Hollywood loves a good inspirational survival story, and there have been many films based on real stories from people who survived all odds despite facing extreme physical or emotional hardships. Take the case of amputee outdoorsman, Aron Ralston, whose dramatic ordeal in the Utah canyons became the basis for the Oscar-nominated film, 127 Hours. Elsewhere, the harrowing experience of Maria Belon and her family during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy which was ultimately adapted into the critically acclaimed disaster drama film, The Impossible.
But oftentimes, survival stories don’t need to have physical injuries brought about by human error or natural disasters. In fact, certain survival stories have people overcoming emotionally brutal challenges from their everyday lives. One such true story is about to receive the film treatment and it even has the public blessing of media mogul Oprah Winfrey herself! Like many other cinematic survivors before her, Cheryl Strayed is about to join their triumphant ranks. But first, a let’s have a little primer on who Cheryl Strayed is.
A native of Pennsylvania, Cheryl had a life that many young women dream of having when they’re older: being happily married and surrounded by a loving family. She had it all, but when she turned 26, her life took a turn for the worst. Her beloved mother lost her struggle with lung and died at the age of 45. Around the same time, Cheryl also had to deal with a bitter divorce. She eventually turned to heroin use to cope, but soon realized she needed to snap out of her funk. Her epiphany came when she saw a hiking guidebook in a department store one day and ultimately decided to embark on a journey that would test every single fiber of her damaged being.
Cheryl’s main method of rediscovering herself and putting her life back into perspective was to do a solo hiking trip in the Pacific Crest Trail, a trail that covers a vast area spanning the untamed terrains of California, Oregon, and Washington. With absolutely no background or experience whatsoever in hiking or camping, Cheryl was determined to face her fears and brave the American wilderness on her own. This incredible undertaking formed the basis of her bestselling memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. The book details her experiences on the actual hike interspersed with flashbacks to her life that revolved around her mother’s death and the dissolution of her marriage.
In the end, Cheryl survived the demanding hike and was able to get her life back on track after completing the journey. She rehabilitated herself from drug use, remarried, and pursued a successful career as an author. She is now also an advocate for feminism and women’s rights. Naturally, Cheryl’s story attracted the attention of Hollywood and her story will soon be seen on the silver screen in theaters everywhere just in time for Oscar season. And the pitch-perfect casting of actress Reese Witherspoon (pictured above in character as Cheryl Strayed) playing the author herself will certainly help boost the film’s profile to many other women who have had similar personal tragedies and managed to overcome them through sheer will, strength, and faith in a higher power.
Wild, the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir and starring Reese Witherspoon in the lead role, is scheduled for release on December 5, 2014.