Discover the incredible journey of Diana Nyad, the woman who defied the odds in an epic swim from Cuba to Florida. Uncover the untold secrets and inspiring friendship behind this remarkable achievement.
A full decade has passed since Diana Nyad made history as the first person to conquer the treacherous waters between Havana, Cuba, and Key West, Florida, without the protection of a shark cage. Her incredible journey, filled with triumphs and controversies, has now been brought to life in a much-anticipated biopic, premiering on Netflix.
This remarkable film, titled “Nyad,” is based on Nyad’s own memoir, “Find a Way,” and is skillfully directed by the talented husband-and-wife duo, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. These filmmakers, celebrated for their work on intense documentaries like “Free Solo,” saw an opportunity to explore the story of a charismatic yet polarizing long-distance swimmer’s later-life achievement.
Diana Nyad’s story is one of resilience and unwavering determination. After retiring from marathon swimming three decades prior to pursue a career in sports journalism, she became fixated on the goal she hadn’t reached as a 28-year-old in 1978. In 2013, at the age of 64, she made her fifth and final attempt, swimming 110 miles over 53 grueling hours from Cuba to Florida. This feat solidified her status as one of the most accomplished swimmers in her field.
Nyad’s journey was a dream that never faded, always lingering in the back of her mind. When she failed to achieve it at 28, she turned to broadcasting but kept that epic adventure in her thoughts. The allure of uniting two countries through this swim was undeniable, and in her own words, she didn’t want to leave it as a pile of regrets.
Vasarhelyi and Chin, known for their documentaries about athletes pushing themselves to the limits, saw “Nyad” as a chance to explore a remarkable story in a narrative fiction format. This presented a unique challenge, and the film stands out because it’s a woman’s experience, a departure from their previous nonfiction work.
For their narrative feature debut, the filmmakers cast Annette Bening as Nyad and Jodie Foster as her best friend turned coach, Bonnie Stoll. Both actors committed themselves to the roles, with Bening undergoing significant physical training and transformation to capture the essence of an Olympic swimmer. The delay in production due to hurricane season provided them with additional time to immerse themselves in the characters.
Given the importance of the swimming sequences in the film, the directors collaborated with the Oscar-winning cinematographer Claudio Miranda to make them visceral and unique, pushing the boundaries of how swimming can be captured on screen.
At the core of the story is the platonic friendship between Nyad and Stoll, which serves as the emotional anchor of the film. It’s a complex and profound bond, portraying the idea of chosen family and emotional growth through support and friendship.
While Nyad and Stoll have had their differences, their connection is unbreakable, and they consider each other family through thick and thin. This portrayal challenges traditional notions of friendship and the strength it can provide in pursuing extraordinary goals.
Some in the marathon swimming community have questioned the legitimacy of Nyad’s achievement, but the filmmakers emphasize that the film’s purpose is not to claim records but to inspire people to chase their dreams. They wanted to showcase Nyad in all her complex glory and challenge societal discomfort with ambitious women and aging bodies.
“Nyad” is a testament to the indomitable spirit of a woman who refused to let go of her dream and the enduring power of friendship that helped her achieve the impossible.