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Walt and Billie McCandless talk about Chris McCandless – 1

Christopher J. McCandless’s story began publicly in September 1992 when his 24-year-old, emaciated body was found in an old bus used as a temporary shelter for hunters in a wilderness area outside Denali National Park in Alaska, where he spent four months alone, living off the land.

Writer Jon Krakauer unraveled the two years on the road that preceded the death of the Emory University graduate, who had cut off communication with his family and disposed of most of his possessions, in a 1993 article for Outside magazine, later expanded into the 1996 book, “Into the Wild,” and 2007 movie.

Interest in Chris continues, most recently due to Krakauer’s Sept. 12 New Yorker blog post about the cause of Chris’s death, and a report of another missing young man in Oregon, reportedly obsessed by Chris’s story.

Walt and Billie McCandless, Chris’s father and mother, will share their perspective in a talk in Chester at Leif Nilsson’s studio and gallery. They will also sign copies of their 2011 book, “Back to the Wild,” a journal of words and pictures that Chris, a.k.a “Alexander Supertramp,” left behind.

Into the wild & Chris Mccandless

Into the wild & Chris Mccandless

The book signing is at 6 p.m., a viewing of Sean Penn’s film “Into the Wild” with a discussion following. There are no reservations and limited seating. Donations are welcome, but not required, and will benefit the Christopher Johnson McCandless Memorial Foundation, which helps needy mothers with small children through faith-based charities.




Walt McCandless spoke in a telephone interview on Sept. 18 on the way to his wife’s 50th high school reunion in Michigan. The couple, with homes in Virginia Beach and Tucson, Ariz., will visit relatives in Connecticut and Rhode Island before visiting Sandy Vaccaro of Chester, who organized this talk and one in 2011. Vaccaro had a wilderness experience of his own, not far in time and distance from the “Magic Bus,” as Chris referred to it.

Into the wild and Chris Mccandless photographs

Into the wild and Chris Mccandless photographs

McCandless said he is surprised by the ongoing and universal interest in the story and expects the audience will range in age from 20 to 70 years, as last time, (with many from 17 to 20 and 39 to 45). “So you see these people who say I don’t know what to do with my life. This book has really affected me.”

And, he said people often tell him: “I’ve done this work for 40 years and want to do something different.”

But none of them are “going to head for the open road,” said McCandless. “You see people who are trying to use it in a constructive way.”

Chris would be 45 if he were alive today. Continued…

Jon Krakauer’s into the wild film adaptation

Into the Wild is based on the non-fictional book by Jon Krakauer, depicting the adventures of Christopher McCandless. The book as well as the film adaptation, wonderfully directed by Sean Penn, show the countryside and the world outside of our society.

We see the rugged atmosphere of the wild. Majority of the time, brutality isn’t an element of this. The sense of peacefulness is shown more than anything by Chris who completely flips his lifestyle upside down.

Chris McCandles (Hirsch) has just graduated college and he has excelled with nearly all A’s. He says that he thinks his grades are good enough to get in to Harvard Law School. His parents, Billie (Harden) and Walt (Hurt), couldn’t be more proud of him.

They offer to give him how ever much money he needs for school and they want to buy him a new car. To Chris, there is nothing wrong with his current car and it just seems like it would be another access material object.

Mr. and Mrs. McCandles puts up a good image, but there have been plenty of problems in their relationship. When things have gotten rough in the family, Chris and his sister, Carine (Malone) have been there for each other.

With school finished, Chris decides that it is time to go out of his comfort zone and really explore the world. So many things in society disgust him, that he figures that the best thing to do is to get away from it, at least for awhile. He first ventures off into Arizona, but ends up going all over the country and even eventually in to Mexico.

Into the wild and Chris Mccandless photographs

Into the wild and Chris Mccandless photographs

He lives in deserts and the wilderness, meeting many interesting and kind people. Earlier on, he becomes very close with a hippie couple that he meets, Jan (Keener) and Rainey (Dierker). They offer him companionship and direction.

Their meeting seems to be fateful as after he parts Chris meets up with them again in his travels. This time, there is almost a mini town of down to earth people embodied in the peaceful surroundings of nature. Here Chris meets Tracy (Stewart) a young, singer who plays the guitar.

They become very close to one another. However, they had to go their separate ways. Chris enjoyed every place where he stays and all of the people he meets stay with him. He is constantly on the move though. Chris’ main goal is to get to Alaska, where he is sure the biggest and boldest adventure of all will take place.

The acting by this large and tremendous cast really helped the understanding of the film. Emile Hirsch gives a completely breath taking performance is clearly the most impressive of his career. He brings out the passion that Chris had as well as his free spirit and determination.

This is difficult since most likely all of us living in society have no idea what this would be like to deny and live without any material items. Chris even burned the money that he did have and gave the rest of his college fund money to charities. He didn’t even have any identification on him. Night after night, he sleeps on the dirt and he does so by choice. This can be completely mind rattling yet Hirsch almost makes this seem sensible.

Jena Malone does a wonderful job in this as well as Chris’ caring sister and perhaps the only person from his societal life that truly understood him. Although she misses him, worries about him, and at times feels slightly abandoned since he doesn’t even keep in contact with her, she still doesn’t impose any judgments on him. Carine knows that this is what he really wants, his isolation from the life he once had.

Into the wild and Chris Mccandless photographs

Into the wild and Chris Mccandless photographs

Jena Malone narrates this story very eloquently and gives us insight to Chris. This also represents how strong of a bond they had. She saw in to his mind and knew his tendencies so well that even when it had been over a year since Chris disappeared, she still had a sense of his purpose and was curious to know the specifics of all of the adventures she was sure he was having.

Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt portrayed the self-indulged and hypocritical parents of Chris very convincingly. Even before he had disappeared, you could tell that they were snobbish and reputation was everything to them. This proves to be true with the job, their relationship, and even with their son.


Their marriage is all about looking good and acting as if they are a respectable couple. In reality, they don’t treat each other with any respect. As time goes on, Chris discovers that they didn’t meet, fall in love, and get married as they described. Walt was already married and had a child with his first wife, Billie was merely the woman he was having an affair with, which tainted the McCandless family.

I am sure that they did miss their son and just wanted to know what was going on with him. Still, part of the desperation was that it was unacceptable to lose grips of a son and for someone who could have had great success in the work world after college. Giving this life up and giving up his connection with his parents was a failure of theirs. This is something that they would never admit to though.

Catherine Keener, Brian H. Dierker, and Kristen Stewart all worked very well off of Emile Hirsch. During the time when he was with him, it was like he wasn’t completely broken off from everyone; they were his family now. There was also an apperance here with Vince Vaughn as Chris’ employer as a farm worker.

He isn’t just a farmer though, he exerts a great amount of energy that he uses to encourage Chris when he sees that his Alaska trip is so important to him. Hal Holbrook played Franz another friend Chris makes. He is probably is the most different from Chris compared to everyone else that he meets along the way. Still, the relationship forms and strengthens because they bring out the best in each other and Franz ends up serving as a much better father than his real father ever was.

Into the Wild

Into the Wild

Into the Wild is a truly beautiful film that grabs you by surprise. It tells you that some of the simple things in life can be the most rewarding. This doesn’t even mean that the film is saying that there is no good society and they we should all live in the wilderness.

In fact, it isn’t all sunny skies in that atmosphere for Chris either. Some of the risks he has to take end up being very dangerous not to mention some of the loneliness that he ends up facing when people aren‘t around. It is more about just reminding us that there are different paths to take besides the standards that are set up. Living freely and with an independent mind is how the true treasures in life are revealed.