Interview: Mia Wasikowska, Star Of 'Tracks' Melissa Block talks with actress Mia Wasikowska about her new film, Tracks, which follows a woman on a long journey with only camels and a dog for company.

Mia Wasikowska On The Sounds Of Camels And The Lure Of Travel

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A young woman sets out on a 1,700-mile journey across the Australian desert, alone in the extreme heat with just her dog, Diggity, and four camels.


MIA WASIKOWSKA: (As Robyn) Some people say, I want to commit suicide, or prove a woman can cross the desert. Some are inspired or jealous. Others think the trip is a pointless waste of time.

BLOCK: The real life trek by Robyn Davidson in 1977 was chronicled in National Geographic. She turned it into a best-selling memoir titled "Tracks." And now it's a movie of the same name starring Mia Wasikowska.


WASIKOWSKA: (As Robyn) I don't believe a desire for privacies to be defined or defended. All I know is when it's just me, my animals and the desert, I feel free.

BLOCK: And Mia Wasikowska joins me from New York to talk about the film and about those camels. Mia, hi.

WASIKOWSKA: Hi, Melissa. How are you?

BLOCK: And let's start with those camels because they make some amazing noise. Let's take a listen.



BLOCK: Does it take you back to hear that?

WASIKOWSKA: Yeah, it does. I think that growl has given them so much bad press. It's funny. They growl kind of all the time, but it's just, like, kind of their chatting. But people find it very off-putting. (Laughter).

BLOCK: What do you think they're saying to you there?

WASIKOWSKA: I think it's - like, whenever you put the harnesses on them, they kind of growl. And you know you have to adjust it a little bit, so they're kind of - but it's not - like, it doesn't come with any aggression or anger. But people always, you know, obviously will associate it with some kind of intimidating feeling.

BLOCK: Well, tell me more about them because you were really up close and personal with these camels - three adults and a baby. We see you training them, and then you're leading them. You're on foot. You're going across the desert. Sometimes you're riding them. But you must have gotten to know them very, very well.

WASIKOWSKA: Yeah. They're really sweet. We had the same four camels the whole shoot. And they're sweet. They're pack animals, so they want to be with their group. Like, if you take one away, they want to follow.

And - but, yeah, they're surprisingly a very desirable film animal. They kind of just do what they're told. They follow you. They, you know, go wherever you go. So we had, like, no camel trouble on this movie. The dogs were kind of more hard work than the camels. But it was so nice getting to know them. I think we associate bigger animals with animals that we can't touch - you know, like giraffes or something like that. But they're so approachable and so sweet.

BLOCK: Well, at one point in the movie - let's take a listen to this. We hear you in a voiceover, talking about the appeal of making this journey.


WASIKOWSKA: No more loved ones to worry about, no more ties, no more duties, no more people needing you to be one thing or another, no more conundrums. I'm my own, at last.

BLOCK: How much did you talk with Robyn Davidson about the motivation behind taking that journey back in 1977. It sounds like that's a question of she's gotten really tired of answering over the years.

WASIKOWSKA: Yeah. I think so. And I don't know that she ever really gives, like, a definitive answer. I don't know that - I think it's the sort of thing where she was just really drawn to this as an idea and as an experience. And I think people respond really differently to the circumstances - the circumstances of their lives and, you know, things that are traumatic or confusing or whatever. Like, I think everybody deals with things differently. And then there's something about her that - there's almost like this testing herself in one way - putting herself in a situation where she wanted to see if she could come out the other end.

BLOCK: I wonder if as the actress playing this role, embarking on this journey, did you feel like you had to understand some reason behind it? What would propel you to do this?

WASIKOWSKA: I mean, yeah. I mean, what we were talking about before is sort of reason enough. I can understand why someone would want to put themselves in that position and sort of simplify things. And it didn't seem too difficult to understand that idea. I mean, I know they had a lot of trouble getting the film together. And it was always kind of - it had been around for so many years, and it was always - like, a lot of financiers would be like, but why? And just - and they kind of needed more answers. And the film doesn't really try to find the answers, I don't think. So it kind of leaves it up to you, I guess. Maybe people will think about it differently.

BLOCK: Talk a bit about the physical aspect of shooting this movie out in the desert in Australia.

WASIKOWSKA: I don't know. I think maybe the first thing that comes to mind is, like, we totally underestimate shade.


WASIKOWSKA: And, yeah, it was - I mean, the hardest part was maybe just sort of being in the glarey sun all day. It kind of takes a lot of your energy. But it was nice. It was nice. I've done a lot of more stuffy period films, and so it was really nice to be in an environment where I could sit on the floor. I could sit on the ground. I didn't have to worry about getting my costume dirty or - you know. It was really nice. It felt very freeing to be in that environment. And it was nice. It was part of Australia that I've never been to, so it was nice to explore parts of my own country.

BLOCK: I'm talking with the actress Mia Wasikowska. Mia, you are 24 now, I think.

WASIKOWSKA: Yeah, that's right.

BLOCK: And a lot of people will have seen you in Tim Burton's "Alice In Wonderland." You were Allison in that. You've done a lot of movies since then. When you think about how you're positioning yourself as an actress, the kinds of parts you want to play, where you want to live, where do you end up with that?

WASIKOWSKA: Well, I live in Sydney in Australia. I grew up in Australia, so I still live there. And then I've been really lucky to be able to work in America and in Europe and England - all over the place. And I don't know. I've been lucky to get some great roles. And Alice was great in terms of putting you on a bigger stage and being able to then, I guess, make it easier to make other films. There's no real plan necessarily.

BLOCK: Do you ever find yourself talking with maybe older actresses about how to keep some part of your life private - how to have a balance between this very public thing that you do and an inner life that maybe has nothing to do with anybody else?

WASIKOWSKA: Yeah. It's, like, an interesting contradiction sometimes because we put ourselves in a very public position and then get very stroppy about, you know, having our privacy.


WASIKOWSKA: So - but there's some people, I think, who've navigated it so well. Like, I think Julianne Moore is just so cool. She's such a great actress, and then she has this wonderful, like, family life. And she seems very happy, which I think is quite rare. Like, you just bump into so many kind of angry, insecure actors. And then there's the occasional actor or actress that comes along that you think, like, oh, they did it really well. They're a really happy person, I think. And usually it's 'cause they have, like, a strong private life - as in, they have a strong life outside of the film. And I think that that's the main thing I have learned from - you know, or that I admire about the people who I think have done it really well - have navigated being part of this very public thing, and then also having, like, a good life.

BLOCK: Well, Mia Wasikowska, thanks so much for talking to us.

WASIKOWSKA: Of course. Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: Mia Wasikowska stars in the new movie "Tracks."

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