From the best-selling novel comes a captivating mystery. Where the Crawdads Sing tells the story of Kya, an abandoned girl who raised herself to adulthood in the dangerous marshlands of North Carolina. For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" haunted Barkley Cove, isolating the sharp and resilient Kya from her community. Drawn to two young men from town, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world; but when one of them is found dead, she is immediately cast by the community as the main suspect. As the case unfolds, the verdict as to what actually happened becomes increasingly unclear, threatening to reveal the many secrets that lay within the marsh.
Starring Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, Michael Hyatt, Sterling Macer, Jr., and David Strathairn. Directed by Olivia Newman. Produced by Reese Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter. Screenplay by Lucy Alibar. Based upon the novel by Delia Owens. The executive producers are Rhonda Fehr and Betsy Danbury. The director of photography is Polly Morgan, ASC. The production designer is Sue Chan. The editor is Alan Edward Bell, ACE. The costume designer is Mirren Gordon-Crozier. The music is by Mychael Danna.
The story of survival in Where the Crawdads Sing began its journey to the screen when Reese Witherspoon - not only an Academy Award®-winning actress but a powerhouse producer heading Hello Sunshine, her billion-dollar production company, got her hands on the manuscript by Delia Owens. "I read the novel in one day. I just couldn't put it down," says Witherspoon. "I fell in love with Kya as a main character, as a little girl who's growing up in a very rural area, shunned by society and trying to find a way to just save herself, just survive. The experiences she has with the two men in her life are both so touching but also terrifying. Delia Owens wrote this book with such authenticity, you could just tell she really grew up in this place."
"Delia created a classic, timeless story with this book," says the film's director, Olivia Newman. "A romance, an underdog story, a murder mystery, a criminal trial, with a distinctive setting that lends to the drama and scope. We wanted to honor that with a faithful adaptation, and I'm so glad to have worked with this incredible team of women - the executives, the writer, the producers, most heads of department - who were meticulous in keeping the look and feel of the book that readers everywhere have embraced."
A literary phenomenon, the book skyrocketed to the top of the bestseller lists when Witherspoon picked it for Reese's Book Club - and its record-breaking run has lasted over 191 weeks. With over 12 million copies sold in total, it was the top-selling book of 2019 and 2020 and set a new record for the most weeks at #1 on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestsellers list.
The popularity of the book extends so far that even Taylor Swift was inspired to write and perform an original song for the film. "Taylor Swift writing a song for the film based on these characters was the greatest gift that we could have received," says Witherspoon. "We got a call from Taylor and her team to tell us she had written a song, 'Carolina,' that incorporates so many of the haunting elements of the movie. I've gotten to talk with her a couple of times about what inspired the song and how she wrote it. Obviously, she's a beautiful songwriter who understands so much about folk and country music, and it's her appreciation of those genres that made the song so perfect for this film. And who doesn't love a gorgeous, haunting Taylor Swift song?"
Swift used instruments from the era of the film's setting in creating the song. "Where The Crawdads Sing is a book I got absolutely lost in when I read it years ago," says Swift. "As soon as I heard there was a film in the works starring the incredible Daisy Edgar-Jones and produced by the brilliant Reese Witherspoon, I knew I wanted to be a part of it from the musical side. I wrote the song 'Carolina' alone and asked my friend Aaron Dessner to produce it. I wanted to create something haunting and ethereal to match this mesmerizing story."
At the center of Where the Crawdads Sing is Kya Clark - "the marsh girl" - about whom little is known and much is assumed. When Chase Andrews, once the town's star quarterback and now heir apparent to a successful auto shop, is found dead in the marsh, most of the townspeople are quick to blame Kya. As local defense attorney Tom Milton tries to save Kya's life, Kya slowly reveals her mysteries - abandoned by her family and left to make a life for herself in the marsh. the two loves that shaped her past. and the lengths that creatures of nature will go to survive.
"The townspeople treat Kya very badly from the start," says Daisy Edgar-Jones, who plays Kya. "She says it herself: a lot of the way they treat her has more to do with them than it does with Kya. She's become this larger-than-life myth. They get wrapped up in this idea of the mythic 'Marsh Girl' who lives out in the swamp. They just don't understand her that all she is really is an abandoned young woman they don't help. So I think when Chase is found dead, they first point to Kya."
The true beginning of Where the Crawdads Sing is when Owens - retired from her highly successful career as a wildlife scientist and best-selling author of several nonfiction books - was inspired to write her first novel.
"My whole life led to this story," Owens says. "The inspiration behind my book started when I was a child. I grew up in the woods - real woods. When I was very young, my mother would encourage me to go out into the woods. She wanted us to go as far as we could. It was my mother who would say, 'Go way out yonder where the crawdads sing.' Of course, crawdads don't really sing. But what she meant by that was she wanted us to experience the nature in nature. If you go far enough into the wilderness, by yourself, and there's nothing but you and nature, you will hear the crawdads sing."
