‘She’s an unstoppable force’

Once Daisy Ridley was cast in the motion picture Young Woman and the Sea, recounting the narrative of Trudy Ederle, an American swimmer on a mission to be the inaugural female to cross the English Channel, she not only secured the lead role but also acquired an additional title afterward.

“I did not begin as executive producer,” Ridley conveyed to Yahoo Entertainment regarding the Disney film adapted from the titular book, which debuts in a selection of theaters on May 31. “The whole journey started with me sharing my thoughts on the script.”

Her feedback focused on the dynamic between Trudy and her sibling, Meg (played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey), another swimmer hailing from 1920s New York who shared the same heritage as daughters to German migrants settling in America post World War I.

“My desire was to elaborate on the bond between the siblings,” she elucidated, wanting to portray a more extensive account of the experiences of immigrants during that epoch. “There were specific elements I believed merited more presence in the screenplay. But essentially, it was discussions around the sibling connection and the desired depiction of that onscreen.”

Daisy Ridley stars as record-breaking swimmer Trudy Ederle in Disney's Daisy Ridley stars as record-breaking swimmer Trudy Ederle in Disney's

Daisy Ridley stars as the barrier-breaking swimmer Trudy Ederle in Disney’s Young Woman and the Sea. (Image courtesy of Disney. © 2024 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

What could have been crafted as a competitive discord between two accomplished siblings instead took the form of an affectionate narrative that accentuated their mutual encouragement rather than a fierce contest for supremacy.

Additionally, it’s a portrayal of a female pioneering in a field predominantly occupied by men.

Young Woman and the Sea chronicles Trudy’s progression from her convalescence after a severe battle with measles through her aquatic training to her participation in the 1924 Paris Olympics and ultimately her ambitious preparation to be the first female — and the sixth individual overall — to conquer the English Channel.

Director Joachim Rønning, notorious for directing aquatically intensive features like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Kon-Tiki, was adamant about utilizing the natural sea rather than an artificial studio environment. Ridley was on board with the idea.

“The actors had to be submerged in the actual waters. I opposed using blue screen or green screen, and I conveyed this to Daisy Ridley before we commenced filming,” Rønning articulated to Yahoo Entertainment. “And her response was, ‘Yes, let’s embark on that.’”

Daisy Ridley swimming in open water with a large ship in the background full of people watching her.Daisy Ridley swimming in open water with a large ship in the background full of people watching her.

Daisy Ridley’s complexion paled to an icy hue while filming the swimming sequences in the English Channel and the Black Sea for Young Woman and the Sea. (Photo attribution to Joachim Rønning. © 2024 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

For Rønning, this necessitated filming in the frigid waters of the English Channel and the Black Sea. For Ridley, this entailed extensive training in maritime swimming alongside Cobham-Hervey — an experience that fostered their camaraderie.

“She’s simply unstoppable,” Rønning stated about Ridley. “She fully immersed herself, enduring weeks in the water without a word of complaint, even as her lips changed to a shade of frosty blue.”

He continued, “In my view, she epitomizes Trudy perfectly, contending for something you’re fervently passionate about.”

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer concurred.

“She imparted wisdom to me,” Bruckheimer shared with Yahoo Entertainment about collaborating with Ridley. “Her spirit is remarkable, and she is truly a natural-born leader.”

Reflecting on her evolution in her new role as a producer, “a significant part is about being acknowledged and comprehended, and having others accommodate your presence,” Ridley examined. “And then, admittedly, a portion of it is ‘act as if until you accomplish it.’”

Her directorial prowess stems from her prior experience in producing. Although she is still navigating towards amassing as many credits as Bruckheimer — with Young Woman and the Sea being her fourth — she is candid about her newly acquired knowledge from behind the scenes in conjunction with her onscreen endeavors.

“In my previous project, Sometimes I Think About Dying, which I produced, the women producers were extraordinarily welcoming and shared their knowledge openly, allowing me to learn,” she acknowledged. “Thus, being involved in such collaborative projects where you can glean insights from others and also impart your own is truly enriching.”

What she also deemed critical was “ensuring I lead in a manner I would aspire to be led.”

So, what directive does she offer to aspiring young leaders, especially those seeking to fulfill their dreams in daunting territories?

“Seek out kindred spirits who won’t dissuade you,” Ridley advised. “Remarkable feats are attainable solo. However, upon surmounting arduous undertakings, the last thing you’d want is to look beside you and celebrate, ‘Incredible, you’ve been a pillar of support in this endeavor. We’ve uplifted one another.’”

Young Woman and the Sea will premiere in certain cinemas on May 31.

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