Into the Wild (2007)

R | 147 or 149-150 mins | Adventure, Biography | October 2007

THIS TITLE IS OUTSIDE THE AFI CATALOG OF FEATURE FILMS (1893-1993)
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Director:

Sean Penn

Writer:

Sean Penn

Cinematographer:

Eric Gautier

Editor:

Jay Cassidy

Production Designer:

Derek Hill

Production Companies:

Paramount Vantage, River Road Entertainment, LLC, Square One C.I.H.
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HISTORY

The film opens with a brief sequence depicting “Christopher Johnson McCandless’” mother “Billie” having a nightmare in which her son whispers to her for help. Billie awakens and protests to her husband “Walt” that it was not just a dream. Then, yellow handwriting appears on the screen—a device used throughout the picture—excerpting a letter written by Chris to “Wayne Westerberg” in 1992 telling him that he has just arrived in Fairbanks, AK. As Chris writes, “I now walk into the wild,” the lettering dissolves to the card bearing the title Into the Wild . The yellow handwriting usually consists of letters or journal entries written by or quotes favored by Chris. Titles introducing the location and dates appear frequently, and as Chris begins his travels after graduating from Emory, the picture is divided up into five “chapters” entitled “My Own Birth,” “Adolescence,” “Manhood,” “Family” and “Getting of Wisdom.”
       The film is structured so that it alternates between the sequences set in 1992, when Chris struggles in the Alaskan wilderness, and the previous two years, during which he travels throughout the West, meeting new people. Slow motion, split screens and freeze frames are used occasionally throughout the picture to emphasize the action, and recurrent voice-over narration by Chris and his sister “Carine” is heard as they explain their feelings, Chris's past and his actions. Carine expresses great sympathy for her brother and his quest, and although she admits to having occasional hurt feelings that he never contacted her, she states that it was his story, and it was up to him to tell it his way. Occasionally, footage made to resemble ... More Less

