When Robin Wright first read the script for “Land,” she thought the story was a perfect antidote to troubling times and the “encouragement to be mean over the last four years.”
The film not only marks Wright’s feature directorial debut, but she also stars in the drama as Edee, a woman who decides to go off the grid by moving to a remote cabin in the woods after experiencing a horrific tragedy. There, she is befriended by a mysterious stranger, Miguel, played by Oscar-nominee Demián Bichir.
“This movie just was so beautiful about human kindness,” Wright says on Tuesday’s episode of the “Just for Variety” podcast. “And yes, you’re going on a journey with a woman who has experienced an unfathomable event in her life that has changed her life forever and she decides to go off the grid. And it’s about being saved by somebody else. And then finding a renewed sense of hope in a new life. And I just felt like that message really needed to be re-reminded.”
Wright never intended to star in the film. “We had a time crunch. We got financed, and we had this really slim window in which we had to cast it and get up on that mountain [they shot the movie in Alberta, Canada] and start prepping because we had to get four seasons in 29 days. … The producers were basically like, ‘We don’t have a choice to wait to see if we get a response. So Robin, I think you’re gonna have to just be in it.’”
Shooting on location, hours away from the nearest town, contributed to the film’s realism. It also made for some unforgettable moments off-camera. “Bobby Bukowski, our DP, chose to sleep in Edee’s cabin most of the shoot so that he could grab and capture everything and anything nature brought him,” Wright remembers. “He would just pick up that camera and shoot. And he would say things the next day like, ‘Well, me and my friend, you know, we got this beautiful sunrise shot this morning. Gorgeous peaks.’ And I kept saying to our producer, ‘Who’s the friend? I don’t remember seeing a friend. Was a friend here last night?’ The friend was his squirrel friend that got into the cabin and was his bed partner. That was his mountain friend. We were living the movie we shot for sure.”
As tough as a 29-day-shoot on the side of mountain in the wilderness may be, Wright also says the experience was “therapeutic.” “We didn’t have very good cell coverage up there so there wasn’t a lot of emailing capability or phone calls,” she recalls. “I loved disconnecting from those devices. And I didn’t really have a choice. And it’s very liberating because you do get to sit with yourself and slow your mind down a little bit because we’re just always going, always thinking, spinning, spinning, spinning. And that is the therapy of it. It just makes you more meditative and you start looking at things more instead of looking and typing.”
Next up for Wright is directing two episodes of the upcoming season of “Ozark.” She’d also love to go behind the camera for something not as serious as “Land” or the Netflix series. “I’m starting to read stuff now,” Wright says. “It would be nice to do a comedy. I think maybe laughing for all of the people, for the viewers. We want more laughing. We need to laugh some more. It’s been a tough year.”
“Land” is in theaters now and will be available at home on demand beginning Friday, March 5.
You can listen to the full interview with Wright above. You can also find “Just for Variety” on Apple Podcasts or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.