‘Young Woman and the Sea’ Dives into the Life of a Groundbreaking Hero

Trudy Ederle may not be a household name, but Walt Disney Studios’ Young Woman and the Sea, which hits theaters this weekend, is looking to change that.

“I love the story about Trudy and the fact that nobody’s ever heard of her before,” Jerry Bruckheimer, the film’s producer, said. “I felt audiences around the world should know about this amazing athlete who accomplished something back when it wasn’t kind of cool for women to be in the water.”

Daisy Ridley, who stars as Trudy and is an executive producer on the film, added that she loves how supportive Disney has been in helping tell Ederle’s story.

“A lot of people have said they haven’t seen a film like this in a little while,” she noted. “We had to have really good support in order to facilitate that.”

After battling punishingly cold waters, jelly fish, and intense fatigue over the course of 14 hours and 34 minutes, Ederle became the first woman to swim the 21 miles of the English Channel — faster than any of the five men that had come before her. Her accomplishment was greeted with one of the biggest ticker-tape parades ever for an athlete.

And now her story gets the big screen treatment.

See it Big

Director Joachim Rønning captured Ederle’s journey in a way that “is undeniably awe inspiring on the big screen,” Ridley said.

In a movie theater, “you really get to experience that in its grandiose setting” she added.

“That scope, particularly watching it on a cinema screen, is so undeniable,” Ridley continued. “The majesty of what you’re witnessing and also this tiny speck of a person next to this boat who did this unbelievable feat.”

The joy of seeing Young Woman and the Sea in a theater extends not only to the grand sweep of the wide-open seas, but also to the immersive sound design and the meticulous work of production designer Nora Takacs Ekberg.

“What she created is so unbelievable,” Ridley explained. “Even the apartment [Trudy’s family] live in, the attention to detail is so stunning. Oscar Faura, our Director of Photography, the way it was filmed is so beautiful. And it really is this very intimate story, but obviously in a very large scale for a lot of it.”

“It Had to be Real”

A key challenge for Ridley was accurately portraying Ederle’s swimming skills.

“I trained for 3 months,” Ridley said. “We filmed and I also had to train after the filming day and on the weekends.”

To accomplish the proper effect of Ederle swimming through the English Channel, Ridley was filmed swimming in actual open waters in the Black Sea.

A behind the scenes look at filming Young Woman and the Sea in open waters.

“It just feels like it had to be real” to allow audiences to connect with the story, Ridley said.

Bruckheimer noted that the film tried to “make it as real as possible.”

“There are plenty of visual effects movies, but it’s a true story,” he said. “You want to keep true as possible.”

“A Perfect Movie for Disney”

Bruckheimer felt that Young Woman and the Sea was “such a perfect movie for Disney.”

And he should know, having produced almost 30 films with the studio over the last three decades.

“It’s an emotional story,” he said. “We all want to go to the cinema and be transported some place. And this takes you on this journey.”

It harkens back to other Disney classics such as Remember the Titans, Miracle, and Invincible.

When screened for test audiences, Young Woman came back with the highest ratings for a film Bruckheimer has produced since The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, over 20 years ago.

“I think that’s what resonates with audiences. They laugh, they cry. There’s humor in it. There’s a lot of emotion,” Bruckheimer explained. “Emotion is one that wins it every time for an audience.”

He added, “I love the story about Trudy and the fact that nobody’s ever heard of her before.”

“Now, people will know who she is,” Bruckheimer said.

Young Woman and the Sea will open in select theaters May 31, 2024.