Diana Nyad and Teddy Schwarzman, NYAD

Diana Nyad and Teddy Schwarzman, NYAD

In this special episode (a live event at Zibby’s Bookshop in Santa Monica!), Diana Nyad, the renowned marathon swimmer who, at age 60, swam more than 100 miles from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage, chats with Teddy Schwarzman, the President and CEO of Black Bear Pictures and producer of the Netflix movie Nyad. (Oh, and Teddy is Zibby’s brother!)


Host: Everybody, get ready for a wonderful night of storytelling.

Teddy Schwarzman: Thanks, everybody for being here. This is so exciting.

Diana Nyad: I'll say.

Teddy: True that I was the producer of this project and honored enough to be able to help bring your story to life, but in this room, I do think being Zibby's brother probably sets me up as being even more accomplished and exciting. This has been a labor of love for the filmmaking team of Nyad for the last seven years. Really excited to now get to the point where we get to share our version of Diana's story with the world. These events are really exciting, at least for me, because there's the movie, and then there's what inspires the movie. There's the human behind the character. Obviously, portrayed by Annette Bening. Diana and her best friend and confidant and compadre along the way, Bonnie Stoll, who's here tonight, you lived this. This film and some of the awareness in this room -- although, I'm sure not all -- come from the fact that there is now a new catalyst and something to watch. You've inspired so many people with this incredible, incredible feat and just your will and sheer endurance of 110 miles.

Diana: 110.86. Anybody can swim 100. It's that last .86 that's going to kill them.

Teddy: Fifty-three hours?

Diana: Fifty-two hours, fifty-four minutes, eighteen seconds. Okay, let's wrap it up.

Teddy: And at the age of sixty-four. I remember when it happened. I also remember hearing about this as a potential film adaptation in 2017. Obviously, the events took place in 2013. My question was, why? Why are you doing this? Why did you feel compelled at the age of twenty-eight? Why did you feel compelled at the age of sixty after thirty years not in the water to pick back up on this dream? What was it about this dream?

Diana: A lot of people who adventure in extreme places on planet earth, whether it's trekking across Antarctica, walking the Sahara Desert, Jimmy Chin climbing all the mountains, it's usually something personal. They grew up in the shadow of Mount Everest or something, saw something young, and that was it. For me, it was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which in that era was where the boys are. How ironic that I was looking for girls. I already had a love affair with the ocean as a child. That was our playground, our family. The Cuban Revolution broke when I was nine years old. Literally overnight, those Cuban exiles had twenty-four hours to leave Havana, the rest of Cuba with anything they could carry. They came into my hometown. We knew about Cuba. My parents had danced salsa in the Hotel Nacional, which was the party place of JFK and Jackie. We knew Havana, people living in Miami, Fort Lauderdale. All of a sudden, in twenty-four hours, that magical island was forbidden.

I was a little swimmer. I was a competent little nine-year-old pool swimmer. I stood on the beach with my mother one day at nine at the point of the revolution. I was just filled, as many of us were all around the world, with the mystique of that beautiful island, Cuba, that now was forbidden. I said, "Mom, where is it? I know it's right out there, Cuba, but I can't see it." She said, "It's here. It's right here. It's right across. Havana is right across the horizon. It's just a bit over the curvature of the earth. You can't see it, but honestly, it's so close. It's that close that you, you little champion swimmer, you could almost swim there." Honestly, people say this was a thirty-five-year story from age twenty-eight when I first tried it over to sixty-four when Bonnie and I finally made it to the other shore, but the truth is, it went all the way back to age nine. I'd carried that little buzz in my imagination all those years. Then in my twenties, I became one of the best open-water swimmers in the world. I held the records for around Manhattan Island, in Italy, across Lake Ontario. There were other great swimmers as well. In my mind, all those swims were in this category. If you tell me you’ve swum the English Channel, I have respect for you. All those swims in Cuba, nobody had ever made it.

It's not only a long distance, but you've got the conundrum of the Gulf Stream squeezing through the Yucatán Channel. Right here between Havana and Key West, that Gulf Stream is eight-five miles wide. It's going 6.6 miles an hour east. You're going 2.2 miles an hour north. It's easy to do the math. It's a very tricky, tricky navigational challenge. If you saw the movie or you read the book already, our beloved navigator, John Bartlett, was a mathematical genius. He lived in those seas all his life. He took us across. He and Bonnie -- she was on the boat that I was breathing. Imagine breathing to your left this way for fifty-two hours and fifty-four minutes, and the only thing you see is Bonnie. Bonnie would right over the side of the boat. She wasn't going anywhere. She was my solider. Then put that into the four other tries, forty-eight hours this time, fifty-one hours this time. What about all the training? Twelve hours this day. Fourteen hours this day. Every breath was Bonnie. It looked like one set of arms. Believe me, we did this together. Wait, I didn't get to the second half of your question. You can see it was a drive. I tried it at age twenty-eight when I was in the midst of that decade, the 1970s, which were my twenties, of swimming and didn't make it. The next year, the winds came out of the east for ninety-one days. You want to do the swim in the summer when the waters are warmest. It gives you the best chance. We missed that window. The next year comes, 1980, and we can't get visas to go into Cuba.

