Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) and her fiancé Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) set out on what promised to be the romantic sea adventure of a lifetime in 1983.
But after a hurricane crippled their yacht, which the couple were delivering from Tahiti to San Diego, the trip turned into a survival tale, as depicted in Adrift (in theaters June 1). USA TODAY reveals exclusive first photos from the movie.
In Adrift, with Sharp injured in the storm, Oldham sails for 41 days to reach safety.
"The idea of portraying the life of a woman whose mere inner strength and sheer willpower carried her through one of the most treacherous situations one could face as a human being was so extremely moving to me," says Woodley, who learned to sail for the sea story.
Oldham wrote about the ordeal in her 1998 book, Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss and Survival at Sea. The New Zealand-based Adrift crew spent more than five weeks shooting on the open sea.
"Every single stunt you see in the film where Sam or I are in the ocean is really us in the deep sea," says Woodley. "Honestly, it was the most fun I’ve ever had filming."
Director Baltasar Kormákur, who has helmed adventure stories such as 2015's Everest, says the romantic tale takes a big turn when it becomes an Oldham-led survival epic.
"First of all, we don’t have many survival stories where the survivor is a young woman, or a woman at all," says Kormákur. "How the story intertwines the love between Richard and Tami and the survival tale is compelling. And it asks us the question, ‘What is it that makes us survivors?’ "
Woodley, set to return for the second season of award-winning Big Little Lies, says she was inspired meeting the real Oldham.
"I learned that in spite of any adversity or trauma Tami has faced in her life, she has chosen to embrace the gift of simply living — the gift of being alive," Woodley says.