Sailing across the Pacific Ocean sounds like a dream vacation. In the new movie Adrift, opening June 1, it quickly becomes a nightmare for a young couple when their boat is swamped by a hurricane.
Shailene Woodley (The Fault In Our Stars, the Divergent films) and Sam Claflin (Me Before You, The Hunger Games) play that young couple, Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp – real people whose ordeal is portrayed in the film, which is based on a book written by the real Tami Oldham Ashcraft.
Unlike their characters, Woodley and Claflin had no sailing experience beyond being passengers on a boat. An early outing was not auspicious. “I think the first day I went out on a boat in Fiji, Shai and I were taken out on this yacht,” Claflin recalled. “We were sailing just in the harbor (and) I was sick. So a part of me was really worried about this film because we spent most of it on the ocean.”
Adrift was mainly shot in the waters off Fiji, with a few weeks onstage in New Zealand. “It was a lot of hours on the sea, of learning to tie different ropes and learning the new language. So much of sailing is cerebral, more than it is even physical. It’s a completely different Rolodex of words,” Woodley said.
“It was a brand new terminology for living, basically,” Claflin added.
Honoring the real Tami
Woodley said she felt a special responsibility to honor the real Tami with her portrayal. “She’s given me her trust, and now I have to treat that simple gesture with the utmost reverence and respect,” Woodley said.
Claflin felt the same responsibility in his portrayal of Richard. “I tried to be true to her (Tami’s) viewpoint of him…. But at the same time I needed to bring qualities of me,” he said.
Tami is forced by circumstance to manage the business of survival. Woodley said she would not be able to survive the way Tami does. “I don’t know how to use a sextant. And so much of our lives now are dependent on technology that we’re not actually taking the time to utilize the tools that ancient navigators or mountaineers… utilized,” Woodley said.
“When the accident happened the way they it did, and all of the electronics went down, if she hadn’t known how to use the tool that cross-references the sun with the horizon or the stars with the horizon, then she wouldn’t have made it,” she added. “As strong as she was mentally and as much endurance as she had, she also had the skill set that wasn’t dependent on technology.”
Bringing Adrift to the screen required 12-14 hours of filming a day with minimal breaks. But Woodley found magic throughout. “When you get to see the sun rise and the sun set from the ocean every day it’s hard to complain about anything,” she said.
Adrift opens in theaters on June 1.