The film opens with a brief sequence depicting “Christopher Johnson McCandless’” mother “Billie” having a nightmare in which her son whispers to her for help. Billie awakens and protests to her husband “Walt” that it was not just a dream. Then, yellow handwriting appears on the screen—a device used throughout the picture—excerpting a letter written by Chris to “Wayne Westerberg” in 1992 telling him that he has just arrived in Fairbanks, AK. As Chris writes, “I now walk into the wild,” the lettering dissolves to the card bearing the title Into the Wild . The yellow handwriting usually consists of letters or journal entries written by or quotes favored by Chris. Titles introducing the location and dates appear frequently, and as Chris begins his travels after graduating from Emory, the picture is divided up into five “chapters” entitled “My Own Birth,” “Adolescence,” “Manhood,” “Family” and “Getting of Wisdom.”
       The film is structured so that it alternates between the sequences set in 1992, when Chris struggles in the Alaskan wilderness, and the previous two years, during which he travels throughout the West, meeting new people. Slow motion, split screens and freeze frames are used occasionally throughout the picture to emphasize the action, and recurrent voice-over narration by Chris and his sister “Carine” is heard as they explain their feelings, Chris's past and his actions. Carine expresses great sympathy for her brother and his quest, and although she admits to having occasional hurt feelings that he never contacted her, she states that it was his story, and it was up to him to tell it his way. Occasionally, footage made to resemble old home movies is seen, such as when Carine describes Chris buying his treasured Datsun after high school graduation, and another time when the two of them, as young children, witness a violent argument between their parents.
       Sean Penn’s onscreen credit reads “Screenplay and directed by.” At the end of the film, a still photograph of the real McCandless sitting in front of the “magic bus” is seen with a written dedication to his memory superimposed over the image. Written titles then report that two weeks after McCandless' death, his body was found by moose hunters along with the undeveloped self-portrait and his other possessions. On 19 Sep 1992, Carine flew with her brother's ashes back to the eastern seaboard, carrying his cremated remains home in her backpack. The end credits then begin with the following written acknowledgment: “The filmmakers thank Jon Krakauer for his guidance and gratefully acknowledge Walt, Billie, Carine and the entire McCandless family for their brave support in the making of this film.” Other people and companies thanked in the end credits include Wayne Westerberg, Jack Nicholson, several Alaskan Indian and Native American Indian tribes, the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, SD and the National Park Service, Dept. of Interior.
       The credits list several of the quotes spoken by Chris throughout the film, giving their author and source, such as Tolstoy’s declaration “I have lived through much,” from Family Happiness , and the importance of calling a thing “by its right name,” from Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, which prompts Chris to sign his final farewell message with his correct name rather than as "Alexander Supertramp." The end credits also note that the picture was “produced in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security.”
       As depicted in the film, Christopher Johnson McCandless (12 Feb 1968—18 Aug 1992) disappeared without a word to his family after graduating from Emory University in May 1990 and donating his college trust fund to Oxfam. McCandless spent two years traveling the western United States, mostly by hitchhiking. He stayed briefly at many locations, including Carthage, SD, where he worked for Westerberg. Although McCandless did not contact his family at all during his journey, he kept in touch with the friends he met, such as Westerberg, Jan Burres and Ron Franz. On 25 Apr 1992, McCandless arrived in Fairbanks, AK, and after studying native flora and fauna at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, library for several days, he continued hitchhiking to the beginning of the Stampede Trail, near Mount Denali National Park. He was given a ride by Jim Gallien, who portrayed himself in the film.
