Naomi Watts and Andrew Lincoln in their new film "Penguin Bloom" are portraying the real life couple Sam Bloom and her husband Cameron, who had been together since they were kids but whose lives were changed overnight after Sam Bloom suffered an accident that left her paralyzed. And getting inside their bond required both Watts and Lincoln to become equally close.
Both Watts and Lincoln spent time with the Bloom family and their kids, they looked at family photos, they got to read Sam's intimate journals about the darkness she experienced in her recovery from her accident and how through all the challenges both Sam and Cameron remain "soulmates."
"It was a powerful connection that I had with her instantly," Watts told TheWrap as part of TheWrap's virtual studio at TIFF. "It was great that she was so generous, and another reason why this story does speak to the generosity of their relationship, of their children, and it was always the absolute center of what we wanted to do, treat it in the most caring, responsible way."
"Overnight, his relationship, the love of his life, they're soulmates these two, they met when they were kids, and he changed into principal carer, and I thought that was a magnificent story to tell that I hadn't seen before on film," Lincoln added. "And just to do justice to their relationship that they were soulmates was my job really, to support this wonderful leading lady and these rather wild kids."
"Penguin Bloom" adapts Cameron Bloom's biographical book about how Sam Bloom fell off a balcony and became paralyzed from below the chest. On her road to recovery and eventually becoming a champion kayaker and adaptive surfer, the Bloom family adopts a wild magpie named Penguin that proved to be a source of healing for the whole family.
Director Glendyn Ivin said he was moved by the magical qualities of the Bloom family story and hoped to authentically convey their loving relationship.
"It's so simple, part photography book, part biography, part poem if you like. And regardless of age or who you are, it seems to have an affect on you," Ivin told TheWrap. "What drew me was that this is a story about generosity, and through this magpie and through this magical creature, this wild bird, it shows the healing power of nature. It's quite profound in the book, and it was an absolute pleasure bringing it to the screen."
Watts had the challenging role of battling her body but also acting alongside a wild bird, which proved challenging in its own right. But in the end she felt Sam's story feels even more poignant today.
"This creature, this incredibly magical creature that created such a beam of hope and light, and I felt like it was touching on many important things, very simple things that felt powerful and significant that made me want to explore it further," Watts said. "And here we are today having gone through lots of isolation and lacking connectivity, and it feels like an even more perfect time to be sharing with audiences."
And while Watts and Penguin the magpie are often the stars of the story, Lincoln has the challenging role of being a supportive husband and a full-time dad for their three boys. Lincoln learned a lot from the real Cameron Bloom in telling his story.
"I asked him lots of crazy questions that I thought would be insightful and try and get inside him. And one of the most revealing things was, he said, "I kept getting asked by people, when it happened, what did you say to the boys, and how did you emotionally deal with it? And I said, I was too busy. I was too busy being a dad and a principal carer.' He's an extraordinary man."
Check out TheWrap's interview with Naomi Watts, Andrew Lincoln and Glendyn Ivin above.