"I was inspired by wild things and I would collect insects. I would collect feathers. Does that sound familiar?" Owens continues. "I would come back home not with shells, but with stones. And my mother encouraged that, too."
Though she loved writing, Owens decided to make science her career, and received a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior from the University of California at Davis. Owens spent more than two decades living and working in the African wilderness studying the animals she loved, eventually chronicling those observations and experiences in three best-selling non-fiction books she co-authored.
"My life as a wildlife biologist living alone in different parts of Africa also inspired this story," says Owens. "We can learn about human nature from nature. We forget that we're part of nature. We're not separate from it. We have a real connection with nature that most people don't think that they have."
"We talk about Mother Nature, but we don't really treat nature as though she's our mother, and it's important to remember that," Owens says. "I really hope one of the things that the audience gets from this film is they'll be rewarded by the scenes of nature, the marsh, the environment itself. The marsh screams for the big screen."
"I remember when Reese first told me about this book," says producer Lauren Neustadter, President, Film and Television at Hello Sunshine. "We loved Kya, we loved the world, we loved the story of her survival, against all odds. When we thought about it as a movie, there was so much that was so appealing. The backdrop is absolutely magnificent and the story is epic in scope. The marsh itself is incredibly cinematic. The lush greens and also the world that she lives in, the lagoon, the beach all of the settings are so incredibly beautiful and romantic. And then Kya herself is such an extraordinary character - an unconventional heroine and certainly the hero of her own story. To see this remarkable woman against such a beautiful backdrop felt inherently cinematic, and it felt perfect to bring to life on screen."
"I don't know where my book would be without Reese Witherspoon," says Owens. "First it was her Book Club, then the Best Seller list, and now the movie. She's done a lot for this book and for many, many authors."
Elizabeth Gabler, with her team at 3000 Pictures, has successfully developed and produced such films as The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me, The Fault in Our Stars, Water for Elephants, Love, Simon, The Hate U Give, Woman in the Window, Hidden Figures, and Life of Pi. A strong passion for literary material motivates 3000 Pictures in their role as a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment to help bring extraordinary novels like Where the Crawdads Sing to cinematic life. "We are all voracious readers at 3000 Pictures, and our love for literary material provides us with an abundance of great stories to adapt," says Gabler. "We are excited and honored that this is our first theatrical film for Sony Pictures. Where the Crawdads Sing has captured the hearts and imagination of readers around the world as they escape into Kya's world and the lush and gorgeous landscape of the marshland, and meet the unique inhabitants of the small town of Barkley Cove. The novel provided us with a genuinely sympathetic heroine in Kya, intense romance, and haunting mystery - a perfect combination for an epic and classic film."
Gabler had an inside track on the material, as she had previously worked with Delia Owens to develop one of her nonfiction books as a possible film. "I am very blessed to have known Delia Owens for a very long time," says Gabler. "Delia, in her fresh and evocative voice, has created something so unique with this novel. The novel is so immersive because it feels so real. As a child, Delia herself roamed through the wilds and the marshlands, connecting with the creatures there, and she continued that path as a wildlife scientist and naturalist throughout her life. She brings all these experiences to life in Kya and in her novel."
Gabler says that she recognizes themes in the book that are the reason she feels it connected with so many. "I think that Where the Crawdads Sing is something that people have been waiting for, for a long time," Gabler continues. "It is a story of hope in a world that needs hope, and a story of survival in a world that needs a story of survival."
Optioning the rights to Where the Crawdads Sing, Gabler brought in Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine to produce; Gabler later brought the project with her when she founded her current label, 3000 Pictures, at Sony Pictures. "They're among our most beloved partners," says Gabler. "They're like family - a perfectly symbiotic relationship where we call on each other all the time. It's perfect that this film is not only 3000 Pictures' first feature, but also the first feature from Hello Sunshine."
It's no accident that the Hello Sunshine team brought on board an all-female filmmaking team and a majority-female production crew to adapt the novel into a film. "At Hello Sunshine, we have a focus on finding female filmmakers who bring a fresh perspective and stories that we've never seen on film," says Witherspoon. "For this film, these women built rich worlds focused on the very interpersonal connections of the characters."
"Where the Crawdads Sing is a filmmaker's dream come true of a story," says director Olivia Newman. "It has this incredible female heroine at the center of it that we've never seen on screen. She's vulnerable and emotional but also strong and resilient. And her story straddles multiple genres - there's this beautiful romance. There is a murder mystery. There is a survivalist tale. When I read the book and then the script, I thought it captured all these different worlds and elements of stories that I just couldn't wait to dig into as a filmmaker."
"I think everybody resonates with Kya on a personal level. There's a little of Kya in all of us," Newman continues. "But I don't think we've ever seen a character quite like Kya on screen before, not in this way. Where the Crawdads Sing is a story about resilience. It's about how love and human connection are core to our survival. It's a story about believing in your own self-worth when others do not. It's about survival and about how the laws of nature are not always the same as the laws of society."
