Annette Bening is diving into a true sports story.
The four-time Oscar nominee portrays marathon swimmer-turned-sports journalist Diana Nyad who, at the age of 60, completed the “Mount Everest” of swims from Cuba to Florida. “Free Solo” documentary filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin helm the true story, adapted by Julia Cox from Nyad’s memoir “Find a Way.”
Academy Award winner Jodie Foster plays Nyad’s best friend and coach Bonnie Stoll, with Rhys Ifans, Ethan Jones Romero, Luke Cosgrove, Jeena Yi, and Eric T. Miller rounding out the cast.
Per the official synopsis, a remarkable true story of tenacity, friendship and the triumph of the human spirit, “Nyad” recounts a riveting chapter in the life of world-class athlete Diana Nyad. Three decades after giving up marathon swimming in exchange for a prominent career as a sports journalist, at the age of 60, Diana (Bening) becomes obsessed with completing an epic swim that always eluded her: the 110-mile trek from Cuba to Florida, often referred to as the “Mount Everest” of swims. Determined to become the first person to finish the swim without a shark cage, Diana goes on a thrilling four-year journey with her best friend and coach Bonnie Stoll (Foster) and a dedicated sailing team.
“Nyad” premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and is set to screen at the Hamptons International Film Festival.
Andrew Lazar and Teddy Schwarzman produce the film, with Bill Johnson, Jim Seibel, Michael Heimler, Vanessa Humphrey, screenwriter Julia Cox, and D. Scott Lumpkin serving as executive producers.
Actress Foster recalled Bening’s dedication to the role, telling Vanity Fair that Bening “faced all the hardest challenges” playing a real-life athlete.
“Swimming in the water for hours and hours, stomaching salt water, fluctuating body temperatures, wearing that weird silicone mask, long hours in every weather condition, day and night—and all of it in a bathing suit,” Foster said. “That’s my worst nightmare. I found myself bugging the ADs to get her out of the water for breaks. She just kept lifting her thumbs up saying she was fine. I was so worried her body would betray her iron mind, but it never happened. That woman has the strongest will I’ve ever seen on a movie set.”
Co-director Vasarhelyi revealed that Bening had to relearn how to swim to more realistically play Nyad onscreen.
“She wouldn’t take the role unless she was prepared to do the work,” Vasarhelyi said. “That was daunting to her. She knew herself that she would have to learn to swim that way — and she wasn’t necessarily the best swimmer.”
“Nyad” marks married co-directors Vasarhelyi and Chin’s narrative debut, and they recently addressed the renewed controversy surrounding Nyad’s allegedly inflated claims of her 110-mile swim.
“There are moments where Bonnie makes fun of her for exaggerating things. We did our research and I spent a lot of time with Diana. We did our due diligence,” Vasarhelyi recently told The Hollywood Reporter. “This film is not about a record. It’s about a woman who wakes up at 60 and realizes she’s not done. And that woman has flaws. I think that if we were dealing with a man, people wouldn’t be picking on him quite as much. But Diana acknowledges her shortcomings and I respect that.”
“Nyad” premieres in select theaters October 20 and will be available to stream on Netflix November 3. Check out the trailer below.