Elysian Film Group announces WENDY, writer/director Benh Zeitlin’s follow up to his critically acclaimed, Oscar nominated film Beasts of The Southern Wild, to be released in UK and Irish cinemas on 13 August 2021.
The classic story of Peter Pan is wildly reimagined in this ragtag epic starring a stunning cast of young actors, headlined by Devin France in the title role of Wendy. The film is directed by Benh Zeitlin and written by Benh and his sister Eliza Zeitlin. The producers are Becky Glupczynski (Maria Full of Grace), Dan Janvey (Nomadland), Paul Mezey (Maria Full of Grace) and Josh Penn (Monsters and Men), who all collaborated previously with Zeitlin on Beasts of The Southern Wild.
Lost on a mysterious island where aging and time have come unglued, Wendy must fight to save her family, her freedom, and the joyous spirit of youth from the deadly peril of growing up. Writer/director Zeitlin recalls how “On every birthday of our childhoods, my sister Eliza and I wished as we blew out the candles that we would never grow up. We were terrified of our older selves and desperate to determine what kind of loss turns kids into grown-ups, before it was too late, and that door closed forever.” Following the global success of his debut film Beasts of The Southern Wild, Zeitlin turned his attention to reinventing the childhood myth that had captivated him and his sister.
Rather than Peter’s story, their tale focusses on Wendy who experiences Neverland but has to leave it behind. As with BEASTS, for which Zeitlin cast breakout star 10-year-old actress Quvenzhané Wallis who received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for the role, Zeitlin’s vision for WENDY hinged on using performers who had never acted before, to bring a sense of realism to these mythic figures.
When Zeitlin and his team met Louisiana native Devin France, he recalls, “She was incredibly open and vulnerable and bursting with curiosity. Her imagination would light her up from within and you could see how much it thrilled her to make believe.” Further stripping away the elements of the myth that distanced it from reality, Zeitlin replaced fairy magic and flying with wonders of nature bringing an earthier, more naturalistic idea of how Peter’s wildness could exist in the world.
The film was shot both in Zeitlin’s home state of Louisiana and, for Neverland, the mountainous Caribbean island of Montserrat, home to a still active volcano and diverse landscape of lush rainforests, towering cliffs and surreal rock formations in the ocean. With many of the same team he collaborated with on BEASTS, Zeitlin shot every scene of the film in a real location, often ones that were challenging. Staircases were built into cliff faces, roads were created through the volcanic wasteland, equipment (and lunch) arrived by zipline into deep valleys, and a fifty-foot steel ship was sunk and then raised off the coast of Antigua where the film’s water locations were shot.
The breathtaking cinematography by Sturla Brandth Grøvlen (Another Round, Victoria) was filmed with a handheld camera to capture the young actors’ eye-levels using as much natural light as possible. For the haunting score, Benh Zeitlin collaborated again with Dan Romer (Beasts of the Southern Wild, Luca) creating the melodies influenced by lullabies and sea shanties that weave through the unique soundtrack.
In the end, the making of WENDY was an adventure every bit as epic as the story itself.