       McCandless hiked into the wilderness and soon found the bus in which he lived for four months. Although the origin of the “magic bus” is not explained in the film, it was brought there by Yukon Construction in 1961 as a shelter for workers in a failed attempt to build a road along the Stampede Trail. McCandless thrived for many weeks prior to his death, which Krakaeur speculated was due to poisoning from a plant in combination with ingesting a highly alkaloid fungus growing on the plant. The most likely date of McCandless' death was 18 Aug 1992, and his body was found by hunters on 6 Sep 1992. At the time of his death, although McCandless was in an area that was difficult to access, he was only sixteen miles from a well-populated tourist area of the national park.
       As noted in the onscreen credits, his sister Carine claimed his remains. Ten months later, his parents, accompanied by Krakauer, visited the bus and left a suitcase containing medical supplies and other items, as well as a note reminding travelers to call their parents. According to the Rolling Stone review of the film, the bus in which McCandless died has been visited often by his “admirers.” Twenty percent of the royalties from Krakauer’s book, which was written with the cooperation of the McCandless family, went to establish a scholarship fund in McCandless' name. Krakauer first wrote about McCandless in an 8,000-word article for Outside magazine that was published in Jan 1993. Prompted by the outpouring of mail in response to the article and a feeling of kinship with McCandless, Krakauer then wrote the full-length, best-selling book about him.
       According to various contemporary articles and interviews with director-writer Sean Penn, he became fascinated by the story after reading Krakauer’s book and immediately attempted to acquire the film rights, although there were several other individuals and studios interested. According to an article in the Vol. 10/No. 2 issue of Fade In magazine, Penn was just about to sign an agreement with the McCandless family when they withdrew their cooperation, without which Penn refused to make the picture. Many articles reported that Billie asserted she had had a dream in which her son stated he did not want the movie to be made. Ten years later, Billie and the other members of the family changed their minds, and Penn was granted the rights. Press notes reveal that the McCandless family cooperated with the filmmakers, meeting with them and the cast and offering personal diaries, letters, photographs and other mementos.
       In the Fade In interview, Penn noted that, before writing the final draft of the screenplay, he traveled the country to retrace McCandless' journey and meet the people whom he had befriended. Press notes state that the additional narration written by Carine, Jena Malone and poet Sharon Olds came about as a collaborative effort in which the three women worked together to flesh out the voice-over narrations spoken by Malone, as Carine. The poem quoted by Chris to Carine in the film after he graduates from Emory University, which describes a child’s conflicted desire to prevent the unhappy marriage of her parents, is excerpted from “I Go Back to May 1937” by Olds, published in her The Gold Cell (New York, 1987).
       A 9 Sep 2007 LAT article reported that when Penn first envisioned filming Into the Wild , he hoped to star Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role, with Marlon Brando [who died in 2004] co-starring as “Ron Franz.” Penn cast Emile Hirsch in the role of Chris after seeing him in the 2005 film Lords of Dogtown . Press notes for the film reported that the slightly built Hirsch lost forty-one pounds to portray Chris as he suffered from starvation. An online source adds that Daveigh Chase auditioned for the role of “Tracy Tatro,” and includes the following actors in the cast: Dan Burch, Joe Dustin, Kathleen Mattice, Parris Mosteller, J. Nathan Simmons, Susan Spencer and Haley Sweet.
       Into the Wild marked the screen acting debut of river rafting expert Brian Dierker, who plays “Rainey.” At first Dierker, who had worked previously on a number of films as a location scout and camera boat operator, was hired to train Hirsch in kayaking and to supervise the sequences in which Chris runs the rapids, but Penn persuaded him to appear in the film as an actor, according to press notes. Several contemporary sources add that Hirsch performed all of the kayaking stunts himself.
