norcross: How does this reflect on Oregon’s film industry?
April Baer: People who work to bring productions to Oregon are very pleased with this.
Oregon Film says the production employed 200 cast and crew, around 600 extras during the shoot.
The Forest Service expects the film will spark interest in hiking the PCT.
A splashy travel story in the New York Times Sunday highlighted places Strayed visited, as seen in the film.
Jean Marc Vallee says he, for one, would be glad to make another film here.
“The restaurants and the music scene, and the music venues, and the outdoors and Bend - all these amazing landscapes. Oregon is the best-kept secret in the United States.”
April Baer: The film opens Thursday in Portland. Depending on how it’s performing, other theaters around the region should see it soon.
Geoff Norcross: What’s next for Cheryl Strayed?
April Baer: She told me she’s working on two things, a novel and another memoir. She’s not sure which one she’ll publish first. But the success of Wild has given her carte blanche on her next project.