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Cast Away / Wilson

Item Code: #8906

Status: Part of our Private Collection.

This is one of a few Wilson's used during the movie by Tom Hanks. This particular piece matches on screen in several scenes, but most notably during the final scenes on the raft when he loses Wilson for good and he drifts away in the ocean. Several marks in various areas of the piece match that scene exactly.

Robin L. Miller, property master: "Wilson was in the script because, as I remember, [writer William Broyles Jr.] was down in Mexico and literally found a volleyball on the beach. Later we were told by psychologists that people, when they're stranded and in moments of isolation, usually choose an inanimate object to talk to because they can't handle being alone. The odd part of this was that the name 'Wilson' was in the script, and so I approached Wilson the company to make me volleyballs. Wilson wasn't interested, at that point. Moviemaking had nothing to do with them. But I was very fortunate to find a woman there who, after I explained I was working with an Academy-Award-winning actor and an Academy-Award-winning director, the ball was called Wilson, for godsakes, and I needed blank ones, so I could make the face with Tom's handprint. She got me 20 -- only 20.

"I blew through 20 in a heartbeat. He went through all these incarnations, plus ones I could use for take after take after take. There were only five [hero props] used in the movie for up close shots.The aging on him changes over the course of the movie. His hair gets wrecked by the end. But we made them all last. I guarded them with my life. We were in Fiji, and then traveling to some island an hour and a half away from Fiji. The other nightmare was all those FedEx boxes -- they fell apart in the humidity, so for all those takes, we were gluing them back together take after take. They were cardboard turning into soggy graham crackers. But the Wilsons were locked up. I practically took them to bed with me. They took a long time to fabricate, with the hair and the aging.

"When Tom made the original one, I put red tempera paint on his hand and he made the pattern on the ball, not on camera. He tried it and... it didn't look great. So we did it again and again and again, and when we got one with enough room for the face, that became the template. We redid it on camera, and then we knew where we were headed because we came up with the concept three months earlier: how far his fingers needed to spread, what lines it needed to reach on the ball. Then the others were all hand-sewn, the hair was put in, and a scenic painter made five perfect matches, and then we had others for second, third, and fourth unit. Wilson had to be on every raft, and I wasn't going to give them my best ones!

"The challenge was they all had to match. Towards the very end, the one that sinks, it's so sad and so dirty. The hair is messed up. The one that ultimately sank, there were two (and remember, I only had five), but the effects department had to weight them to get pulled underwater. That was special -- it aged the most. I don't think we did many takes of that scene. It was the end of his journey."

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