In 1977, a 26-year-old Australian called Robyn Davidson trekked the 1,700 miles across Australia from Alice Springs to the west coast, accompanied only by a dog and four camels. Despite writing about the experience for National Geographic – later turned into a memoir, and now a film, Tracks – Davidson was deliberately vague about why she did it. To this day, all she will really say is that being alone in the desert for nine months helped her to find out who she was, that she quelled a yearning for meaning in the middle of nowhere.
As the choice to play Davidson, 24-year-old Australian Mia Wasikowska is perfect. On screen, she excels at headstrong outsiders and exuding a steely single-mindedness. You don't have to look back far for examples. Tracks is her third UK release in nine weeks: February saw her wreaking havoc as a brattish vampire in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, while earlier this month she all but destroyed a lovelorn Jesse Eisenberg in Richard Ayoade's The Double. In one film she breaks a heart; in the other, she eats one.
Mia Wasikowska: making Tracks
It has taken 34 years for her story to make it to the screen. And much of that was down to Davidson’s reluctance to let it go. She didn’t want her story to be given the Hollywood treatment. Producer Emile Sherman, one of the Oscar winners behind The King’s Speech, went after the rights and, after some considerable time, secured them. Then the real hard work began. Davidson herself was immensely protective of her story and the phenomenon it had become since the 1970s. Once part of the Australian school syllabus it had become a seminal part of national culture.
The crucial aspect in bringing the various parties together was Mia Wasikowska. After the triple whammy of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre and Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids are All Right the 24-year-old is one of the hottest talents on the grid. As far as Davidson was concerned, Wasikowska was the one. Her casting topped off a layer cake of pure Antipodean cream that followed the hiring of John Curran as director. It had to be shot in Australia, too, making it a wholly Australian production. “I’d always wanted her and I said to both John and Emile, ‘If we can get Mia that would make me very happy,’ and I certainly haven’t been disappointed,” she admits.
Following in the footsteps of a real life hero
HOLLYWOOD might be a dazzling destination but for rising star Mia Wasikowska, there's only one place that she can truly call home - Australia. And the 24-year-old, who's known for her roles in Alice In Wonderland, Jane Eyre and more recently The Double, was recently offered the opportunity to film there.
Tracks tells the true story of Robyn Davidson, a young woman who, in 1977, undertook a perilous solo trek across 1700 miles of stunning Australian outback, with just a few camels and her loyal dog Diggity to keep her company. But it wasn't only the chance to film on homeland that enticed her, it was also the fact that her photographer parents wouldn't have let her live it down if she hadn't accepted the role.
"When I first mentioned to my parents that I'd been given the script for this film called Tracks, they were like, 'Oh my God, you have to do it, it's such an important story for Australia,'" explains the actress. Tracks meant spending "seven or eight" weeks Down Under, and Wasikowska took full advantage of the relative proximity to her family, inviting her brother on set so they could take in the majesty of renowned sand formation Ayers Rock together. "It's very out of their world," she says of her "great, supportive" relatives. "No one in my family is in films, so it's kind of an exotic thing to do. I like to share it with them when I can, so if they can come on set and be with me for a little while, that's the nicest thing."
Mia couldn't say no to making Tracks
Sigh, Tracks AND The Double. May can't come soon enough.