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Film Captures Young Man's Journey 'Into the Wild'

Sep 20, 2007 (All Things Considered)

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After more than 10 years, the best-selling book Into the Wild is coming to the big screen.

Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer, tells the true story of Chris McCandless, a young man who cut all ties with his family after graduating from college and went to live off the land in the Alaskan wilderness.

In 1992, McCandless spent nearly four months living in the woods near Denali National Park in an abandoned bus, where his dead body was ultimately found. He was 24.

Krakauer wrote Into the Wild with the cooperation of the McCandless family. And when director Sean Penn called to ask about the movie rights, Krakauer told him the family would have to agree.

"They're courageous people, the family, and they thought, 'No, we're OK with it, as long as it's true, we'll be fine,'" Krakauer tells Melissa Block.

Although anger at his parents is part of McCandless' motivation, Krakauer emphasizes that he wasn't necessarily running away from his family, but rather, to adventure.

"He was an intense kid. He didn't see the world in gray at all, everything was black and white, right or wrong, and he was a young man who wanted to test himself," Krakauer says. "That's not uncommon. What is uncommon is the degree to which he needed to test himself."

In 1977, when he was 23, Krakauer himself set out on his own adventure: to solo climb Alaska's Devil's Thumb. He says he always identified with McCandless.

"Most biographers at least pretend to be objective and unbiased, and I never pretended that," Krakauer says.

"When you're that age, you think you're immortal, and Chris certainly thought that," he says. "You think you're invincible."

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