×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Wild Wild Country’ Team Teases Film Adaptation

Kurt Russell had a couple of good reasons for hosting a reception on Saturday for “Wild Wild Country,” the Netflix documentary about the 1970s and ‘80s Oregon-based Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his community of followers.

Not only did Russell’s nephews, brothers Maclain and Chapman Way, direct the six-and-a-half-hour series, but the “Guardians of the Galaxy” actor lived near the Rajneeshees in Portland at the time.

“I happened to be in Portland when a lot of this was going on so when they started talking about it, I was like, ‘Oh, yeah—the Bhagwan! He was around,'” Russell told Variety.

The breakout character of the series is Bhagwan’s assistant Ma Anand Sheela, who spent 24 months in federal prison after being convicted in 1984 of attempted murder when more than 700 people in The Dalles, Oregon suffered food poisoning after Sheela instructed followers to contaminate local salad bars with Salmonella. She had hoped locals would be too sick to vote and Rajneesh followers would win local elections.

The Way brothers’ “Wild Wild Country” journey began about four years ago when they tracked Sheela down in Switzerland, where she runs retirement centers.

TOPANGA, CA - AUGUST 04: Maclain Way and Chapman Way attend the "Wild Wild Country" Filmmaker Toast at Inn of the Seventh Ray on August 4, 2018 in Topanga, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Netflix) *** Local Caption *** Maclain Way;Chapman Way

“We found an email for her,” Maclain said. “It was like Sheela-at-hotmail or something not even as encouraging as that. I was like, ‘This is never going to work in a million years.’ But I shot her an email and told her what we wanted to do.”

It took three visits to Switzerland to convince Sheela to sit for what would turn out to be 35 hours of interview footage. “She felt she had a story she had never been able to tell before,” Chapman said.

Fast forward to today — “Wild Wild Country” is nominated for six Emmys.

“I was walking in Silver Lake the other day and I saw a [street art] poster with a picture of Sheela on it that said, ‘Free Cocaine,’” Chapman said, laughing. “To see Sheela’s face while walking down Sunset Boulevard, I was like, ‘This is too weird.’”

Now the question is if the doc will be adapted into a scripted feature.

“There have been some people interested in the feature and we’re like, ‘Awesome — go do your thing,’” Maclain said.

“We were with it for four years,” Chapman added. “We’re ready to move on.”

Mark Duplass, who co-produced the doc with his brother Jay Duplass, offered some casting suggestions. “Keegan-Michael Key as Bhagwan,” he said. “He’s actually a very serious person and a great dramatic actor when given the chance.”

As for Sheela, Duplass said, “Mindy Kaling. Everybody sees Mindy as sweet, but she’s a f—ing killer. I know it because I’ve been on set with her. It would be fun for people to see that.”

TOPANGA, CA - AUGUST 04: Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn attend the "Wild Wild Country" Filmmaker Toast at Inn of the Seventh Ray on August 4, 2018 in Topanga, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Netflix) *** Local Caption *** Kurt Russell;Goldie Hawn
CREDIT: Getty Images for Netflix

The “Wild Wild Country” event was a cocktail party at the Inn of the Seventh Ray, a rustic restaurant in the Santa Monica Mountains. The flowers, string lights and decorative rugs were on theme.

“I definitely think some Rajneeshees hung out here,” Chapman said.

The guest list also included Goldie Hawn, “Wild Wild” producers Josh Braun, Dan Braun and Juliana Lembi as well as Netflix’s Lisa Nishimura and Ben Cotner.

Red “Wild Wild Country” t-shirts were handed out to party-goers as they departed the bash.

More Film

  • 'How to Train Your Dragon: The

    'How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' to Bow in China on March 1

    “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” will swoop into Chinese theaters on March 1, its Beijing-based promotion company He Song confirmed to Variety on Wednesday. The date puts its China release a week after its Feb. 22 debut in the U.S. and also pits it against “Green Book,” which has scored a China release [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: Beyond 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 2018 Was a Record Sync Year for Queen

    As “Bohemian Rhapsody” approaches a landmark $800 million at the global box office, another Queen milestone quietly took place in 2018. With appearances in nationwide campaigns for Amazon, Ram Trucks, Google, Peloton, Silk Almondmilk and many more, Queen’s music was licensed by more blue-chip brands than any other calendar year. And in the first few [...]

  • Sundance Film Festival Placeholder

    A Changing Film Market Raises the Pressure for Sundance Indies to Succeed (Column)

    Regretfully, I never go to the Sundance Film Festival anymore because I need to mind the editorial store back home, knowing that our crack team of reporters and critics will be filing great scoops and reviews while freezing their butts off (sorry!). I have lots of fond memories from the days when I frequented Park [...]

  • Jimmy Kimmel Oscars

    Will the Oscars Be a Hot Mess Without a Host?

    Who will host this year’s Oscars? With one month left until the telecast on Feb. 24, there’s still no definitive answer. Insiders tell Variety that the ceremony will likely buck the tradition of having a master of ceremonies. Instead, organizers have chosen to patch together a host-less show. That could mean a lot of airtime [...]

  • 2018 Sundance Film Festival - Egyptian

    Sundance Preview: Expect Political Moments and Few Costly Deals at 2019 Festival

    Zac Efron underwent a grueling physical transformation to play serial killer Ted Bundy in “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” a drama premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this week. “I lost 13 pounds,” Efron says. To prepare for the biographical role, he rode a stationary bike for an hour in the mornings while binge-watching [...]

  • Mindy Kaling photographed by Victoria Stevens

    Mindy Kaling Created Her Own Opportunities (and Doesn't Plan on Stopping)

    Over the course of two hit sitcoms, a couple of best-selling books and some scene-stealing turns in Hollywood blockbusters such as “Ocean’s 8” and “Inside Out,” Mindy Kaling has cultivated an image as a kinder, gentler and more relatable star than most. On Instagram or Twitter, where she routinely shares parenting anecdotes and restaurant recommendations, [...]

  • Jimi Hendrix sound check Monterey Pop

    Film Constellation Adds ‘Show Me the Picture’ to Berlin Market Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    London-based sales and financing house Film Constellation has added Alfred George Bailey’s feature documentary “Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall” to its Berlin market slate, ahead of the film’s SXSW premiere. Submarine Entertainment is handling distribution in North America. The film charts the life of American photographer James Joseph Marshall, whose work [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content