Fox Searchlight Pictures releases Wild at Regal Union Square and AMC/Loews Lincoln Square on December 5th, 2014.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you make a conscious decision to seek out projects that are different from one another?
Jean-Marc Vallée: Yes, but at the same time I choose a project based on its story. It's true that I don't want to repeat myself. I fear that I'm attacking something similar, but it's always based on the quality of the story, if I can relate to it, and if I feel comfortable living with it for 2 years.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How challenging and important is it to trust the audience's intelligence and their patience?
JMV: I picture myself as an audience member in the theater asking myself how I'm going to react to a scene or emotional moment. Am I being patient here? Am I being hooked? It's the director's job to address this, to take care of this and have this constant questioning about storytelling vs the audience reaction. The story of Wild is not just about hiking. I wanted to make you feel how this woman is thinking with some quick disconnected images. You have two of them within the room and sees the guy outside the parking lot of the motel and there's a quick scene of her having sex. I wanted to make you think, "Woah! Whos is this girl? Who is this guy? Was it related to the guy she just saw?" The audience doesn't know. All of those questions have no answers. They just have to be patient. You get more of those quick, disconnected images, sounds and music also, so it's quite of a journey.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What's so appealing about dark themes and flawed characters in cinema?
JMV: Yes. I can relate to that. That's my life! I like underdogs, imperfect people and people who aren't afraid of opening up. Look at how much humanity is in the book [based on Wild]. It's part of the humanity to be imperfect. Let's not be afraid to talk about it. Stories with underdogs and people who are fighting, fighting their own demons, fighting to be better to try to just find their way and peace. I like that and can relate to that. It's not like, "Let's find the dark themes and dark moments." It's about trying to be true and honest and trying to not be afraid to be faithful and respectful to the character. Wild has these kind of characters as does Dallas Buyers Club.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Would Wild work if the story were told linearly?
JMV: I haven't tried the exercise of telling this story in a linear way. I love what [screenwriter] Nick Hornby created with flashbacks and voice-over in the present tense. I love that the character waited until the midpoint of the film to reveal her mother's death and to explain it to the audience. Part of the exciting thing about this storytelling is that as you're turning the pages, you're trying to find out what's the backstory of this girl. So, I'm not sure this story would have been good in a linear structure. It's similar to the book, although in the book you find out within the first few pages that the mother is dead. If you know about the book, you're going to know and have this information.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think that there's a shortage of strong roles in films for actresses in Hollywood?
JMV: I know that's how Reece Witherspoon felt. She receives a lot of scripts. As a woman, I'm sure I would feel the same way. Reece wanted to find her own project and to produce and find great stories with great female characters even though she's not aiming to do female-driven films. But she is aiming for strong female characters. I think that, yeah, there's isn't enough stories with great, beautiful female characters.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Would something be lost by watching Wild on the small screen?
JMV: A little bit, but the power of the film is the story, not the landscape. Whether you look at it on a computer or a big screen, you get the same story.