For screenwriter Lucy Alibar, the Academy Award®-nominated co-writer of Beasts of the Southern Wild, expressing the laws of the marsh was part of expressing Kya as a character. "The marsh becomes the thing that raises her, the thing that keeps her alive-the quote from the book is, 'The marsh became her mother,'" notes Alibar. "Nature is very important to who Kya is as a person, as a character. Kya observes wild things, and she learns."
For Alibar, the other element of Kya's character is wrapped up in the puzzle of Chase's death. She says it's no mere plot device. "It was very important that the mystery be part of the mystery of Kya," she says. "In other words, it's not a mystery for the sake of creating something thrilling to watch; it really has to teach you something about who Kya is and what her journey has been. As we unravel the mystery of how Chase died, we're also unraveling the mystery of who Kya is, and how she learned to survive, and how she made a whole life for herself in the marsh."
"The main thing I love about Kya is how resilient she is," says Daisy Edgar-Jones, who brings Kya Clark to life. "Her relationship with Chase ends on bad terms. When Chase is found dead in the marsh, Kya goes on trial for his murder. All eyes are on her during the trial, yet she continues to show incredible resilience and strength, and maintains her quiet curiosity and connection with the natural world."
"Kya says there's no dark side to nature, just inventive ways to endure," says Edgar-Jones. "For Kya, having suffered so much abuse from her family and people leaving her, the one thing that always stuck was nature. It always there for her and I think it became her family."
"Daisy Edgar-Jones is a once-in-a-lifetime talent," says Witherspoon. "She can morph herself into so many different characters. You feel her vulnerability and her ferocity in this performance. Daisy and Livi worked together to create a performance that sometimes is very, very small and internal, and other times is rage-filled and ferocious. There's no artifice, there's no lying, she just becomes the character. And I have to say, I'm pretty tough on Southern accents, and Daisy just fell into it so beautifully, with a real respect for the language and the way that Delia wrote."
"She encompassed all the different aspects of the character," says Neustadter. "She's sensitive, but she's strong. She's mysterious. She's romantic. I feel she has a soul connection to Kya that's so rare and so magnificent."
To prepare for the role, Edgar-Jones - a Londoner by birth - would have to remake herself into Kya Clark: her physical strength, her experience boating in the marsh, her talent for drawing and painting, and, of course, her Carolina accent.
"I read the book over and over and over," Edgar-Jones says. "When I got the script, I went through every scene I had, and I wrote out the key parts of the chapter next to the script page, which was really helpful. I learned a lot about boating and the marsh - the wildlife and the landscape."
Edgar-Jones worked with dialect coach Francie Brown to hide her London accent and to speak like a mid-century American woman living on the North Carolina coast. "I love working in accents, because acting in my own voice makes me very self-conscious," says Edgar-Jones. "Because I play Kya as she ages over several years, it was important to express the subtleties of Kya's voice as she ages from a higher register at 15 to 20 to 23. That was a real access point for me because there's a kind of special softness to Kya's voice that's different from mine, which was also a really good way to separate myself from the character."
As Kya is a talented artist, Edgar-Jones developed her skills with painting sessions with the film's art director Kirby Feagan, who was responsible for the majority of Kya's paintings in the film. "I had such a wonderful time working with Kirby. She's just so talented," says Edgar-Jones. "When I first got to New Orleans, when we were prepping, I asked her, 'Please, can you teach me?' We drew a couple of shells. We went to City Park and she taught me to work out how to bring a beautiful feather to life on one piece of paper. It's quite something."
The first romantic relationship that enters Kya's life is Tate Walker, who she once knew as a childhood friend of her brother Jodie, before Jodie left their abusive father. Now a young man with a promising future, Tate and Kya begin a mysterious flirtation.
"When they were younger, Kya and Tate used to love searching for feathers," says Taylor John Smith, who plays Tate Walker. "After the death of his mother and sister, Tate decides to get back into the world, and as he comes across feathers that he thinks she'd like, he begins to leave them in a tree stump to lure her in. And she starts leaving feathers in return, and it becomes a game for them, back and forth, connecting through their love of nature - until they accidentally cross paths, the game ends, and the relationship begins."
When Tate discovers that Kya doesn't know how to read or write, he decides to teach her. "One of the first momentous moments for Tate and Kya is when they are sitting on a tree stump and going over the alphabet," Smith says. "Giving Kya the freedom to learn how to read and write herself, opens up a world of possibilities and connects the two of them. Once she knows how to read and write, she can document all of the things that she wants to document about her discoveries on the marsh."
"That is one of the biggest gifts he gives Kya," says Edgar-Jones. "For the first time in her life, she can write down her observations of the natural world and capture them in a permanent way. And along the way, their love blossoms from friendship to romance."