       As reported by contemporary sources, although the producers initially considered shooting only in Utah or Vancouver, Penn eventually insisted that it be filmed on many of the story's actual locations. The end credits include the list of following locations: Cantwell, Anchorage, Fairbanks and Healy, AK; Page, Lake Mead, Bullhead City, Peach Springs, Lee’s Ferry, Grand Canyon, Parker, Topock and Yuma, AZ; Catalina Island, El Centro, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Needles, Salton City and Slab City, CA; Atlanta, GA; Algodones and El Golfo De Santa Clara, Mexico; Reno, Las Vegas, Laughlin and Boulder City, NV; Astoria, Portland, Mt. Hood and Sisters, OR; Hot Springs, Winner and Carthage, SD; and Cape Disappointment and Seattle, WA. The film company traveled to Alaska four separate times to capture seasonal differences, according to an interview with director of photography Eric Gautier in the Oct 2007 issue of AmCin . In a Sep 2007 interview with NYT , production designer Derek Hill related that waiting for the required weather conditions caused frequent breaks during the eight months of principal production.
       Although Penn and other crew members visited the bus in which McCandless died, contemporary sources reported that they decided not to film there out of respect to him and his family, and instead built an exact replica of the derelict vehicle from parts of two buses of the same make. The crew took extensive photographs of the interior of the real bus to duplicate it completely for the replica, which was located in the Alaskan town of Cantwell, about fifty miles from where McCandless died. A 6 Sep 2007 HR article on producer Bill Pohlad, the president of River Road Entertainment, which partially financed Into the Wild , reported that the decision to film the picture at so many locations “raised the budget by several million." According to the 16 Sep 2007 NYT article, when the picture “ran short of funds,” Penn “had to kick in some of his own [money].”
       A Sep 2007 NYT feature article on the film noted that in addition to Gautier’s work, some of the film was photographed by Penn. In the Fade In article, Penn related that filming in Alaska was particularly difficult due to the rugged and dangerous terrain and the cold, which threatened to freeze their equipment. Press notes reported that Penn used many nonprofessionals in the film, in addition to Dierker, including Leonard Knight, the creator of “Salvation Mountain” near Slab City, occupants of Slab City and homeless people living near the Los Angeles Mission. Penn also hired Westerberg, McCandless' friend and employer in Carthage, SD, as a consultant and to serve as a driver while the production was filming in the area.
       After completing principal photography, Penn showed a rough cut of Into the Wild to well-known singer-songwriter Eddie Vedder, with whom he had worked previously on the films Dead Man Walking (1995) and I Am Sam (2001). Although Penn at first requested only that Vedder supply one or two songs or pieces of music for the film’s score, according to a 21 Sep 2007 Entertainment Weekly interview, Vedder’s music prompted Penn to ask for more, stating that it “could be the interior voice of the character [Chris].” In an interview with Time magazine, Penn stated that he had “written the script originally structured for songs” in order to have the “songwriter be a co-author.” Eventually, Vedder not only wrote and performed a number of songs for the film, he contributed to the score written by composers-guitarists Michael Brook and Kaki King. The onscreen credits noted that the film’s soundtrack was available on Monkeywrench/J Records.
       According to a 17 Sep 2007 DV article, Samsung partnered with Landmark Theaters in a multimillion-dollar effort to market the film, because the Korean electronics manufacturer was looking to expand its consumer base among moviegoers who favor independent films. The deal was the initial collaboration between Samsung and Landmark, which was to include extensive advertising and the launching of Samsung’s new movie-oriented website, Blueseat.com. The film played at various film festivals including the Mill Valley Film Festival on 13 Sep 2007, the Cinema Rome Film Fest on 20 Oct 2007 and the London Film Festival on 25 Oct 2007.
