Screenwriter: Sean Penn

Distrib/release date: Paramount Vantage/ Sept. 21

Storyline: The true story of Chris McCandless, who graduated from college and set upon a journey across America that became a doomed odyssey of self-discovery.

About the script: Pic’s based upon the nonfiction tome of the same name by mountaineering/nature writer Jon Krakauer. “There were some areas where Jon felt he had held back,” says screenwriter-director Penn about some of the personal details of McCandless’ troubled family life. “It was a very raw nerve at the time he wrote it. He was encouraging of me to take it further in certain ways.”

Breakthrough idea: “There are alternating chapters in which Jon tells … parallel stories of his own experience as an adventurer and as a young man in pursuit of a rite of passage,” notes Penn. “And maybe it was in the alchemy of that, that he was getting through to me some of the things that replaced his chapters with my camera.”

Choice line: Old-timer Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook) tells Chris (Emile Hirsch): “The real difference between people is the quality of their soul and not how long they’ve trudged around like a dip-shit.”

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