As it does, Newman gives a fairytale quality to the romance, according to Smith. "They're carefree and explorative, figuring out who they are as well as who the other person is, and finding then out where they fit in each other's lives," he says. "There are so many connections, exploring through the marsh and fishing, and especially at the sycamore tree."
When the time comes for Tate to go to college, he promises he will return. But Tate is a young man with his entire future ahead of him - and when he is given an incredible offer for a summer research trip, he makes a choice. When he realises that Kya sees his absence as an abandonment, he is flooded with a regret that will last for years. "It's the worst thing he could do to Kya, considering that's been done to her throughout her life," says Smith.
Filling that void in her life is Chase Andrews, drawn to Kya by her wild, enigmatic reputation. "She's always been described in town as an outcast, animalistic creature that lives in a very rough, scary part of nature," says Harris Dickinson, who plays the role. "I think what attracts Chase to Kya so much is the fact that she's mysterious - I think people are often attracted to things they can't grasp. Most of the girls in his town don't have the complexities of Kya, and everything about her - her intelligence, her thoughtfulness, her history, her depth, her trauma - intrigues him, and scares him, and excites him. Being with her allows him to be a new version of himself, a version outside of the confines of his town and his family."
Newman says that she was drawn to cast Dickinson by the actor's thoughtful take on the character. "When I saw Harris Dickinson read for Chase, I thought, 'Wow, he brings such complexity to this character,'" says Newman.
"It was important to Livi Newman and me that Chase not just see Kya as a conquest, but that he really feels a love for her in his own limited way," says Alibar. "He really wants there to be a world where he can have a life with her, but unfortunately, Chase is weak and he can't break out of these societal patterns and expectations that the town has set for him, unlike Tate."
"Chase feels that he can open up around Kya a little more because he's aware that their world together is private," says Dickinson. "The fact that he keeps those separate is an indication of his fear. He doesn't want to be exposed. For Chase to be in a relationship with Kya Clark 'The Marsh Girl,' would be so frowned upon that he wouldn't be able to deal with the response. He hasn't got the strength or the backbone or the integrity to deal with that response. Not to mention that he also has a girlfriend who he's been lying to, and obviously doesn't want to get exposed for that reason as well."
There are few people in town that accept Kya for who she is. Two are Jumpin' and Mabel, proprietors of the local bait-and-tackle shop who respect Kya's independence while also providing a stream of income and help. Actress Michael Hyatt plays Mabel, with Sterling Macer, Jr. playing Jumpin'.
"Mabel, being the love-filled person that she is, immediately sees the need in this young lady, and embraces it, and takes her on as one of her own, even though we have to live separately," says Hyatt. "To a certain extent, they have to abide by the rules of the Jim Crow South - because that's just one of the Jim Crow rules, the two shall not cross. But as is the reality, there's only so much of that we will honor because the human instinct comes first, and our innate energies come first, and where we see the need, we're going to it."
Hyatt says that Mabel sees in Kya something of a kindred spirit. "Everyone can relate on some level to being an outcast, to being 'the other.' There's sadness and pain, but there is a peace and a joy; a beauty in allowing yourself to not live by anybody else's rules," she says. "That's what Where The Crawdads Sing is all about. The absolute love, the joy that Kya finds in connecting to the simplest, most beautiful things that, otherwise, you would've completely ignored if you had stayed with all the rules. Look how much richer her life is as a result of stepping outside the box."
Macer agrees. "Jumpin' feels an affinity with Kya, towards Kya because Kya is an outsider and Jumpin' absolutely knows what it's like to be an outsider," says Macer. "Being a Black man in the early 1950s in North Carolina who is a business owner - who has his own little piece of the world - that's rarefied air, and if you're sitting in that position, it can be taken away from you. He has that vulnerability, so when he sees someone who is equally vulnerable in her own way, there's a natural affinity and desire to help. He and Mabel also happen to be compassionate and caring people. But when you are a cultural underdog, as any African-American was at the particular point in time. yeah, Jumpin' absolutely can relate."
"It was absolutely a risky proposition for Mabel and Jumpin' to take Kya under their wing," Macer continues. "They are a Black couple in 1952. To install themselves in this little White girl's life could very well have offended the sensibilities of a community at that particular time. The notion that two Black individuals could take the place of a White mother and father without it being seen as inappropriate or offending somebody, was a very, very risky proposition. Jumpin' could lose everything. They were putting themselves and their livelihood on the line."
Macer says that at the beginning of the relationship, that risky proposition leads to Jumpin' holding Kya at a bit of a distance. but only at the beginning. "What became very clear, per the script, was how close young Kya was to Mabel, the nurturing mother, while Jumpin' is a little hands-off and hesitant to really get involved in this little White girl's life, because it could jeopardize everything that he built. But she weaves her way into his heart," he says. "As Kya gets older, she and Jumpin' become very, very close, and I think it's somewhat typical of what fathers and daughters go through - as they get older, they become a little bit more 'daddy's girl.'"