       In addition to being named one of AFI’s Movies of the Year for 2007, the picture was placed on the top ten lists of numerous critics’ groups, including the National Board of Review. Hirsch received Best Actor nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and was awarded the Breakthrough Performance—Male by the National Board of Review. The film received three other SAG Award nominations: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role (Catherine Keener) and Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role (Hal Holbrook). The picture received a Golden Globe for Best Original Song--Motion Picture (“Guaranteed”) and was nominated for Best Original Score. “Guaranteed” was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. Penn received a nomination from the Directors Guild of America for directorial achievement in a feature film and a nomination from the Writers Guild of America for his adapted screenplay. Into the Wild was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Hal Holbrook) and Best Film Editing. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Oct 2007
pp. 16-20.
Daily Variety
2 Feb 2006.
---
Daily Variety
4 Sep 2007
p. 2, 10.
Daily Variety
10 Sep 2007.
---
Daily Variety
17 Sep 2007
p. 4, 14.
Daily Variety
12 Dec 2007
Section A, p. 1, 13.
Entertainment Weekly
21 Sep 2007
pp. 32-33.
Entertainment Weekly
28 Sep 2007
p. 86.
Entertainment Weekly
11 Jan 2008
pp. 44-46.
Fade In
Vol. 10/No. 2
pp. 66-71.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 2006
p. 26.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 2006
p. 25.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 2007
p. 33, 39.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 2007
p. 41, 43.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Sep 2007.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14-16 Sep 2007.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Sep 2007.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 2007.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Sep 2007.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Sep 2007
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
21 Sep 2007.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Dec 2007.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Dec 2007
Calendar, p. 1, 13.
New York
24 Sep 2007
pp. 78-79.
New York Times
16 Sep 2007
Arts, p. 1, 20.
New York Times
21 Sep 2007.
---
New York Times
30 Sep 2007.
---
New Yorker
8 Oct 2007.
---
Outside
Apr 2006.
---
Rolling Stone
4 Oct 2007.
---
Sight & Sound
Dec 2007
pp. 48-49, 72, 74.
Time
24 Sep 2007
pp. 85-87.
Variety
3 Sep 2007.
p. 50.
Village Voice
18 Sep 2007.
---
WSJ
21 Sep 2007.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Scr
Addl narr
Addl narr
Addl narr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Cam op/Steadicam
A cam 1st asst
A cam 2d asst
B cam 1st asst
B cam 2d asst
B cam 2d asst
Film loader
Addl still photog, Alaska
Underwater cam op
Underwater cam 1st asst
Aerial dir of photog/Wescam op
Aerial cam 1st asst/Wescam tech
Aerial cam 1st asst/Tyler tech
24 frame video
Video assist op
Best boy elec
Company elec
Company elec
Company elec
Company elec
Company elec
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Dolly grip, Alaska
Company grip
Company grip
Company grip
Key rigging grip, Oregon
Best boy rigging grip, Oregon
Cam equipment provided by
Cam crane provided by
High speed cam provided by
Aaton 35 III-3 perf cam provided by
Helicopter mounts provided by
Helicopter mounts provided by
Elec equipment provided by
Elec equipment provided by
Grip equipment provided by
Dolly equipment provided by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept coord
Art dept prod asst
Graphic artist
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst props
Asst props
Props prod asst
Props prod asst
Propmaker
Leather worker
Leather worker
Set dressing leadperson
Set dressing supv
Set dressing supv
On set dresser
On set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Addl set dresser
Addl set dresser
Shopper
Const foreperson
Paint foreperson
Scenic painter
Scenic painter
Key greensperson
Greens supv
Greensperson
Greensperson
Greensperson
Greensperson
Sculptor
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Set cost
Set cost
Cost for Mr. Vaughn
MUSIC
With
Orig songs by
Mus supv
Featured violin
Mus playback
SOUND
Sd des/Supv sd ed
Sd re-rec mixer
Sd re-rec mixer
Addl re-rec mixer, Skywalker Sound
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Boom op
Sd utility
Sd eff co-des
Supv dial & ADR ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Foley/ADR rec at
Mix tech, Skywalker Sound
Recordist, Skywalker Sound
ADR mixer, Skywalker Sound
ADR mixer, Todd-AO West/Hollywood
Foley mixer, Todd-AO West/Hollywood
Foley artist, Skywalker Sound
Foley artist, Todd-AO West/Hollywood
