This was originally planned as Reese Witherspoon's next movie after Gone Girl (2014), but it was fast-tracked when Witherspoon decided just to produce that film, having dropped the intention of playing its lead role of Amy.
Reese Witherspoon saw an advanced copy of the book in October 2011, 5 months before its release. The galley-form book was mailed personally by Cheryl Strayed herself, believing that if there is an actress who could portray her, it is Witherspoon and no one else. Witherspoon saw potential in that, immediately acquired the rights as it was a perfect launchpad for her production label. The book became much hyped when it listed as a select book for the Oprah Book Club after its release.
Cheryl Strayed told the Times she made efforts to locate her half-sister and half-brother over the years with no success. When her half-sister started reading Wild, she "knew just enough about me and my siblings that she put it together. She read the rest of the book and then she wrote to me. She was stunned. I was, too, and yet I always knew our paths would cross. Life is like that. There's always more, always a reveal."
Laura Dern, who plays Cheryl's mother Bobbi in the film, is only nine years older than Reese Witherspoon in real life. This is partly because in many of Bobbi's scenes with Cheryl, Cheryl is played by a much younger (child) actress.
Cheryl Strayed about the meaning of her journey (from her book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail): "The thing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the thing that was so profound to me that summer-and yet also, like most things, so very simple-was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay. As I clung to the chaparral that day, attempting to patch up my bleeding finger, terrified by every sound that the bull was coming back, I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go".
Jean Marc Vallée was offered the directing job during post-production of Dallas Buyers Club. Producer Bruna Papandrea is a fan of his films and had seen the first cut of the film before formally approaching him with the offer.
Jean-Marc Valée also directed Dallas Buyers Club (2013) which was nominated for (and won) best actor (Matthew McConaughey) and supporting actor (Jared Leto) similar to this film but different gender, because this film was nominated for best actress (Reese Witherspoon) and supporting actress (Laura Dern).
Art Alexakis (lead singer for the band Everclear), who portrays the tattoo artist in this movie, used to reside in Portland, Oregon, where parts of this movie were filmed. He was chosen for the part by Cheryl's real-life husband, and film maker, Brian Lindstrom, as he and Art are good friends.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
During a talk at Concordia University, Cheryl Strayed stated that although the film is very accurate, the sex scene in the alley way never occurred (although she admits to being quite promiscuous during this period in her life).
Chris Kesting from Camas, Washington found the boot that Reese Witherspoon threw off the cliff, while hiking with a friend near Mt. Hood Skibowl in March 2015. He hopes to have it signed by Reese and it is currently on display in his living room.