Making her feature film debut as Young Kya is actress Jojo Regina. Screenwriter Lucy Alibar says that although the young actress is in only a few early scenes, they are pivotal towards the audience's understanding of the character that will follow - and that Regina pulled off the difficult work. "Jojo really brings it," says Alibar. "She portrays the soul of Kya in childhood, and those scenes are so crucial to who she becomes later. Livi has such an incredible talent for working with children - I have very rarely seen anything like it, and being able to watch her direct Jojo was a treat."
Where the Crawdads Sing was filmed on location in the regions surrounding New Orleans, Louisiana. The filmmakers chose the location for the wide variety of marsh and swamp locations and historic Southern towns that would serve as Barkley Cove and Kya's home in the marsh.
"The backdrop of nature is so important to this film. The landscape is everything in this movie," says Newman. "A lot of the location scouting was trying to find those specific landscapes that are so integral to telling Kya's story. It's Kya's world: the salt marsh, the beach, the swamps. In particular, I wanted to make sure that we could contrast the cypress swamp with the flat necklaces of grass that make up the marshlands."
Screenwriter Lucy Alibar says that the marsh comes to life on its own in the film. "I believe the marsh is absolutely its own character," she says. "At the beginning of the book, Delia tells you who Kya is by talking about a marsh. The marsh is a character who is inseparable from Kya, so it was very important that the marsh be as much of a character as Kya herself."
For this story, director Olivia Newman assembled a majority-female production crew - an extreme rarity. In addition to screenwriter Lucy Alibar and producers Reese Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter, not to mention production executive Elizabeth Gabler, the team included director of photography Polly Morgan, production designer Sue Chan, and costume designer Mirren Gordon-Crozier. Editor Alan Edward Bell and composer Mychael Danna round out the production team.
"It's not something I go into making a movie thinking about, but it often happens naturally," says Newman. "When I'm looking to hire my crew and my heads of department, I make sure that the list we're looking at is diverse. From there, we hire the people who share the same vision. It just happened that all of these people I hired happened to be women - it may be that these women were all attracted to the project and shared the same vision for that reason; I don't know, but they were the best for the job."
From the beginning, Newman and Morgan developed a shared visual language for the film. "Since my very first conversation with Livi, we just connected immediately about how we felt this story should be told," says Morgan. "All of the conversations we had early on were about telling an intimate story in this beautiful landscape - painting an epic picture of the marsh, while keeping the story that unfolds of Kya and her journey intimate and small."
The film's multiple themes required different looks. "We wanted to use the camera and light in order to help people understand Kya's journey and all the different themes within the story," Morgan explains. "We really wanted to have a lyrical poetic feel for this film, one that felt very emotional to keep in line with Kya's story, but we also needed the film to have the drama and the tension of a crime thriller. We focused on what emotionally is happening at each point in the story, and that inspires the way I move the camera, the way I light the scene, the choices of color, the choices of shadow. I'm trying to supplement and amplify the performance to help tonally paint the right picture for what's happening."
In designing the look of the film, production designer Sue Chan had numerous challenges - foremost among them building Kya's home. "Everything is so alive in the marsh," she says. "It has its own way of communicating and its own ebb and flow. Anybody who would live in the marsh as Kya does would feel that intrinsically - it becomes part of her personality. Her shack and the marsh and nature are so important to the story is because they really are one with Kya. They're the backbone of her life."
To build Kya's house, Chan and her team started with research. "Normally, we would build an interior on a soundstage, but we really wanted to get the exterior feeling of the marsh in the house. We decided we would build the entire house inside and out, and shoot that on location."
That meant that Chan's team had two equally important tracks of research: what they would build, and where they would build it. "We found lots of great reference and architectural detail for seaside homes in North Carolina," she recalls. "Those were the building blocks of how the house should look. Livi and I had lots of conversations about floor plans, about how the book describes the house and what she would need to block the scenes and create the story."
"The story of the house is the story of the family," says Chan. "It would have evolved from the time it was a one-room house in Pa's family to when the family started to grow," says Chan. "Our idea was that it was a fishing cabin, one room with a porch; then, when the family grew, they took the back porch and turned it into the kitchen. Ma and Pa's bedroom is built on from part of the porch. Then, when the family disappears, it starts to fall into disrepair. Layers of paint peel, and replaced by paints that they've scavenged. Wallpaper doesn't quite match."
Art director Kirby Feagan says that if Kya's house looks real, that's because it is real. "Everything is in the architecture - the ceiling cross beams, the way that we did the board and batten on the outside, the cedars, the shingles on the roof," she says. "We looked for weeks to find shingles authentic to what they had at the time in North Carolina - which are not what people use anymore. Every element of the linoleum, the hardwood floors, the way that the boards are narrow and wide, all those details mattered. It looks authentic because it is made with authentic materials, which in the end, helps tell the story."