Foley artist, Todd-AO West/Hollywood
Dolby Sound consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff foreman
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Visual eff
Senior visual eff supv
Visual eff supv
Visual eff exec prod
Visual eff prod
Visual eff prod
Visual eff assoc prod
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
2D artist
Lead CG artist
CG pre-visualization artist
CG artist
MAKEUP
Makeup dept head/Makeup artist for Mr. Hirsch
Key makeup artist
Addl makeup artist
Hair dept head
Hair stylist for Ms. Harden & Ms. Keener
Key hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting assoc
Casting assoc
ADR voice casting
Unit prod mgr
Prod supv
Prod supv
Prod supv
Asst prod supv
Post prod supv
Prod coord
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Post prod coord
Prod exec
River Road exec
Tech adv
Scr supv
Travel coord
Shipping coord
Prod secy
Travel prod secy
Asst to prods
Asst to prods
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Key set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Prod accountant
1st asst accountant
2d asst accountant
Payroll accountant
Post prod accountant
Asst post accountant
River Road financial officer
River Road accounting exec
Asst to Mr. Penn
On set asst/Driver to Mr. Penn & trainer to Mr. Hi
Asst to Mr. Linson
Asst to Mr. Pohlad
Asst to Mr. Hildebrand
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Addl loc mgr
Addl loc mgr
Addl loc mgr
Key asst loc mgr
Key asst loc mgr
Key asst loc mgr
Key asst loc mgr
Train wrangler
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Dispatcher
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Spec equipment op
Spec equipment op
Spec equipment op
Marine coord
Marine coord
Marine asst
Picture boat coord
Picture boat op
Picture boat op
Picture boat op
Boat coord
Boat op
Boat op
Boat op
Boat op, Alaska
Boat op, Alaska
Boat op, Alaska
Boat op, Alaska
Boat op, Alaska
Logistical boat op
Logistical boat op
Logistical boat op
Tech support boat op
Kayak trainer
Kayaker, Alaska
Marine head cook
Asst cook
Marine scout
Asst bear trainer
Asst bear trainer
Asst bear trainer
Bart the Bear owned and trained by
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal safety
Animal safety
Animal safety
Chef
Chef, Mexico
Asst chef
Asst chef
Prep cook
Catering asst
Craft service
Craft service
Craft service
Craft service
Craft service
Physician
Dietician
Set medic
Set medic
Set masseuse
Wheat combine op
Wheat combine op
Wheat combine op
Wheat combine op
Walkies provided by
Helicopters provided by
Helicopters provided by
Helicopters provided by
Helicopters provided by
Studio provided by
Security services provided by
Insurance provided by
[Insurance]
Legal services provided by
[Attorney]
[Attorney]
[Attorney]
Completion bond services
[Completion bond]
[Completion bond]
Travel provided by
[Travel agent]
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Bear stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
COLOR PERSONNEL
Digital intermediate provided by
Exec prod for Company 3/Colorist
Addl colorist
On-line ed
Digital intermediate prod
Company 3 prod
Digital intermediate account exec
Digital intermediate technologist
Digital intermediate negative preparation
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (New York, 1996).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
“The Wolf,” written & performed by Eddie Vedder, courtesy of Monkeywrench, Inc./J Records
“Emory and Old St. Andrews March” composed by Henry D. Frantz, Jr., performed by The Atlanta Pipe Band
"Best Unsaid," "Timekeeper," "Carte Noir" and "Flood," written & performed by Michael Brook, courtesy of Canadian Rational LLC/bigHelium Entertainment LLC
+
MUSIC
“The Wolf,” written & performed by Eddie Vedder, courtesy of Monkeywrench, Inc./J Records
“Emory and Old St. Andrews March” composed by Henry D. Frantz, Jr., performed by The Atlanta Pipe Band
"Best Unsaid," "Timekeeper," "Carte Noir" and "Flood," written & performed by Michael Brook, courtesy of Canadian Rational LLC/bigHelium Entertainment LLC
"Doing the Wrong Thing" and "Frame," written & performed by Kaki King, courtesy of Epic Records, by arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment.
+
SONGS
“Long Nights,” “Rise,” “Guaranteed” and “No Ceiling,” written & performed by Eddie Vedder, courtesy of Monkeywrench, Inc./J Records
“Going Up the Country,” written by Alan Wilson, performed by Canned Heat, courtesy of Capital Records, Inc., under license from EMI Film & Television Music
