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Write On: 'Nyad' Writer Julia Cox

November 6, 2023
4 min read time

The new film Nyad tells the true story of athlete Diana Nyad (Annette Bening) who, at the age of 60 and with the help of her best friend and coach Bonnie (Jody Foster), commits to achieving her life-long dream: a 110-mile open ocean swim from Cuba to Florida. We talk to screenwriter Julia Cox about what it was like getting to know the real Diana Nyad, structuring the screenplay to create a satisfying sports movie and creating one of the most daunting physical antagonists on the page: the ocean. 

“I did think of the ocean as the mother of all antagonists and I tried to structure the screenplay so it didn’t feel too episodic, really focusing on a different obstacle with each attempt [to swim from Cuba to Florida]. In real life, there are sometimes two or three reasons why something happens or doesn’t happen, but in a screenplay, you have the impulse to distill it down and confront each obstacle with enough attention to make that feel tense and satisfying when she overcomes it,” Cox says.  

Cox also discusses how this story didn’t fit into typical sports movie tropes. 

“It's an unconventional sports movie in that she doesn’t have an opponent. We get a whiff of other people attempting to do the same thing and that creates some tension, but for the most part this is about one woman in the sea, supported by her team but competing against herself. So along with the ocean, her obstacle was often her own body and her own mind and when all these things were aligned, when she made peace about continuing to try, when the elements were working for her, that’s when she was able to make it.”

For a deeper dive into the screenplay, take a listen to the podcast. 

Read More: So You Want to Write a Biopic?


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