‘Nyad’ Helmer talks directing Annette Bening, Jodie Foster at Sea – The Hollywood Reporter
If you are wondering if the long distance swimmer likes Diana Nyad Now – where the title character played by Annette Bening fulfills her dream of completing the Cuba-to-Florida swim at the age of 64 – the best judge would be her real-life coach, Bonnie Stoll, played by Jodie Foster in the Netflix drama.
“Well, it’s named after her, so she loves it!” Stoll told the Princess of Wales Theater at the Toronto Film Festival Thursday night during a Q&A after the screening. Stoll stood in for Nyad, who was a no-show at TIFF’s international premiere after Telluride because of her SAG-AFTRA membership, as did Bening and Foster because of their own restrictions on Hollywood strike.
But the marathon swimming drama does little to persuade viewers that the real-life Nyad is 100 percent self-centered and driven or, as Foster’s Stoll tells her friend her best in the film, that she has a “center of authority”.
The film dramatizes Nyad who, in 2013, became the first person to swim the 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage. This was her fifth attempt, and she completed a 53-hour swim through the dangerous open ocean that included overcoming sharks and poisonous jellyfish.
Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi was without co-director Jimmy Chin in Toronto to present her first statement, where she praised the performances of Bening and Foster. “These actors have access to these emotions and craft and that was a very helpful tool for us to tell this story,” she recalled.
Stoll told the TIFF audience that she spent a lot of time with Foster but never gave advice on playing her part. “I never said a word about anything, until after I saw the film. And from the first time I saw him, I saw myself up there,” she said.
Vasarhelyi talked about making her and Chin’s first documentary after winning an Academy Award for their 2018 documentary Solo for free about the climber Alex Honnold. She also opened up about diving into dangerous waters for Nowwith cameras rolling in a large tank in the Dominican Republic.
“It was hard. We shot for 41 days, I started shooting in a tank and I’ve never directed actors before, and I was given a bull and asked to shout at Jodie Foster and Annette Bening across the water. To their credit, they were gracious,” Vasarhelyi recalled.
Now produced by Andrew Lazar and Teddy Schwarzman and developed by Mad Chance and Black Bear Pictures. The feature will hit theaters on October 20 before launching on Netflix on November 3.