ADRIFT is the incredible true story of one woman’s survival of 41 days at sea after a massive hurricane wrecked the boat she and her fiancé were sailing. It is a film full of love, harrowing loss, survival and one kick ass woman. We spoke with actors Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin, Producers Jordan Kandell and Aaron Kandell, Director Baltasar Kormakur and Tami Oldham, whose story this is.
Adapting Tami’s book into film:
When Baltasar first received the script to read, he was intrigued by the concept. “I couldn’t come up with a movie, a survival movie that had a hero as a woman,” he pondered as he noted the lack of female survivalists showcased in film. He also speaks of the love story involved, and how the story calls for this. This was also something that was interesting to writers Aaron Kandell and Jordan Kandell. They spoke of this balance, between the survival story and interwoven love story and how each was equally important. “That to us was really the appeal, when we found Tami’s story. We’re kind of outdoorsy and especially water men, coming from Hawaii, and so we’re the guys that will go and see the survival films when they come out with our buds, but our wives we can’t always get to go and see those films with us. So when we read this story, we thought not only is this one of the all time great survival stories, but it’s one with a woman, an incredibly strong one, as you were speaking to, I couldn’t have survived 41 days, even if I was a master sailor, I don’t think and we trained on a traditional sailing canoe so I say that with a little bit of experience behind it, like you have to be very strong, mentally, physically skilled, everything for that, and so that was appealing to tell that story for our wives, for my young daughter to see there’s stories like that. And that there’s this incredible true romance at the heart of it that, trying to strike that balance was what was the appeal to us and then what was the challenge in writing,” said Jordan.
Aaron agreed saying, “Falling in love when you’re young can often feel like life and death stakes and so there was something appealing of showing this cinematic scope of these two people having the most lush romance in the most paradise place on Earth and cross cutting that with actual life and death stakes and how love can help you overcome any obstacle. There was an appeal to those two – the love and survival stories kind of talking to each other and having a threading together in a way that hopefully created a more powerful, emotional, visceral experience.”
For Shailene, telling Tami’s story was what was at the forefront of importance for her. “Our movie is also based on the book that Tami wrote herself and the way that Tami wrote it, the formatting of it was past, present sort of woven in and out of one another. And also, the voice that Sam mentioned was the over-arching theme throughout her book and the script is a pretty exact adaption to that so there wasn’t that much artistic license from the screenwriters, it was mostly honoring how Tami herself chose to share her story with the world.”
When the project first came about, unanimously the creators had one actress in mind: Shailene Woodley. Luckily for them, Shailene fell in love with the story and the feeling was mutual. When asked what it was like to see Shailene portray her onscreen, Tami had nothing but praise for her, “It’s unbelievable. She is SO good. And I’ve worked with these two [writers Aaron Kandell and Jordan Kandell] for 5 years. It’s been such a great relationship with Aaron and Jordan Kandell and we were hoping that Shailene would be the one to do it, to raise her hand and come forward and want to passionately get involved in this. And I love her vibe because you know I’m a West coast girl and she is too. And pairing her with Sam as the British sailor, which Richard was British, it’s perfect. It really couldn’t be any better.”
Shailene’s visits in person with Tami were quite limited, though Tami did come to Fiji for two weeks during filming. By the time she arrived, Shailene was already quite comfortable with her due to their extensive chats and Skype sessions before filming started.
Like Tami, Shailene considers herself a pretty adventurous girl, and when asked what’s the greatest adventure she’s ever been on, she explained filming this movie would probably be it. “I mean filming this movie was definitely up there in the biggest adventures I’ve ever been on. Every day felt like an adventure on this project. But yeah I’m incredibly [similar], I would say I can relate to her back about nature and her desire to see the world and immerse herself within different cultures and understand cultures from a local’s perspective versus from a aerial perspective,” she explained.
The filming process:
It was important to Baltasar that the film look as authentic as possible. This involved filming in the ocean to achieve this. “I believe and feel you should always aim for as much reality and gravity as possible in a film, and then you augment it with visual effects… it will bring the visual effects more grounded because you have to connect it with the real shooting,” he explains. This approach truly paid off because the film looks incredible. He uses this method on several of his films. He does like to also give room for change during the filming process to let a film get the right feel to it, “Let them breathe, let them find what they want to be,” he stated.
Coming into this project, there were more than lines the actors had to learn. Both Shailene and Sam were not familiar with the sailing process when they signed onto the film. “I’ve been on a boat before. That’s about as much as I knew really,” explained Sam. “Same with me. Nothing,” echoed Shailene. This prompted quite the research for the two. “We learned to sail. I mean I think it was important to both of us to really, you kind of hope when sailors see this movie, they’ll be like, Oh Sam and Shai know how to sail!’ I don’t know that they’ll do that. But I think that was the great desire was to make this movie for sailors and to make this movie for Tami who was a sailor. So I think it was a lot of hours out in the sea of learning how to tie different ropes and learning the new language. So much of sailing is cerebral more than it is physical. Learning the new, yeah it’s a completely new rolodex of words,” said Shailene.
Sam further elaborated, “Yeah it’s a brand new terminology for living basically. But I think what’s great is that both Shai and I were willing to jump off the deep end – excuse the pun – and we were also really fortunate enough to have a great marine team kind of supporting us and showing us the ropes, again excuse the pun, I think when you’re with a crew and a small cast willing to kind of get your hands dirty and get physical I think we were onto something good.”
Though sailing might look romantic – and the film is certainly a romance – it is more hard work than anything. Despite all the hard work that sailing involves, the two definitely had a lot of fun. Well, Shailene for sure did. When asked what they loved most about sailing, she responded with a quick “everything.” This elicited some laughs from Sam who then replied jokingly, “I loved everything. I got to lay on the back of a boat for most of it so I was really happy.”
Shailene explained to the skeptical Sam, “Yeah. I mean a lot of it was challenging but when you get to see the sunrise and the sunset from the ocean every day, it’s hard to complain about anything and it’s hard not to find deep appreciation and gratitude for the once in a lifetime experience that you’re witnessing alongside a group of really incredible individuals. So much of this movie was possible because of our crew. If we did not have the crew that we did, this movie wouldn’t be what it is. We had people who disregarded seasickness, who chose humor instead of choosing complaints, who chose endurance instead of victimhood and that really made the experience fruitful for everyone. And I think there was a time for all of us when one of us would get tired or one of us would get sunburnt, or there would be a moment of discomfort and someone would remind – we had this sort of unspoken pact – to remind one another that we were filming a movie based on a story that was real and at the end of the day we got to go back to our hotels and we got food delivered to us, no matter what that food looked like. (Laughs) We still had food.” Jokes abound about the amount and quality of food on this film. No extravagant craft services for this one!
ADRIFT is groundbreaking on so many levels and is exactly the film women need to see.
- Shailene has Big Little Lies dark hair right now due to her being in production on the highly anticipated second season. And though she couldn’t really say much about the upcoming season, she did tell us that she was having a lot of fun and that it’s been a new experience with the children on the show being older now.
- There was a lot of seasickness going around, as they shot on location in the middle of the ocean with a crew onboard. Some of the stories shared were pretty vile, so I’ll spare you the details.
- One person who didn’t struggle with sailing – the director! Director Baltasar Kormakur knows how to sail, has competed in sailing competitions and even won some championships when he was younger.
- The film reveals Tami’s dream destination is Japan. She still hasn’t been to Japan yet, but the ship that rescued her was Japanese.
ADRIFT hits theaters nationwide on June 1st!