Robyn Davidson’s story leaps from the book to screen, writes Laura Brodnik.
Robyn Davidson’s name has become synonymous with adventure since that fateful day in 1977 when she set off on a 2700km trek across the Australian desert with only her loyal dog and four unpredictable camels for company.
Despite having no plans at the time to chronicle her journey, Davidson penned the bestselling tome Tracks which was released in 1981 and since then has never been out of print.
Now, the tale has been brought to the big screen with Australian actress Mia Wasikowska (Stoker, Alice in Wonderland) charged with telling Davidson’s story.
“I’d seen so many versions of Tracks the film fall by the wayside over the years, that by the time this version came together I really had no expectation that the film would be made,” Davidson says. “But suddenly it all galloped forward and hey presto there was the film.
“I trusted the people making it and if you have an instinct that they are going to do the right thing then you just let them get on with it.
“A book and a film are two very different things, as a writer you would be foolish to expect a film to directly recapitulate a book because they are different animals.”
The release of Tracks and its soaring popularity caught the attention of Hollywood heavyweights from the get-go, with stars like Julia Roberts attached to star in the screen adaption, but Davidson said she was relieved when the film came home to Australia.
“I was concerned about the parts of the book dealing with the Aboriginal culture and I was concerned about that from day one,” she says.
“It always seemed to me that it would be much better for the film to be made outside Hollywood because traditionally Hollywood does not have enough respect for this area. So I’m very pleased that it’s come back to Australia.”
However, when it came to finding the right actress to bring Davidson’s story alive on screen the adventurer and author couldn’t go past the beguiling Mia Wasikowska.
“I wanted Mia for the part very much,” she says.
“I thought she was exactly right and so she has proven to be. It’s lucky for me because we like each other; it’s a funny sort of relationship.
“It’s most peculiar because she’s almost like a daughter or a nice or some relative. I’m very fond of her but more importantly I think she is a sensational actress, with a magical quality. We travelled to South Australia together before filming because I wanted to show her certain things about the way I related to the camels and Mia just got straight in there, she was fearless.”
Davidson set off on her journey because she craved the peace of the desert, a peace that was routinely interrupted by National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan ( played by Adam Driver in the film), whose employers she allowed to finance the trip in return for coverage in their magazine.
“I think the reason the story has remained so popular is that it’s mythical,” Davidson says.
“People love the idea of being able to escape from the neurotic world we’ve created.”
Tracks is in cinemas now.