“When you read ‘Wild,’ it cracks your heart wide open and you feel very privileged to be part of knowing her story,” says Laura Dern about her experience reading Cheryl Strayed‘s memoir about hiking more than 1000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail (watch our interview with Dern below). In the film adaptation, Dern plays Cheryl’s mother, Bobbi, whose sudden death from cancer was part of what inspired Cheryl’s epic journey.
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Dern was especially moved by Bobbi’s “earned gratitude from all that she’s walked through, and that she can find joy and happiness in each day with the life she was given is very inspiring.” The actress “definitely felt responsibility” playing Bobbi, given her importance in Cheryl’s life, but “if anyone has ever freed you of feeling pressure, it would be Cheryl.”
“[Cheryl] was there for all of us,” Dern adds about Strayed’s close involvement with the production. “She’s told me now, in the case of me, she was probably the most concerned and protective of how her mother would be portrayed, and luckily for me, we built a very beautiful, lasting, and fast friendship.”
And their children developed a friendship as well. Cheryl’s daughter, named Bobbi after Cheryl’s mother, was eight at the time of production, and “I have a daughter the same age, and they became dear friends,” says Dern, “and I think Cheryl entrusting her daughter with me and them both feeling safe with me and getting to know my daughter and watching me parent, all of those things hopefully built the level of trust we need to throw ourselves into not just doing a movie together, but retelling her own mother’s life, which must have been incredibly emotional for both of them.”
In the film, we only get to know Bobbi through Cheryl’s memories of her, but according to Dern, “As honest as Cheryl is about herself, I always got the feeling she was being that extraordinarily honest about her mother, and I also got the feeling that that’s just how her mother would want it.”
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