At the beginning of the film, the house is a home that feels Ma's presence, according to Chan. "She's a painter, an artist, so there's color and all sorts of life. It feels fairytale pretty, with an amplified reality inside." After Ma leaves, she says, "A lot of that drains away. It comes back again, but differently, when it becomes Kya's house, as Kya begins to collect her shells and feathers; she brings nature back into the house. And later, after she gains some success with her book, she renovates the house and it gets brighter altogether."
Chan and her team also conducted an extensive location scout to find a location that would serve a number of needs. "The location had to feel like it was at the end of a lagoon, with its own little womb of woods, only accessible by boat or through thick woods. We scouted many, many wonderful spots - some remote, some less. The location had to accommodate a pretty sizable crew and all of the equipment we'd need to light a set while also giving the feeling of a secluded lagoon that was near a beach. We needed marshes and swamp, majestic oaks and Spanish moss. Finding all of that in one place was challenging, but we eventually found it all in a state park." Specifically, the team built Kya's house in Fairview-Riverside State Park in Madisonville, a 99-acre park that is part of the Louisiana State Park system.
There, they constructed Kya's house on a lagoon nestled underneath a canopy of shady cypress trees and ancient live oaks on a beautiful bend of the Tchefuncte River, near the historic Otis House, a Queen Anne-style mansion constructed in 1885 by lumber baron William Theodore Jay and now preserved under the National Register of Historic Places.
The Fairview-Riverside location checked off practically every box on the location wish list checklist for Kya's House-100-year-old oak trees, Spanish moss, a cypress swamp, a lagoon, marshlands-and it was readily accessible, with spaces for trailers, trucks, and vehicles nearby. But the fact that it was not remote required some work to hide. "The location already had the perfect lagoon for what we needed. We already had a great canopy and great landscape to work with. We just had to bring in the rest of it to complete the effect," says Chan. "The location was adjacent to a historic home with a fence, the Tchefuncte River, a beach, and of course, people. We created a path in the woods and brought in miles and miles of greens to make it seem as if the house were set in the middle of nowhere."
For the nearby town of Barkley Cove, the Louisiana town of Houma, a historic town approximately 50 miles southwest of New Orleans, stood in. "It has a lot of great storefronts and perfectly intersecting streets," Chan recalls.
One other key part of Chan's art department was the original artwork that appears in the film as Kya's renderings of the life of the marsh. Most of these original works of art were created for the film by Kirby Feagan, the film's art director.
For the film's costumes, costume designer Mirren Gordon-Crozier approached the designs from the clothes Kya would have had at hand. "One of the things that makes her different is that she wears her brother and father's old clothes," says Gordon-Crozier. "She's not at all up to the trends of the times. Her color palette is muted, with colors like seafoam green and coral, pinks and peaches, floral prints. Everything is worn in, aged, stitched together, and really loved. She's a biologist of sorts; she studies shells and loves everything beautiful. So out of her mother's old 1930s sundress, we made her a belt - ripped the bottom off and wove it together. It shows her creativity in the way she chooses to dress herself."
Compare that to Pearl, one of the young women of the town. A perfect dress. A perfect headband and perfect purse to match. Perfect hair. "Kya is more rugged and cute," Gordon-Crozier explains. "She goes at her own pace. We wanted to keep the colors in the town bright, '60s, and poppy - a palette we don't really see in the marsh."
Gordon-Crozier shows Kya's connection to Jumpin' and Mabel through a common language in their costumes. "The soft blues, patterns, and happy prints; not harsh colors," she notes. "We made them live in the same world, tying them together in their color palette and patterns."
As Kya waits for Tate to return on the fourth of July, she wears a peach dress Mabel has given her. "The peach dress was written into the book," says Gordon-Crozier. "We wanted to see her in something we'd never seen her in before. We were looking at different color samples, we wanted it to represent a seashell with different layers. Coral is a very Kya colour, in the sense that she loves the ocean and everything around it."
Gordon-Crozier looked for a specific cut as well, one that reflected that the dress might be new to Kya but is not newly made. "When she wears the dress, it's the 1960s. It was important to make sure the silhouette was a little outdated, so we chose a 1950s silhouette."
Stunt coordinator Chelsea Bruland oversaw the film's underwater and boating sequences. In one scene, as Kya attempts to escape capture by the police, she swims away, only to be pulled out of the water. "Daisy's such a strong swimmer and diver," says Bruland. "As we were doing the tank work, it was only then that I discovered that she used to be a competitive diver. So that would explain it!"
In addition to the song by Taylor Swift, the film features original music from Academy Award® winning composer Mychael Danna. Danna called upon unusual instrumentation to capture the sound of the marsh. "As soon as Olivia showed me a cut of her film, with all the beautiful depictions of shells in Kya's artwork and her collection, I knew immediately that the score had to be centered in the sound of shells," he says. "I found a wonderful musician who collects shells, conches, and other natural marine musical instruments, and he plays them in the way that have been played since ancient times in cultures all over the world. Blown into like a brass instrument, they have a deep, primordial, and haunting call, which is the primeval voice of the marsh itself."