I gave it up. I don't mean I gave up, but I gave it up. I was getting offers from the Wide World of Sports and from Fox News and from National Public Radio. It's high time to make a living as a journalist and a storyteller. I'm not going to complain about those thirty years, thirty to sixty, following the best in the world, Tour de France cyclists and US Open tennis championships and Olympic games. Toward the end of that thirty years, I had a tremendous malaise of not being a doer anymore. I wasn't chasing any big dreams. I was following other people chase their dreams. My mom died. I thought, how much time do I have left? I met Christopher Reeve. He had fallen from his horse. Now he was a quadriplegic. Chris was very big on regrets. You have no idea what banana peel you might slip on tomorrow. Don't wait. Chase your dreams right now. I was filled with all that. Read the Mary Oliver poem. I don't know about you all, I personally don't understand poetry. Every poem I've ever read, when I get to the end of it, I say, can't they use just one or two more verbs? Something to get me through. All of that was happening coming up to sixty. I thought, I'm going to give my job up. I don't care if I don't have any money in the bank. I'm going out and make that swim the goal of my one wild and precious life. I guess at this speed, we can only have time for three questions.

Teddy: I promise, from a Barbara Walters standpoint, that I'll make you cry by the end of this. Talk to us about failure. I feel like everybody knows that you did this swim and that you accomplished your goal, but you also had to reup your own determination so many times and live with trying to tackle these dreams or this singular dream that seemed to be deferred. How was it after twenty-eight? How was it after swim two, swim three, swim four? Did you ever lose hope? How did you find a way to continue to reinvest and to believe?

Diana: It goes back to the Greeks who always spoke about the journey being more valuable than the destination. You set off on difficult journeys because the higher the bar and the more you're willing to have the courage to fail, you're going to discover who you are. The lower the bar, the more mediocre the bar, you won't get to know yourself at all. This dream swim was so epic, so difficult. Others had proven that before me. I was just filled with the imagination of what we'd discover out there. Our team was forty people, from the shark team to the jellyfish team, to the navigation team, to the medical team, to Bonnie and her immediate team in charge of my life and my safety. We were on a journey of discovery and of grand adventure. Honestly, I don't like to believe that I would've ever let it go and just been happy with the journey, but the truth is each time we -- you have to call it a failure because you didn't make it to the shore. You didn't get to where you said you were going to make it to. The truth for us, it wasn't so much a failure, it was a journey. Like any journey we all take, I don't care whether you're battling cancer or you're trying to climb Annapurna and you don't make it, you get through with where you need to go. You have more intel and more science. You're on a learning curve. You go back. You don't just go back with the same procedure you had the first time and say, well, maybe we'll get lucky this time. Knowledge is power. Our team was smart. We researched. We believed. I never did lose hope. I never did.

One of the funny moments -- Bonnie can tell you. After we didn't make it one time -- the crew is beat up. They're tired. When they drag me out -- by the way, Bonnie will tell you too, it was never me who said, I can't do it. I've bitten off more than I can chew. Mother nature on steroids, whether it be the deadly box jellyfish or huge tropical storms that won't relent -- we're in eight- to ten-foot seas. We're blown so far off course. It's just like on Everest. If a ninety-mile-an-hour wind comes -- there's the summit. It's right there. You don't say, well, it's mind over matter. I'm going to go. You're not going to get blown off Mount Everest. You're going to turn around and say, it's not my day. We'll come back another day. We had to do that four times. We had the powwow with tears, with anger. It's not our day. Fifty-one hours, it's not our day. We're going to have to come back another day. Not making it on the fourth time, I was lying on a boat deck wrapped in a blanket and semi-out of it. All the crew was down and out. We're sludging our way back to Key West. I said, "Bonnie." She said, "What?" I said, "You know what we've got to do? We've got to find the world's leading expert in the box jellyfish." She came over, and she said, "Could you give us a lousy twenty-four hours? We just worked for a year. We're proud of ourselves. We deserve a little rest. We deserve to just let this go. How about twenty-four lousy hours?" I said, "Okay, okay." Twenty-four hours later, we were at it. We were at researching it. We found Dr. Angel Yanagihara.