“Hard Sun,” written by Gordon Peterson, performed by Eddie Vedder & Corin Tucker, courtesy of Monkeywrench, Inc./J Records
+
SONGS
“Long Nights,” “Rise,” “Guaranteed” and “No Ceiling,” written & performed by Eddie Vedder, courtesy of Monkeywrench, Inc./J Records
“Going Up the Country,” written by Alan Wilson, performed by Canned Heat, courtesy of Capital Records, Inc., under license from EMI Film & Television Music
“Hard Sun,” written by Gordon Peterson, performed by Eddie Vedder & Corin Tucker, courtesy of Monkeywrench, Inc./J Records
“The Water Ran This Way Back and Forth,” written by James Rutledge, performed by Pedro, courtesy of Mush Records
“I Thought I Was You,” written by Sean Hannan & Jerry Hannan, performed by Kelly Peterson
“U Can’t Touch This,” written by Kirk Burrell, James Johnson, Alonzo Miller, performed by M.C. Hammer, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc., under license from EMI Film & Television Music
“Dakota Themes,” written & performed by Peter Ostroushko, courtesy of Red House Records, Inc.
“Society,” written by Jerry Hannan, performed by Eddie Vedder & Jerry Hannan, courtesy of Monkeywrench, Inc./J Records
“Kaa,” written & performed by Claude Chalhoub, courtesy of Teldec Classics International, by arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
“Fork and File,” written by Erik Pearson, performed by The Crooked Jades, courtesy of Jade Note Music
“King of the Road,” written & performed by Roger Miller, courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“Slab Song,” written & performed by Everett "Insane Wayne" Smith
"Tracy's Song," written by David Baerwald & Kristen Stewart, performed by Kristen Stewart
"Porterville," written by John C. Fogerty, performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival, courtesy of Fantasy Records, used by permission of Concord Music Group, Inc.
"I Saw It," written & performed by Michael Brook, courtesy of Home Box Office, Inc.
"Angel from Montgomery," written by John Prine, performed by Kristen Stewart & Emile Hirsch
"Picking Berries," written & performed by Gustavo Santaolalla.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
October 2007
Premiere Information:
Telluride Film Festival screening: 1 September 2007
Toronto Film Festival screening: 9 September 2007
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 September 2007
Production Date:
24 April--early December 2006
Copyright Claimants:
River Road Entertainment, LLC Paramount Vantage
Copyright Dates:
2007 2007
Copyright Numbers:
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Digital; dts Digital Sound; SDDS Sony Dynamic Sound in selected theatres
Color
Fujifilm
Lenses/Prints
Negative developing by Fotokem; Prints provided by DeLuxe Laboratories
Duration(in mins):
147 or 149-150
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
43620
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the spring of 1992, twenty-four-year-old Christopher Johnson McCandless arrives in Fairbanks, Alaska at the culmination of a two-year-long journey. Believing that he is following in the spiritual footsteps of his literary heroes—Tolstoy, Thoreau and London--who extol a life lived outside traditional societal structures, Chris walks into the snow-covered mountains near Mount Denali carrying few supplies, intending to live off the land for a few months. He leaves a red knitted cap to mark the point at which he crosses a stream and establishes a camp. As he explores, he discovers a derelict city bus that was brought into the bush years earlier. Inside, he finds a bunk, woodstove and other amenities left there by the hunters who previously used the vehicle, which he dubs the “magic bus.” After cleaning his new home, Chris carves a manifesto stating that his current odyssey will conclude the spiritual revolution he has undertaken for the last two years and signs it “Alexander Supertramp,” the name under which he has been traveling, and dates it May 1992. Two years earlier in 1990, Chris graduates from Atlanta’s Emory University. After the ceremony, he joins his conservative, controlling father Walt, his brow-beaten mother Billie and his empathetic sister Carine for dinner. When Chris mentions that he has a chance to go to Harvard Law, his parents offer to buy him a new car, but Chris, who scorns their materialism, replies that he is happy with his old Datsun. Without informing his family, Chris leaves his apartment in Atlanta, divests himself of his former life by donating his savings to charity and destroying his driver’s license and Social Security ... +