Danna matched these with the traditional musical instruments of the region. "The featured shells and conches are combined with local folk instruments like banjo, fiddle, autoharp, as well as the rich and enveloping sonorities of the symphony orchestra," he notes. "With this varied ensemble, we were able to musically track the arc of the story as it covers the wide ranges of emotions that it does: first love, abandonment, despair, death."
"One of the major characters in this story is the setting: the marshes of South Carolina. Kya grows up here in the marsh, it is her life, her love, and her study. She finds a calling as a naturalist, drawing and studying the life of the marsh," he concludes. "It was vital to Livi and me to center the music in the natural world that suffuses virtually every frame of this film, as the marsh is at the heart of Kya and at the heart of the story."
British actor Daisy Edgar-Jones (Kya) trained at the National Youth Theatre before landing her first role at the age of 17 as a series regular in the British comedy-drama Cold Feet alongside James Nesbitt for ITV.
Most notably, Edgar-Jones was seen playing the lead role of Marianne in the adaptation of the Sally Rooney novel Normal People (2020), directed by Lenny Abrahamson. The series was met with critical acclaim as was Edgar-Jones 's performance, which earned her IMDb's Breakthrough STARMeter Award, a Madame Figaro Rising Star Award, a Rose d'Or Emerging Talent Award - making Daisy the first-ever winner of this award - as well as being named as one of Screen International's Stars of Tomorrow for 2020, Associated Press Breakthrough Entertainer for 2020, and being picked by The Hollywood Reporter for their Next Gen 2020 list. Edgar-Jones also earned nominations for Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and BAFTA TV awards.
Edgar-Jones recently made her feature film debut in Fresh, directed by Mimi Cave. The social thriller portrays the discomfort and fear women face daily as their bodies are commodified by society, in a raucous comedy. The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival and released on Hulu in the US on March 4 and on Disney+ in the UK on March 18.
Edgar-Jones can also be seen in her leading role opposite Andrew Garfield in the FX/Hulu limited series Under the Banner of Heaven, which premiered in the US in April. The series hails from writer Dustin Lance Black and is based on the Jon Krakauer novel of the same name. In the series, a devout detective's faith is tested as he investigates a brutal murder that seems to be connected to an esteemed Utah family's spiral into LDS fundamentalism and their distrust in the government.
In February 2020, Edgar-Jones appeared as Zara in Mike Barlett's "Albion" at the Almeida Theatre. The play returned following a sellout run in 2017 and was later dubbed The Telegraph's Play of the Year. In 2019, she shot an independent coming-of-age feature film Pond Life, which was directed by Bill Buckhurst and produced by Open Palm Films.
Edgar-Jones's further TV credits include Silent Witness (BBC), the Outnumbered Christmas Special (BBC), and Gentleman Jack (HBO/BBC). In 2019, Edgar-Jones was seen in War of the Worlds (CANAL PLUS) opposite Gabriel Byrne and Elizabeth McGovern; the highly anticipated second season was released in 2021, and the third season is confirmed.
Taylor John Smith (Tate) is proving himself to be one of the most exciting young emerging talents. In 2017, he was named one of Variety's 10 Actors to Watch. Smith was last seen in The Outpost opposite Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, and Orlando Bloom, as well as Shadow in the Cloud with Chloe Grace Moretz.
Smith also received rave reviews for his performance in the gritty drama Wolves opposite Michael Shannon and Carla Gugino and as the emotionally charged John Keene in Gillian Flynn's limited series Sharp Objects, which aired on HBO, opposite Amy Adams and under the direction of Jean Marc Vallee. His past roles include action thriller Hunter Killer opposite Gerard Butler and with Donovan Marsh directing, Netflix's You Get Me opposite Bella Thorne and Halston Sage, a modern-day update to Fatal Attraction.
British actor Harris Dickinson (Chase) is a star on the rise who has reached critical acclaim for his diverse film and television work. In 2022, Dickinson received a nomination for the BAFTA Rising Star Award. Dickinson was recently nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the British Independent Film Awards for his work in County Lines. He burst onto the scene as Frankie in Eliza Hittman's Beach Rats, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. His role in the film earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Male Lead and a Gotham Independent Film Award nomination for Breakthrough Actor. Soon after, he starred in FX's Trust as John Paul Getty III opposite Donald Sutherland and Hilary Swank. Next up, Dickinson will star in Ruben Östlund's Triangle of Sadness alongside Woody Harrelson. The film just premiered at The Cannes Film Festival and received a 7 minute standing ovation on its way to being honored with the Palme d'Or. Last spring, Dickinson wrapped See How They Run alongside Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan. Dickinson is currently shooting a starring role in the limited series Retreat for FX.
From an early age, Dickinson expressed a keen interest in both acting and filmmaking. He trained in theatre with the Raw Acting Academy and partook in the LAMDA examination program. At the age of 16, he won council funding to write and direct his first short film.
