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'Wild' night in Portland

Red carpet rolls out at Cinema 21


Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - 'Wild' author Cheryl Strayed (right) glammed it up with star Reese Witherspoon on the red carpet during the film's Portland premiere at Cinema 21 on Monday.Adoring fans gawking from across the street? Check.

Media gaggle on the red carpet? Check.

Hiking boots worn by Portland’s ever-fashionable mayor and first lady? Check.

Monday’s red-carpet event and Portland premiere of the much-anticipated “Wild” movie was a little bit of Hollywood, a lot of Portland.

While the Cinema 21 premiere on busy Northwest 21st Avenue caused quite a spectacle, fans were oh-so-courteous and didn’t disrupt traffic.

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Actresses Laura Dern and Reese Witherspoon laugh it up on the red carpet during the Portland premiere of 'Wild.'The mostly local reporters and film critics — as well as a presence by The Seattle Times, Entertainment Tonight and Rolling Stone — were genuinely thrilled to be there, since the words Portland and red carpet aren’t often uttered in the same sentence.

“We should have a drinking game where if anyone we think is Reese Witherspoon comes in, we drink,” one of the servers at a nearby bar was overheard saying.

Just as star-struck as the city is over the movie — and its potential to put Portland and Oregon on the map for other major motion pictures — the people behind “Wild” are gaga over us, too.

“A lot of people around the country don’t realize what Portland has to offer,” says Will Cuddy, the 22-year-old recent University of Oregon graduate who plays Witherspoon’s brother, Josh, in the film.

An alum of Jesuit High School, Cuddy lives Beaverton, where he grew up, while working on the show “Grimm,” his first big role in a TV series.

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Crowds of fans braved the winter weather to get a glimpse of the stars of 'Wild' during the Portland premiere of the movie at Cinema 21.As for tourism, Cuddy guesses the movie will have what he’s calling the “Wild effect:” People will see the film and want to come visit.

Hence the “create-your-own ‘Wild’ trip” on Travel Oregon.

“I think it’ll be huge,” Cuddy says of the trickle-down effect. “The movie is a big gift to Oregon,” adds Jan Hoag, a longtime Hollywood actress who plays Annette in the movie and happens to be a Portland native.

The Fox Searchlight film was shot last year in Oregon with more than 200 cast and crew and 600 extras. About 150 local vendors helped with shoots throughout the state.

The film adapts the 2012 memoir by Portland author Cheryl Strayed, who became an instant celebrity after Oprah picked it for her book club.

Just like the book, the movie is not a fluffy, feel-good story, but details the raw, emotional turmoil Strayed dealt with during her 1,100-mile solo hike in the 1990s just after the death of her mother. It’s as much a mental and spiritual journey as a physical one.

“We shot in Ashland, South Bend, Mt. Hood and everywhere in between,” Bruna Papandrea, producer of “Wild,” told the Tribune Monday night. “It’s like a beautiful ad for Oregon. It’s so beautiful. We will definitely come back here again.”

Laura Dern, who plays Witherspoon’s mother, Bobbi, especially noted the “complete generosity of the people of this town.”

“It’s Cheryl’s town,” she added.

Strayed says she sought Witherspoon to portray her in the film because of her authenticity and depth as an actress.

Witherspoon’s daughter, Bobbi, plays Strayed as a young girl.

“Nothing means more to me than this premiere,” Strayed told the Tribune Monday night, ditching her old boots and hiking gear for shiny black pumps and a hot pink dress.

“It’s home. It’s full of the people who’ve welcomed us. I was proud of my city and state. The cast and crew fell in love with the people, the places, the restaurants.”

In particular, Strayed says, Witherspoon became a huge fan of Pok Pok’s chicken wings, and some of the cast spent a good amount of time at Tasty n’ Alder earlier on Monday.

Strayed hopes Portlanders come out and support the film when it opens here on Friday, Dec. 12.

According to Deadline magazine — which tracks Hollywood’s entertainment news — “Wild” opened with “solid” box-office numbers lat weekend, showing in 21 theaters with $630,000 in gross sales.

By Dec. 12, it will be playing in 100 theaters, and it will be in as many as 900 by Christmas.

Impressive indie films

At first it seemed like a curious choice, setting Monday night’s screening of the movie at Cinema 21.

The 88-year-old independent theater on Northwest 21st Avenue is tiny, hardly big enough for the mobs of press and VIPs wanting to attend.

Yet this is hardly the first big star-studded event it’s seen. The indie hub has hosted tons of Portland premieres of classics such as “Drugstore Cowboy,” “The Thin Blue Line,” “Slacker,” “Hearts of Darkness,” “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “There Will Be Blood,” “The Wrestler,” “Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Boyhood” and others.

Filmmakers to grace Cinema 21 include some of the greatest, to any film geek: Steven Soderbergh, Wim Wenders, Richard Linklater, Mark Duplass, Russ Meyer, Gus Van Sant, Miranda July, Todd Haynes, Mike Birbiglia and Tommy Wiseau.

In September, Tom Ranieri, owner of the theater since 1987, raised $73,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to replace the auditorium’s worn seats, part of an ongoing effort to modernize the theater.

“No one has done more for independent films in Portland and Oregon than Tom Ranieri,” says Portland documentary filmmaker Brian Lindstrom, who is Strayed’s husband. “This is our cinematic home. We wanted to honor him.”

Lindstrom’s own films have shown at Cinema 21; he has a new project in the works documenting the stories of incarcerated women reconnecting with their families at the Coffee Creek women’s prison in Wilsonville.

Cinema 21 also is a hub for the Portland International Film Festival, Portland Queer Film Festival and other events.

Mayor Charlie Hales and first lady Nancy Hales attended the Portland premiere, practically floating down the red carpet in anticipation of the event.

Strayed is a good family friend, Hales says, and he’s eager to bring more standout writers and stories to the big screen with the state and city as a backdrop.

Besides “Portlandia” — which premieres its fifth season in January — “Grimm” and “Leverage” have been huge hits, in addition to a large number of one-off shows filmed in and around Portland.

“Oregon’s stunning and diverse landscapes played a crucial part in landing this role for Oregon,” Gov. John Kitzhaber said in a statement. “When a destination such as Oregon is featured so prominently in a film, it can bring much-needed economic impact to rural areas through cast and crew expenditures and increased tourism, which can lead to more jobs for Oregonians throughout the state.”

On Twitter @jenmomanderson

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - From left, 'Wild' director Jean-Marc Vallee, Reese Witherspoon, author Cheryl Stayed, Laura Dern and producer Bruna Papandrea.

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