Teddy: I know you gave us a visual of what it's like taking stroke after stroke and having Bonnie there. I don't know that any of us can really understand and process fifty-three hours in the ocean. What's that like? Combine that with currents, with storms, with sharks, with jellyfish that had, at a certain point, stung you near death. Then you went back in and continued to go back and battle something that you knew could kill you. I'm scared to go about ten feet off the shore of the beach of what might be out there. What's it like just psychologically? How do you process it?

Diana: . It is. I haven't been in space. Honestly, when I hear and I read about astronauts talking about seeing that little, as Carl Sagan put it so poetically, that little blue spec, the blue dot that is the earth -- you always hear in this sport -- for those of us, like Sarah Thomas, who's done the English Channel four times consecutively, fifty-four hours in the English Channel -- there are three of us who do the long, long swims, who have done. Yes, you hear about all the hardships and the grueling aspects of it, but the truth is there's nothing like it. You're actually swimming over the curvature of the earth. You're traveling. You're looking up. Maybe you've read Stephen Hawking the night before. You're looking up in the middle of the Gulf Stream in the summer night on a clear night. You can see, literally, two billion stars. Bonnie and I, it sort of tripped us out. I'm used to having hallucinations, but I'm hoping Bonnie doesn't have any because she's got to keep things together. Right, Bonnie? On one night, we both saw giant fur trees, pine trees in the sky. First, I said it. She said, "Oh, my god, that's what I'm seeing too." Huge trunks that go over the entire horizon with giant bows this way. Then from the hallucinations to the thinking of your childhood is waft into the Stephen Hawking of the stars. You are immersed in this blue jewel of a planet of ours. You're immersed in it.

I'm not that swimmer anymore. There are other things I want to accomplish in my life. That was the holy grail, Cuba. Teddy, you and I could take the globe -- it's blue. We could say, look, there are a thousand places you could swim. In my twenties, I swam a lot of them. Cuba was it. Now I want to be other things, do other things. I don't think I will ever -- it could bring me to tears. I don't think I'll ever have that sense of grandeur. It's not an ego thing. We prepared for it. We trained for it. We are capable of actually swimming that whole beautiful distance between that historic place, Cuba, and Florida. When I got to meet President Obama, whom I admire terribly, I was in the oval office with him, and he said, "You know --" One of his goals was to bring our two countries back together. He said, "Your gesture was to leave this shore and shortly thereafter, touch the shore. Why can't we, in a short time, bring our two beautiful peoples back together?" There's a lot to it out there. I don't want to try to go recreate it. It could never be as magical as it was.

Teddy: I think what you've done might have felt singular to you and collective in the team experience that you went through in order to reach the other shore. I feel like I'm hearing so many people these days tackle problems big and small and then say, if Diana Nyak could do that swim, I can get on the treadmill. I can deal with this issue at work. I can deal with whatever issues are happening. I'm hearing so much of the, if Diana Nyak could do it... What did it mean to you to reach the other shore and to achieve your dream? What do you want other people to feel through that?

Diana: On the strictly internal, personal end of it, honestly, stumbling up onto that shore was not a big, magnificent ego moment. We did it. We finally did it. What I felt was the profound satisfaction of not having ever given up on it. Those five attempts were grueling. They all took a lot of year-long training to each one. I remembered literally standing on that shore. You were reeling with all the people. It was very, very hot out. Bonnie was there. I almost collapsed at one point. I remember thinking, flashing on looking at the alarm clock in Saint Martin -- we got up at two AM one day because we wanted to start a swim at four. We had a sixteen-hour swim planned that day. We wanted to start at four. You're in this cocoon in your bed. You know that you're going to hurt that day. Bonnie and I together decided, this is what this day needs, thirteen hours, sixteen hours. We decide.

Teddy: This is the training sequence.

Diana: Training. I remember flashing on that alarm clock, watching the clock and thinking, oh, it's only 1:58. I have two more minutes to be warm and cozy. I don't want to get up yet. When it came to be two o'clock -- we set the schedule. We're the ones who set the training. We could go to the movies that day. We could just say, fuck off, we're not going to train today, but we never did. We never took a day off. We did the hours that we thought were going to leave no stone unturned to give us a chance to get across if mother nature let us. You're leading to something else, Teddy. That is that I was aware back in 1978 and I was aware when I wasn't making the swim in modern times that other people were following. Yes, there is some -- I don't know what you'd call it. There's some admiration level to it. The truth is what we hear from -- now that the movie is so successful, so beautiful, so powerful, we're hearing from hundreds and hundreds of people around the world, people with Parkinson's, young people who want to do something big with their lives, from China, from Chile, from Wyoming. What could mean more?

