After directing 10 episodes of “House of Cards,” Robin Wright was ready to make her feature directorial debut with “Land,” an intense survival drama starring Wright herself as a woman carrying deep grief up with her to a ramshackle cabin in the middle-of-nowhere Canada. “‘House of Cards’ was literally my cinema school,” Wright said. “I knew once that show was over, I was just jonesing to shoot a feature film.”
In the movie, Wright shoots, hunts, and chops wood, among other activities necessary for surviving alone in the wilderness, and the actor/director, for the most part, learned to do all of that herself in preparation for the movie. “You think you can chop wood properly? It’s not easy,” she said. “We had our mountain men teaching us how to do that. How to hold a shotgun, how to skin a deer. This is how you clean out an animal. I mean, I would not be able to survive. Unless I had them… I know that for sure.”
“There’s a real risk of chopping off your leg if you don’t do it properly,” her co-star Demián Bichir said about learning to chop wood. He plays Miguel, a local who comes to her rescue at the 11th perilous hour when Wright’s character, Edie, has exhausted all her limited skills for survival, and nearly slips into a coma during a blizzard.
“We all wish we had a Miguel in our lives, right?” Bichir said. “To bring us nice hot noodles. The skills I brought up to the mountain were pretty simple: I eat three times a day, so I brought that with me, and I was emptying the craft services cart, which I learned from the bear how to open. We had an intruder trying to enter.”
Indeed, the cast and crew of “Land” were visited by an actual bear (the one you see in the movie is CGI) during filming. “He came to the craft service trailer one day and got a hamburger. And that was all she wrote,” Wright said. “That bear came back every day wanting another burger.”
Wright also said that the filmmaking team had to adapt to the rapidly changing weather way up in Alberta, where they shot at 8,000 feet, but that aided in the storytelling, as the movie takes place over the course of two and a half years.
“We’d be shooting a summer scene in a T-shirt and shorts at 75 degrees out, and [our experienced crew] would be like, ‘The Chinook winds are coming in, 75 miles an hour. Everyone tuck in. Hold all the cameras and the lights because they could blow off the mountain,'” Wright said. “And all of the sudden there would be a dump of snow in the middle of September, so we would have to jump back into the tent and change into year two, and get into our Sorel boots and jackets and shoot a winter scene. That was happening frequently.”
Watch the full interview with Robin Wright and Demián Bichir from IndieWire’s Sundance studio, presented by Adobe, in the video above.
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