Robin Wright on directing new film Land, human connection and going off-grid
As the smash-hit Netflix political thriller House Of Cards was coming to an end, Robin Wright was deciding what to do next.
After six series as Claire Underwood, the force-to-be-reckoned-with politician’s wife who rose to be president of the United States, the actress was looking for something different. What she found was Land, a film in which she stars and makes her feature directing debut, about a woman named Edee dealing with life-altering loss and grief. Edee decides to remove herself from society to embark on a solitary existence living off-grid in the remote mountain wilderness of Wyoming.
“Knowing that House Of Cards was coming to an end in a few months, I was definitely searching for material, and this one just landed,” says Texas-born Wright, 55. “I feel like whether you’re acting or directing, it is seasonal. Where are you in your life at that time? Why are you resonating with that material then?
“And this particular message of human resilience and the power of that, and the hope you feel at the end of the story, really resonated. The most important thing is that we need human connection, and the kindness of others, and how important that cycle is to get through hard times.”
Edee has no experience of battling the elements and the formidable realities of wild living, and it is an encounter with a local man, played by The Bridge star Demian Bichir, that helps her uncover a deeper understanding of nature.
As he teaches her the skills she needs to survive, they form a powerful bond as they help each other to heal. “Land is a story of personal transformation out of tragedy and loss,” Wright notes. “We couldn’t know when we were making it that a global pandemic would leave people grieving all over the world. I can’t and don’t presume that this film can speak to what they’re going through.
“Land is a story about one person’s experience dealing with extreme adversity. I hope it inspires audiences to believe in their own resilience and the capacity we all have to shine a light with simple kindness.”
However, Mexican star Bichir, 57, believes the story will resonate “so deeply” with audiences after the challenging time the world has been through. “Everywhere we have shown the film, here in the US, and everybody who has seen it, that’s what they tell me,” he says. “This is so close to us. And it talks to us in such a deep way, especially over the last year, because I guess we have been forced to experience what Edee experiences in the film.
“Whenever you have some quiet time for yourself, that’s when things really land. And that’s when everything begins making sense. And then you realise what you’ve done and said.
“One of the things Robin and I loved was the frugality of words and emotions and actions, and everything in the air. We took advantage of that. We even cut off some lines sometimes that we just didn’t need.”
For Wright, a seasoned actress known for films such as Forrest Gump, The Princess Bride and Wonder Woman, stepping behind the camera on a full-length movie was a new challenge. She has already directed a string of episodes of House Of Cards, but shooting on wild terrain in Canada was something else. “You have to have an incredible team, that’s your support system, it’s basically like your backbone,” she says.
“This was a wonderful and special film to make, but not necessarily an easy one. Our primary filming location, Moose Mountain in Alberta, Canada, boasts the most extreme, unpredictable weather patterns I’ve ever encountered. It was a lot of work and not a lot of sleep. But I think all of us, cast and crew, felt so grateful to be part of this film about human decency and kindness.”
Land is released in UK cinemas on June 4.