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‘She’s a force of nature’

‘She’s a force of nature’

When Daisy Ridley joined the film Young Woman and the Sea, based on the true story of American swimmer Trudy Ederle’s quest to become the first woman to swim the English Channel, she’d already landed the starring role — but there was one more title that came later.

“I was not executive producer initially,” Ridley told Yahoo Entertainment about the Disney film, based on the book of the same name, which opens in select theaters on May 31. “And, actually, that journey began because I had notes about the script.”

Those notes centered on the relationship between Trudy and her sister, Meg (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), who was also a swimmer in 1920s New York and a fellow daughter of German immigrants who had arrived in America after the first World War.

“I wanted to really punch [up] that relationship between the two sisters,” she said, as well as paint a fuller picture of what immigrant life was like at the time. “There were certain things that I thought would be interesting to see more in the script. But really, it began with me talking about the relationship with the sisters and what I wanted that to feel like 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 record-breaking swimmer Trudy Ederle in Disney’s Young Woman and the Sea. (Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2024 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

In what could have been positioned as a power struggle between two talented sisters ultimately became a love story between the pair, highlighting the support each of them gave each other instead of a cutthroat race to the finish line.

It’s also the story about a woman proving she could succeed in a male-dominated sport.

Young Woman and the Sea follows Trudy from her early days recovering from a near-fatal case of the measles to learning how to swim to competing in the 1924 Paris Olympics and, eventually, training to become the first woman — and sixth person ever — to swim the English Channel.

Director Joachim Rønning, who has helmed water-heavy productions such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Kon-Tiki, was clear he wanted to film in the actual ocean vs. a studio tank. Ridley was game.

“I wanted the actors to be in the water. I didn’t want blue screen or green screen, and I told Daisy Ridley this before we started shooting,” Rønning told Yahoo Entertainment. “And she said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’”

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 lips turned blue while shooting swimming scenes in the English Channel and the Black Sea for Young Woman and the Sea. (Courtesy of Joachim Rønning. © 2024 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

For Rønning, that meant filming in the English Channel and the Black Sea in chilly temperatures. For Ridley, that meant months of learning how to swim in the open water alongside Cobham-Hervey — a bonding experience in and of itself.

“She’s a force of nature,” Rønning said about Ridley. “She really got into it, and she was in the water. We were filming for weeks, and she would never complain, her lips blue.”

He added, “In my mind she’s a perfect Trudy, fighting for something you believe in so strongly.”

Jerry Bruckheimer, who also produced the film, agreed.

“She taught me things,” Bruckheimer told Yahoo Entertainment of working with Ridley. “She’s got such a great spirit and just such a true leader.”

On growing into her role as a producer, “a lot of it is feeling heard and feeling understood, and people making space for me,” Ridley explained. “And then part of it, honestly, is ‘fake it till you make it.’”

Her leadership comes from her own producing experience before this film. While she’s still on the road to logging as many credits as Bruckheimer — Young Woman and the Sea is her fourth — she is clear about what she’s learned behind the scenes in addition to her work in front of the camera.

“On Sometimes I Think About Dying, which I produced, the female producers on that [movie] were so inclusive and really open with me in a way that I could learn,” she said. “So that’s also amazing — being part of things where you can learn from other people, and other people can learn from you.”

What she also found important was “making sure that I was leading how I would want to be led.”

So what’s her advice for young women, young people, who are looking to lead and achieve their own dreams — even in a field in which the deck can appear to be stacked against them?

“Try and find like-minded people that aren’t going to deter you.” Ridley said. “Everyone is capable of doing amazing things by themselves. But when you get to the end of a difficult journey, or whatever that may be, you want to turn and go, ‘Wow, you helped me on this journey. We supported each other.’”

Young Woman and the Sea opens in select theaters on May 31.

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