Yes, I'm blown away this movie has my name. How often does that happen? How often do you get a tour de force set of performances from people like Annette Bening and Jodie Foster? We're rooting for them so hard for their Oscars, their SAG Awards. In the end, what really touches me most deeply is people being inspired. Because we're no longer -- you could tell us better. We're no longer in that movie era where a movie is at the movie theater and if it does well, it's there for six weeks, eight weeks, and then it's gone. Now because of streaming, people are going to see this movie for a long, long, long time. We're so lucky to think that people are inspired by it. I keep mentioning Bonnie, but there's another person in the room I want to mention. That's my dear, dear friend, a kick-ass tennis player and my literary agent who bought this book to life. That's Amy Rennert. Stand up, Amy. Can you see her skinny little legs? Look at these little legs over here. You can't believe her running on the tennis court. She's like a mosquito. She zipped over there. She zipped over there. She's a fantastic player.

Amy Rennert: Oldest person ever to get a 5.0 rating for the first time.

Diana: There we go.

Amy: That's my Nyad moment.

Teddy: Very nice. It's a great accomplishment.

Diana: By the way, Bonnie is a pretty good tennis player herself, as is Teddy.

Teddy: I feel like that's a wonderful segue from one seemingly lonely endeavor in a marathon swim to another lonely endeavor in writing a book. How was the experience? How did you find the experience of trying to put your story down on paper? I've read your book. If anybody here hasn't, it's wonderful.

Diana: Thank you.

Teddy: You not only feel the experience of just the gigantic obstacle of what you're trying to achieve, but you're very vulnerable in the book. You give us a great sense of who you are, who you think you are, who you've evolved to, your youth, a lot of things that are hard to write about. You write about it with a wonderful level of self-awareness and vulnerability that I think just adds to the experience of the amazing accomplishment that you achieved. What was it like having to figure out how to write a book? I'm sure there's a number of people in here who not only are huge fans of literature, since you're at a bookstore, but maybe authors themselves. Just that experience.

Diana: There are memoirists -- I love the word memoir. It's better than autobiography.

Teddy: It's very fancy.

Diana: There are memoirists -- Diane Keaton is one, for example -- who write many different sections of their life in books. I didn't know if I'd ever write another one. I thought, I really do want to include philosophies of life, my atheism, hopefully other values that I have, and a whole realm of life experiences. I don't know how many pages the book is. Is it four hundred pages, the hardback? I never did make an outline. I never did. I just sat down. As a speaker, for instance -- I'm lucky. I go around the world. Bonnie and I did a show off Broadway right before the pandemic. I am something of a storyteller. In this book, even though it's nonfiction, I wanted to take you with me. As a good storyteller, you take people to the sounds and the visuals and the smells of where you are and bring them on the journey with you through the book. Amy can tell you, I furiously got to it because the swim was over. The movie can come out anytime. As you've proven, ten years later, it's not too late for that movie. The book, after a real event, evidentially in the world of publishing, you need to come out fairly quickly. I had my computer on planes and hotel rooms. I was just getting it done.

I don't know about you all, but I'm the type that second-guesses everything. Nothing is ever good enough. I look back at every relationship every day, everything I do and say, why didn't I do it this way? I could've done it this way. That book, I have to say -- it's not perfect, of course, but I felt very proud of it. I still do. I don't have this overwhelming feeling of, I wish I had done this with it. How about that part over there? I'll write other books. I'm actually working on my first children's book. It's going to be, hopefully, a series for middle school kids. Just like I'm famous for saying, as I said on the beach at the end, "You're never too old to chase your dreams," this series of children's books, I hope, will be called You're Never Too Young to Chase Your Dreams. It's about little kids who are nine years old saying, why should I wait until I go to graduate school? I want to do that right now. They do, hopefully. I'm working on that. The point is that I feel proud of the book. It's one of the few things of my whole life I haven't second-guessed.

Teddy: It's a very good book.

Amy: I want to also say Diana is one of the few people to accomplish something so extraordinary and write her own book. Every word in this book is your book. There's no ghostwriter. There's no collaborator. There were good friends and editors, but these are your words. It's an extraordinary memoir. It really doesn't matter if you read the book first or see the film first.

Teddy: You may not know this, but the book is for sale here.

Diana: Your sister will be so proud.