In the spring of 1992, twenty-four-year-old Christopher Johnson McCandless arrives in Fairbanks, Alaska at the culmination of a two-year-long journey. Believing that he is following in the spiritual footsteps of his literary heroes—Tolstoy, Thoreau and London--who extol a life lived outside traditional societal structures, Chris walks into the snow-covered mountains near Mount Denali carrying few supplies, intending to live off the land for a few months. He leaves a red knitted cap to mark the point at which he crosses a stream and establishes a camp. As he explores, he discovers a derelict city bus that was brought into the bush years earlier. Inside, he finds a bunk, woodstove and other amenities left there by the hunters who previously used the vehicle, which he dubs the “magic bus.” After cleaning his new home, Chris carves a manifesto stating that his current odyssey will conclude the spiritual revolution he has undertaken for the last two years and signs it “Alexander Supertramp,” the name under which he has been traveling, and dates it May 1992. Two years earlier in 1990, Chris graduates from Atlanta’s Emory University. After the ceremony, he joins his conservative, controlling father Walt, his brow-beaten mother Billie and his empathetic sister Carine for dinner. When Chris mentions that he has a chance to go to Harvard Law, his parents offer to buy him a new car, but Chris, who scorns their materialism, replies that he is happy with his old Datsun. Without informing his family, Chris leaves his apartment in Atlanta, divests himself of his former life by donating his savings to charity and destroying his driver’s license and Social Security card, then drives West in his Datsun seeking “absolute freedom.” Failing to notice a flash flood sign, Chris parks his car in a flood zone in the Arizona desert and after a sudden torrent disables his car, removes the license plates, burns his remaining cash and sets out on foot. Several months later, at Lake Meade, Arizona, Chris christens himself Alexander Supertramp. By the end of the month, having had no communication from Chris, the worried Walt and Billie drive to Atlanta and discover that Chris had vacated his apartment two months earlier. Later that summer, the hitchhiking Chris is picked up in Northern California by Jan Burres and her boyfriend Rainey, middle-aged hippies who travel in their R.V. and sell used goods at swap meets. Rainey and Jan become very fond of Chris, and one afternoon, Rainey confides to Chris that something in Jan’s past made her withdraw from him, but since Chris’s arrival, she has begun to talk about what is troubling her. Chris, who had withdrawn from human intimacy as a result of the turbulent, abusive relationship of his parents, can relate to Jan’s reticence. Soon after, Chris, believing it is important to measure yourself in the most primitive conditions, with nothing to aid you but your head and hands, leaves the comfort of Jan and Rainey’s company. By early fall, Chris is in Carthage, South Dakota working for Wayne Westerberg, a hard-drinking grain operator elevator, who, with his crew, harvests and sells crops. Wayne befriends Chris, but when he questions him about his drive to lead a solitary life in the wild, Chris declares that he wants to escape a society populated by abusive parents, hypocrites and opportunistic politicians. Wayne remarks that Chris may be too young to truly understand those issues. One day, the F.B.I. arrives unexpectedly to arrest Wayne, ending Chris’s idyll in Carthage and sending him on his way to Alaska. Meanwhile, at the McCandless home, Carine reminisces about how deeply wounded Chris was to learn that his father was married to another woman when he was born, permanently damaging his trust in his parents. With his wages from his job in Carthage, Chris buys a kayak and successfully navigates the rapids of the Colorado River despite his lack of experience. After the river winds into the Grand Canyon, Chris decides to paddle to Mexico, where he loses his kayak in a sandstorm at the Sea of Cortez. In early 1991, Chris tries to reenter the United States, but is stopped at the Mexican border because he has no identification. He then hops a freight train to Los Angeles where, overwhelmed by the bustle of civilization, Chris soon flees after witnessing the disparity between homeless wanderers and wealthy diners, especially when he can easily imagine himself as one of the privileged. Meanwhile, at home, Carine muses that her parents’ desperation over the loss of Chris has brought them closer together. In late Dec 1991, Chris runs into Jan and Rainey again at a makeshift camp in Slab City, California. There, as he waits for the paycheck from his last job, Chris trains to get into condition for the physically demanding trip to the Alaskan wilds. He also meets sixteen-year-old singer Tracy Tatro, who develops a crush on him. One night, after Jan reveals to Chris that as a teenager, she gave birth to a son, from whom she is now estranged, she encourages Chris to contact his family, but he refuses. On Christmas day, Tracy offers to have sex with Chris, but he gently demurs, stating that she is too young. Soon after, Chris says goodbye to Rainey and Tracy and gets a ride into town with Jan, who gives him a red knitted cap. In Jan 1992, Chris is camping in the Anza Borrego Desert when he meets octogenarian Ron Franz at a gas station. Ron gives Chris a ride to his tent, and when he asks why Chris wants to live in the dirt, Chris replies that the concept of a career is a 20th-century invention that he does not respect, and that he has chosen to live close to nature. When Ron inquires about his family, Chris states that he does not have one. Over the next few months, Ron, who has lived alone since his wife and son were killed in 1957, develops a paternal relationship with Chris, whom he teaches to work leather. With his newly learned skills, Chris engraves a leather belt with the story of his journey across the country. One day, in late March, Chris tells Ron that although he will miss him, joy does not come principally from human relationships. Sensing that Chris is about to leave, Ron offers to drive him to the highway. On the way, Ron asks Chris if he can adopt him as a grandson, but Chris gently rebuffs him by asking if they can discuss it when he returns. Soon after, Chris reaches Fairbanks and finds the magic bus. Nine weeks later, Chris is reading a passage from Tolstoy about happiness. Tolstoy states that to attain happiness, one needs a quiet secluded life in the country, love for one’s neighbor and on top of all that, a family. Realizing that he has achieved his goal, Chris decides to return home, but when he treks to his marker, he discovers that the stream has swollen to a river and cannot be forged. Trapped, Chris returns to the bus, where he writes in his journal that he is lonely and scared. In late summer 1992, the now starving Chris bemoans the lack of game and carves more notches to tighten the leather belt he made under Ron’s tutelage. Desperate for food, Chris forages with guidance from a book about local fauna. Falling seriously ill after eating one plant, Chris examines the book and discovers that he has been poisoned and may die. Dangerously weak, Chris cries as he writes “Happiness only real when shared” inside one of his books. After placing a poster stating that he has had a happy life, signed with his real name, in front of the bus, Chris painfully settles onto his bunk. As he dies, Chris gazes at the brilliant sky and imagines himself returning home, smiling and running into his parents’ arms. +

Legend
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Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.