Into the Wild, a film written and directed by Sean Penn is based on the real-life story Christopher McCandless, a man who at 22-years-old walked out on his privileged life, hitchhiked to Alaska where he lived in the wild, where he died four months later. Based on Jon Krakauer’s best-selling book of the same name, Penn is bringing the tragic tale to the big screen with 22-year-old Emile Hirsch in the title role.

Penn said he’s been writing the story in his head for ten years, so when it came to putting it on paper, the first draft only took him three weeks of “Pacing, smoking and dictating.”

At the press conference during the Toronto Film Festival, Hirsch said that to mentally and physically prepare for the strenuous film — during which he lost over 40 pounds to mirror the character’s strife — he read Krakauer’s book, a story that he said fascinated him when he saw it on 20/20 when he was eight-years-old, and said, “I knew it would be a really big mental and physical challenge and commitment so mentally, in order to understand some of the psychology of Chris, I started reading some Jack London. I read Call of the Wild, which I loved, and I read Walden by Thoreau which was really helpful in teaching me about the anti-materialistic individuality that McCandless really sought after.

“The physical side was really just rigorous, rigorous running and hiking and endurance tests. And, it wasn’t just how far I could run or how far I could, I would also pose a lot of mini challenges to myself, like to clean my entire apartment spotless and I’m not going to stop until every grain of dust is completely organized, because I had heard that McCandless when he started a job, he would finish it. That’s not something I used to always do so I was kind of teaching myself how to do that.”

He also, as Penn said, “Had to go from getting his license to drink to the monastary” while performing this role that Penn said was shot in 35 locations over eight months.

When OK! asked Penn about the decision to cast Vince Vaughn, best-known for his comedies, in this dramatic film he said, “I laugh at a lot a Vince’s performances, but I’ve never called him a comedic actor. I think what made me laugh was the actor. On the calendar he happens to be the Fourth of July as a personality and I think that’s a very valuable thing, but I think what’s always significant about Vince is the science of his humor is part of the science of his life and he seemlessly goes between genres.”

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