'Wendy' Wildly Reimagines 'Peter Pan'
Speaker 1: 00:01 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh, the San Diego Latino film festival that was to start tonight, just got canceled due to new state restrictions on large gatherings. So instead of KPBS film critic Beth Huck Amando previewing the festival, we're going to run an excerpt from her cinema junkie podcast about the new film Wendy that opens Friday as with LA Jolla playhouses fly. Wendy turns to Jim Barry's Peter pan for inspiration. Beth speaks with Wendy's writer, director of Ben Zeitlin about re-imagining the story in a modern setting. And from Wendy's point of view, first of all, what attracted you to wanting to reimagine a Peter pan story? Speaker 2: 00:46 I think a lot of things. I think it was, you know, it was a story that particularly for me and my sister had been part of our personal mythology since we were really small children. You know, I think that I did a play a Peter pan for her when she was two years old, you know, with stuffed animals and like ziplines flying into a puppet theater and you know, it was like a story that we retold to each other and less than kind of like actually we telling the real story of Peter. It was really about, you know, kind of the, the character sort of stayed with us and these ideas and kind of this sort of central theme of, you know, what can be lost when you grow up. And sort of going from children being sort of, kind of terrified of that loss. Speaker 2: 01:29 I'm always kind of dreading like if somehow we were going to lose some part of ourselves that, um, that we can never get back in the process of growing up. And then I think as we got older, I think more, you know, reflecting on some of the, sort of, the, the theme that, that really kind of, we reconnected with the story with at the, at the point where we decided to make the film. What kind of this idea? Um, that's kind of in a text that that always I think continued to sort of terrify me even as an adult. There's this kind of idea that in order to be, in order to be truly free, you have to be alone and you have to be kind of heartless and, and really unconnected to other people. And I think it's something that I think everybody really confronted at some point, um, is this idea that in order to grow up in order to, you know, have, you know, pursue the dreams of the work you want to do or the career you want to have or the family that you want to have, that there's this kind of sacrifice of freedom and wildness and joy involved in getting those things. Speaker 2: 02:35 And I think we wanted to explore the notion that that doesn't have to be a choice that you make and that there's, there's that there can be tremendous sort of joy and freedom and wildness within love, within sort of family within kind of the past to, to getting older. And we sorta wanted to tell a story, you know, not through the lens of Peter who sort of is just this tiny little zealot for never up. But through the sort of lens of Wendy who is this kid who goes to experience this sort of adventure, um, and this and this freedom, but then also has to leave and go back and face life and sort of take that, take that with her and figure out what to do with it and how that sort of confront these losses and not be broken by them. Speaker 3: 03:18 All children grow up but some the wild ones escape Speaker 4: 03:27 your film's arriving at the same time that a play here is opening also re-imagining Peter pan called fly. What do you think about this story has given it such longevity and kind of inspired people to reimagine it repeatedly? Speaker 2: 03:41 I imagine it's something that a lot of artists connect to. You know, I think especially when you're, when your path in life is impractical and you know, which most artists pads are, you know, we are trying to, you know, live for storytelling and imagination and as you get older there's quite a lot of pressure I think for creative people to sort of compromise their vision and their dream of, of what they might do and who they might be. And to get forum to more practical pads that lead to more financial stability or whatever, you know, lead to that are safer or more, more stable. And I think that, you know, there, there's something in, in the experience of growing up, um, as an artist that, that I, I think probably I certainly connect connected to the conflict and the themes within the mythology and Peter and then I'm sure a lot of other people do too. Speaker 4: 04:34 Your first film beast of the Southern wild had a kind of social consciousness regarding climate change. This film has a really interesting kind of ecosystem to it. I mean, when the trains are going by, what you're seeing is not like this beautiful pristine landscape. And, and when they get to the Island too, there's trash washing up on the beach. So I'm wondering what kind of kind of themes you were trying to get at with that. Speaker 2: 05:03 I think it's a couple of things. You know, I think that we, you really wanted the film to sort of celebrate a connection to nature, even if it's not like a pretty and perfect one. You know, we wanted to sort of celebrate something that was more visceral. And you know, the film was, we went through, we went to enormous length to film the, the, you know, to make the movie, you know, on a real Island in the real rainforest. Like we shot on an active volcano, we shot in beaches that were sandstorms and oceans and underwater. And, you know, we tried to always really shoot the film, like truly in connection with nature and, and we wanted to tell a story about sort of childhood adventure that wasn't sort of like synthesize and you know, built in a computer and, and you know, that really had that visceral, um, contact with, you know, with muck, you know, for, for lack of a better word. Speaker 2: 05:56 Um, and we also wanted to sort of be mad if we talk about how, how that changes, you know, I think that one, one of the, one of the losses that we experience like going from being children to adults is our, our sort of visceral connection to the planet shifts in a way. I think when we're young, your contact with whatever it is, dirt, bugs, dead things, sand, water, like those things don't feel disconnected from you. You can just sort of be a part of them. And then we slowly learned to not touch things that are dirty and not get germs and you know, to, and as we get older, and I think something that changes, you know, as you become an adult is people really start thinking about how to use the earth to benefit them and to make their lives more convenient. And, and, and oftentimes that's a very destructive force. Speaker 2: 06:42 And I think that those themes are ones that we wanted to play out in the movie. And so, you know, you're often seeing the world of adults or, or as sort of the sort of perfect world of the children fades you gets invaded by refuse and things that aren't natural. Um, and, and that, that sort of, those are two sort of parallels in the, you know, two, two sort of distinct worlds in the film. One that is very much like entirely untouched nature and one that is, you know, much more sort of corrupted by the adult world of, of garbage and, and, you know, construction and, and ways in which we use, we use natural resources to try to, um, live more comfortably. Speaker 4: 07:23 Talk a little bit about the process that you make films. It's been a long time since, I think it's been like eight years since piece of the Southern wild and you really kind of invest in these films, finding children who aren't professional actors and going to locations that are not necessarily the easiest to get to. Talk a little bit about that, this process you go through creating these films and how they evolve. Speaker 2: 07:45 You know, I think we're always looking for ways to make larger than life things feel very, very real and figure out where like where does Neverland exist on this earth. She tried to really commit ourselves to this idea of, of using the real thing as much as possible and hopefully bringing like a real sense of, um, of reality to, uh, to a story that has always been sort of far away magical land that is really a fairy tale and hopefully this is a very different way to kind of think about the ideas and the story in ways that they actually can feel realistic. Speaker 4: 08:17 That was Beth AGA Mando speaking with filmmaker Ben Zeitlin about Wendy, which opens this Friday. You can listen to the full interview on the cinema junkie podcast.