In "Wild," which is based on a memoir by Cheryl Strayed, Laura Dern is one-half of a tremendous mother-daughter love story.

The other is a game-changing performance by Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl, a recovering addict, who embarks on a spiritual journey through the Pacific Crest Trail. Cheryl's story both begins and ends with her deep-rooted love for her late mother, Bobbi, and reconciling her greatest loss. In "Wild" Dern is vibrant and very much alive as an unwavering spirit that binds all of the elements of this film together.

amNewYork spoke with Dern about "Wild," which opens on Friday.

 

Did the stakes feel higher for "Wild"?

The stakes felt higher for all of us equally. We all took Cheryl's story with great protective gloves in our hands. She and I spent a lot of really beautiful quality time together. It's been an on-going deep love story and it's a reminder, not that we just got lucky, but when you have the opportunity to have your heart cracked open, then you're only going to be authentic with each other.

 

Did you take away a specific moment with Cheryl that helped you playing Bobbi?

That's a beautiful question. I think mostly that her mother honored her choices, and didn't beat herself up for them. That gave Cheryl the room to forgive herself for her choices, and to really see how they made her the woman her mother believed she could become. That really inspired me on how to play the role and hopefully how to live my own life, and parent.

 

It's poignant when Reese as Cheryl says Bobbi was the love of her life, because that kind of depth in the mother-daughter relationship is rarely explored on film.

Exactly. We all do have our great first love stories, or our unconditional love stories, and most often it isn't a lover, but a parent or a caregiver that gave us that longing to find our truest self and our deepest passion. To see that love story revealed like that is a really cool gift.

 

Do you ever think of what you would say to Bobbi if you had the chance to meet her?

I would just thank her for this amazing gift, to be able to say some of the words she shared with her daughter off the cuff as mothers do, but realizing how profound and inspiring they are.