Robin Wright’s two most recent projects couldn’t be more different. Whereas Wonder Woman 1984 was pure fantasy, her directorial debut, Land, is a story about complete and total isolation. For W’s annual Best Performances issue, Wright discusses life off the grid, encounters with wildlife, and the Princess Bride Zoom reunion.
Land, which you starred in and produced, is also your directorial debut.
The script came to me at a time when it seemed like there were random shootings about biweekly, worldwide. It just resonated with me. I couldn't even imagine what the family members of those who were taken by a stranger in a second must've been going through. How did they deal with it? Everybody deals with it differently. This script is about that very thing—one person's experience dealing with grief. And when loved ones see you hurting, it's too painful to watch. You can't get better for them as fast as they would like sometimes. I really wanted to explore that idea and bring the audience on this journey with this woman, to say, What would it be like to just go away and try to find a renewed sense of faith in your body that you've lost?
Can you imagine doing that? Living off the grid?
We shot the whole thing in a cabin built by the production designer on the top of a mountain, 8,000 feet up. We were dealing with unpredictable weather patterns all day, every day. While on set as an actor, I was learning how to chop wood, skin a deer, and hold a gun to kill game. Could I do all of that now, with some help? Yes, for sure.
Were there wild animals?
There were bears. There was one incident at 4:30 in the morning, when everyone was arriving, and I heard this shriek. I mean, the loudest scream I've ever heard from a woman. It was the craft-service lady—the bear was opening the door to the craft-service truck. She grabbed a skillet and a metal spoon and just started banging them and yelling at the top of her lungs, "Get away! Get away!" She literally scared the bear off with how loud she was. It was dangerous.
Did he come back after that?
Of course he did. He got a hamburger, and then he returned every day. He was the Hollywood bear—our set bear.
You were making a film about isolation when the world had to go into lockdown. Did you feel that was a strange turn of events?
Well, the message of Land is about the power of resilience. Everyone I know in this world is and has been feeling that for the past year.
You had a Zoom reunion with the cast of The Princess Bride during lockdown.
It was such a great experience, because most of us hadn't really seen each other for over 20 years. But it was like a day had passed. We had the script next to us on another device during the Zoom read-through, but it felt like everyone knew their lines already.
Were you offered a gazillion parts like Princess Buttercup at the time?
No. I didn't get very much work for quite a while. It took some time after that. It wasn't a hit at the time. You're playing an ingenue in a fantasy, and they can't see outside of that character and that wig. Well, I had long hair, but they added pieces, of course. My hair was almost to my booty. I could sit on it.
You directed some episodes of House of Cards too. Did David Fincher give you any advice?
I was so scared the night before my first day directing. I asked him to give me something, and he said, "No, you got to bring your own style. That's how you're going to be your own director." I said, “Okay, duly noted. But I'm scared out of my mind.” He said, "I'm going to give you one thing, and you should always refer to this every project you do as a director." I thought he was going to give me some [Krzysztof] Kieslowski pearl, or Elia Kazan or something, and he just said, "I'm going to give you a fraction. Above the line is the word ‘behavior,’ and below the line is ‘time.’ Always remember behavior over time." It doesn't matter how long it takes, whether you're in a wide shot or a close-up, as long as you’re capturing the behavior.