He began his television career with the BBC cult comedy Some Girls and the highly-acclaimed drama series Clique. In 2014, his performance in Pauline McLynn's "Angels" at London's Royal National Theatre led his to being cast in his first feature film The Medium, followed by Home for Jerry Bruckheimer Television. In 2019, he lent his voice to the Netflix animated series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.
Dickinson also stars in Matthew Vaughn's The King's Man opposite Ralph Fiennes, which premiered December 2021. Other film credits include Maleficent: Mistress of Evil opposite Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, and Michelle Pfeiffer, Steve McLean's Postcards from London, which was the closing night film of the 2018 BFI Flare Festival, FOX's The Darkest Minds opposite Amandla Stenberg, and Xavier Dolan's Matthias & Maxime.
Michael Hyatt (Mabel) was born in England of Jamaican parents, and migrated to the States with her family in 1980. She received a BFA from Howard University and an MFA from New York University's Tish School Of The Arts. Her more recent achievements appear in the soon-to-be-released Apple TV limited series The Last Thing He Told Me opposite Jennifer Garner, Denzel Washington's The Little Things, and the Showtime miniseries The Comey Rule. She continues to tell Cissy Saint's story in the FX network's Snowfall.
Sterling Macer, Jr. (Jumpin') is a multi-faceted thirty-year veteran of film and television. Hailing from Springfield, Missouri, where he grew up with his high school buddy Brad Pitt, Macer developed a love of theatre and acting. Encouraged by his parents to pursue his dreams, he was one of seven students awarded a fellowship to the prestigious Old Globe Theatre/University of San Diego Professional Actor Training Program, ranked among the top 10 acting programs in the world. With his strong theatre background, he continued to work, starring alongside Nancy Travis and Brock Peters in the Athol Fugard-written-and-directed play "My Children! My Africa!" From there, he moved on to starring as a series regular in multiple television shows and doing TV movies and guest star appearances. Along the way, he garnered featured roles in several films, including Dragon: the Bruce Lee Story, Double Take and Wicked. Throughout, Macer has had his hand in filmmaking as well. Since his award-winning directing debut Park Day, which he also wrote, Sterling has written and directed the film Double Down and produced the feature The Throw Back, starring Will Sasso and Justina Machado. He is currently producing the Untitled Goldsboro Broken Arrow project with veteran producer David Permut. When asked how he manages to wear so many different hats in the entertainment business - actor, director, writer - Macer says, "I see it as all the same thing, really. It's storytelling. Once you have the tools and shift your perspective, you realize you're doing the same thing in each discipline - telling a story." It's Macer's hope to continue to tell meaningful stories, using all the facets of his talents, for many years to come.
David Strathairn (Tom Milton) won the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival and earned Best Actor nominations from the Academy, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA, and Independent Spirit Awards for his compelling portrait of legendary CBS news broadcaster Edward R. Murrow in George Clooney's Oscar®-nominated drama Good Night, and Good Luck. He won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in the HBO project Temple Grandin in 2011 and was nominated in 2012 for his portrayal of John Dos Passos in HBO's Hemingway and Gellhorn.
His 2005 Independent Spirit nomination was the fourth in a stellar career that dates back to his 1980 motion picture debut in John Sayles's first film, The Return of the Secaucus Seven. Strathairn subsequently collaborated with Sayles on seven titles, winning the IFP honor for his supporting performance in City of Hope, while collecting two additional nominations for Passion Fish and Limbo.
Strathairn has continued a busy screen career with co-starring roles in several critically acclaimed films, including Tim Robbins's directorial debut Bob Roberts; Penny Marshall's A League of Their Own; Losing Isaiah; Sydney Pollack's The Firm; Sneakers; Taylor Hackford's adaptation of the Stephen King novel Dolores Claiborne; and Jodie Foster's Home for the Holidays; as well as two projects with Curtis Hansen: The River Wild and the Oscar®-winning L.A. Confidential, for which Strathairn shared a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination with the all-star ensemble cast.
His additional movie credits include Memphis Belle, A Map of the World, Simon Birch, Lost in Yonkers, Missing in America, Michael Hoffman's adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Philip Kaufman's Twisted, The Bourne Ultimatum directed by Paul Greengrass, The Tempest starring opposite Helen Mirren, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel directed by John Madden, and a starring role opposite Frances McDormand in Nomadland, directed by Chloe Zhao.
On the small screen, Strathairn starred in the AMC/BBC 8 part series McMafia, a recurring role on the SyFy series Alphas and CBS's The Blacklist, a continuing guest role on Showtime's Billions, The Expanse on Amazon Prime, and the lead role in the ten-part series Interrogation for CBS All Access.
Strathairn most recently worked on Searchlight's Nightmare Alley, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, alongside Cate Blanchett, Bradley Cooper, and Toni Collette.
Strathairn most recently worked on Searchlight's Nightmare Alley, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, alongside Cate Blanchett, Bradley Cooper, and Toni Collette.