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Robin Wright on Her Feature-Directing Debut and ‘Flying the Nest’ After ‘House of Cards’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Robin Wright cut her directing teeth on “House of Cards,” which she describes as “an opportunity to have film school lessons on set each day.” But now, she tells Variety, “I’m flying the nest.”

The actress was looking for her first feature to helm since the final year of the landmark Netflix series. She will head into the wilderness for “Land,” a drama about life off the grid that she said caught her eye and her heart. Production starts this summer in British Columbia, where it will span all four seasons of the year.

Wright was won over by the screenplay from Jesse Chatham and Golden Globe nominee Liz Hannah, but was not supposed to be in front of the camera. “Acting in it wasn’t the initial plan,” she said. “It was due to other people not being available and the clock was ticking. We were losing time. I said ‘I’ll do it, I’m already going to be on set!’ I know who this character is. We’ve been developing the script for over a year and a half.”

Land” follows Edee Mathis, a cosmopolitan lawyer consumed by grief. She goes off the grid to live in a cabin in the woods, where she must learn to hunt, fish and grow her own food. She meets Joseph, a First Nations local, begins to confront her demons, and surprises herself with her own will to survive.

“Land” was developed by Allyn Stewart together with casting director Lora Kennedy and is financed by New York-based production entity Big Beach. It is produced by Stewart, Kennedy, Big Beach co-founder Peter Saraf and Leah Holzer. Marc Turtletaub will executive produce for Big Beach, with Cinetic Media’s John Sloss and Steve Farneth and Iron Circle Pictures’ Heather Rae.

“What resonated was the idea of losing something in your life that made you who you are and [asking] how you survive the pain and grief,” Wright said. “There’s a template [that says] you do this, and then you heal and move on. But that’s not the case. It’s a messy process. I thought the script had something about how to survive your past. To recover, a part of you has to die.”

“Land” has real-world connections. “It also resonates with what’s going on in the world — the gun violence in our country. It feels like it’s the norm now to hear about shootings. There’s so much ugliness,” Wright said. “The fabric of our lives is so different with all of these happenings. Things have turned upside down.”

Just as Wright’s Claire Underwood on “House of Cards” flouted stereotypes, Edee Mathis is a woman in a survival genre where a female lead is a rarity. That “is one of the reasons I did it,” Wright said.

HanWay Films is handling international sales, and Cinetic Media and CAA Media Finance have North America. As the sales effort gets under way in Cannes, Wright will be on the ground to talk to potential partners.

She lands in France amid the perennial festival debate about the role of streamers in the film world. Having starred in and directed one of Netflix’s most iconic series — and also having starred in numerous films at Cannes — Wright sees it from both sides. She is both a purist and realist. “I’m old school,” she said. “Films of this nature, with epic landscapes and the emotional drama, [are made] to be experienced in a theater with other people. But I’m also very aware of the new mediums.”

Just don’t get caught watching “Land” on a cellphone. “One thing I think is blasphemous: to watch on a phone,” she said.

“Land” was developed by Allyn Stewart together with casting director Lora Kennedy and is financed by New York-based production entity Big Beach. It is produced by Stewart, Kennedy, Big Beach co-founder Peter Saraf and Leah Holzer. Marc Turtletaub will executive produce for Big Beach, with Cinetic Media’s John Sloss and Steve Farneth and Iron Circle Pictures’ Heather Rae.

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