In an age when we’re immersed – nay, drowning – in social media, hyperconnectivity and the ability to know virtually anything about anyone at any time, the idea of truly unplugging and losing oneself is kind of intoxicating.
In 1977, isolation wasn’t quite as difficult to come by. But that didn’t stop Australia’s Robyn Davidson from setting out on an epic trek across 2,700 kilometres of desert, for no other reason than she decided it was something she wanted, or needed, to do.
Tracks, the film based on Davidson’s account of her journey, stars Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) as Davidson and Adam Driver (Girls, the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII) as National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan, who chronicled portions of Davidson’s journey in pictures. It had its Canadian premiere at last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival and opens June 6 in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
Davidson walked across the searing outback on foot, beginning at central Australian town of Alice Springs and ending at the country’s west coast, with only her dog and four camels for companionship on the nine-month trek.
People were so captivated by the article she wrote for National Geographic, accompanied by Smolan’s pictures, that she spun the tale out into a book and became a worldwide celebrity of sorts.
“I never had trouble understanding the desire to do that,” Wasikowska said of Davidson’s journey of discovery and self-reliance. “It seemed like a perfectly desirable thing, to want to take yourself away from people demanding things... and to do something just for the sake of doing it.”
Wasikowska spent time with the real-life Davidson to prepare for the role, which also involved working with a cameleer – yes, that’s a real occupation – and the four hump-backed ungulates who would be her on-screen companions for much of the movie.
“The camels were great,” said Wasikowska. “They’re the most obliging film animal, which is a shame because they’ll be so rarely needed for films.”
It was a somewhat physically demanding shoot, but director John Curran (The Painted Veil) and crew made sure the actors didn’t suffer unnecessarily in the Australian desert, and Wasikowska said it was nice not to have to squeeze into period costumes or undergo laborious makeup.
“I was going to makeup in the morning, and they’d dump some dirt on me and kick me outside,” she said.
The 24-year-old Aussie-born actress, who recently shot the upcoming Guillermo del Toro horror Crimson Peak in Toronto, is at a comfortable place in her career, able to choose smaller projects that interest her (like the Jim Jarmusch’s vampire drama Only Lovers Left Alive) and larger, more commercial roles (including Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.) She’s contractually obligated to star in the Alice in Wonderland sequel Through the Looking Glass, tentatively scheduled for 2016, although when asked during TIFF about going back down the rabbit hole, she said she hadn’t yet seen a script.
“I’d want to read it,” she said, “and then I’ll decide if I get pregnant or not.”