Sunday, 28 February 2016



65. CAST AWAY (2000, dir. Robert Zemeckis)


I have never known of "method writing" for a Hollywood film that is a work of fiction - perhaps travel writing of the Ernest Hemingway or George Orwell type, but not something that works by asking the audience to sit back and be entertained. It may not have been an approached in an Academy Award nomination for William Broyles Jr., but it provided Tom Hanks with an Oscar-nominated role.

I am able to say that, in 2005, I walked on two beaches in California - Newport Beach, and Venice ("Muscle") Beach. Both are up the more gentrified, commercial end of things, particularly Venice Beach, except on one day when the sand on Newport Beach had been turned into barriers, by earth-movers, ahead of the impending waves that remained from a Pacific storm. 

However, further down the coast is the Gulf of California, part of Mexico, which is a protected ecosystem, and a perfect place for someone writing a film about being marooned on a desert island to try out what they had been taught by survival experts.

It was the intention of William Broyles Jr. to fend for himself for a week, find food and water, and create a shelter. Perhaps the only way you can construct a drama where there is only one person present is to try it out for yourself, and "Cast Away" is much more realistic and effective than what the imagination could create when in front of a keyboard in a cosy room.

However, the rules of drama means an antagonist is needed, and for Tom Hanks' character this is initially his situation, the concept of survival, and himself. The presence of Wilson, the (literally) bloody volleyball, isn't intended as that of an antagonist, except talking to yourself is usually considered a sign of madness, so it acts as a mirror instead, letting us into the protagonist's inner thoughts.

The sports company Wilson still sell the "Cast Away" volleyball to this day, and is an icon of recent of recent film history. Would the film had been such a success had a volleyball not washed up on the scriptwriter's beach?

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