Teddy: I would suggest you buy it. Let's go Hollywood inside baseball for a second. You had to trust people that you knew hardly at all to take your story and adapt it into a cinematic experience. Recognizing that that has a profound effect on you, you did so without having any approval rights over how you appeared in the film and did it, I think, based on and a little bit of luck. That must have been really hard and kind of scary. Also, the process of actually developing a feature film and how either quickly or slowly that can move, I'm sure, is also frustrating when it's not something that you're personally driving the entire way. Tell us about it.

Diana: You used the term inside baseball, so let's get down. I never, never lost the umbrella emotion of gratitude. Never. These are all world-class people. I don't know if you know Teddy Schwarzman, but we're talking about The Imitation Game. Some of the great movies of the last couple of decades, Teddy has had the vision for and produced. His partner on this, Andrew Lazar with American Sniper, some very high-level, beautiful films. Now let's talk about the actors. We already have, but not to leave out Rhys Ifans, who plays our John Bartlett brilliantly in this movie. He's sort of overshadowed by the two women leads. Bonnie and I have come to tears . We used to tell him what we felt about his magnificent performance. Then the cinematographer is Claudio Miranda. I don't know if you ever saw the Life of Pi with the tiger in the ocean. That's his visual vision. He's the director of photography. Did I say cinematographer? I meant director of photography.

Teddy: No, they're the same.

Diana: It's the same? He did the Avatar movies. He did Top Gun: Maverick. To see that plane going through the canyons -- he, with his special effects team -- I just made a video to thank them today because they won some big award last night. They made the ocean that majestic infinitude, that raging and yet peaceful place that Bonnie and I fell in love with. The movie is gorgeous. Who's the underwater photographer?

Teddy: Pete Zuccarini.

Diana: Pete Zuccarini did all the underwater shooting. We could go on with the composer, everybody. Bonnie and I are from the world of sports. We know a lot of world-class athletes. The people who worked on this movie, they're all, including Teddy, starting with Teddy and Andrew, are at the upper echelon of the movie business. It has never escaped me to have the movie carry my name, to portray this lifelong friendship with Bonnie, to show the grit that I truly have. Then on the other hand, if you want to get down, how are you ever going to be happy with a movie of your life? How are you ever going to say, there's nothing else that they need? You won't. It's just human nature that the only aspect that was very difficult -- Teddy knows this. We had many into-the-night conversations about this. I was something, if I can use the term, of a visionary. I had this vision. I brought, then with Bonnie too, this team together, the John Bartletts. This was forty people who were believers. They drank the Kool-Aid of my words and my emotions. Bonnie and I commandeered this together. In some ways, I understand because a movie has to be just a slice of life. It's not a huge, wide, sweeping documentary. I had to forgive that right away and be at peace with that.

On the other hand, the one aspect that just always rankled me was that the Annette character was portrayed by the writer, and then the executive producers and the directors decided that this is what they wanted, to make her be quite the dimension of unapologetic, relentless. I'm going to do this. I don't care. Nothing's going to get in my way. All of that's powerful. The audience who see this film, they wind up, all of them around the world, walking out or in their homes writing us to say, I want to be more like that character. They admire that character. For me, I'm a bit more, shall we say, charismatic than that character. To be truthful, I had trouble with that. We talked about it before shooting ever started. Teddy and Andrew and the writer and the actors, they held with their vision. It took me a while. I'm kind of lucky the strike happened because had the strike not happened, I would've been a blabbermouth. I would've made this point to the press. Because the strike happened, I couldn't talk about the movie at all. I came to peace with audiences appreciating it.

Teddy: I think we might have some press in the room.

Diana: Good. That's okay. I assume that some people will tell this story after. I'm not afraid to say it. You shouldn't be afraid to hear it.

Teddy: I have heard it.

Diana: I'm trying to make the bigger point that I let go. This is their movie. It's a beautiful movie. It's an inspiring movie. Can I be absolutely okay with the way my character is portrayed? Yes, I'm with it. I'm absolutely with it, but I'll just be honest with you. In those first few months, I struggled with that part. The reason they make bio pics about people who are dead is because they're not around to make their suggestions. I was not given any control over the film. In the end, they made it their way. They made it brilliantly.

Teddy: I would also say the hope and probably the greatest ambition is to make a film that the subject, if you want to use that word, will be proud of and will feel has done, never the perfect job, but a job that does their achievements or their life or their essence proud, and knowing that the people who are behind telling that story are trying to do it not only for narrative reasons, but to honor the subject and to honor the relationships and to honor the achievement. From everybody who was involved in trying to craft your life into a two-hour film, I think there was a combination of awe, respect, admiration, and love for who you are and what you have achieved. At the same time, one of the things that we found so unique to your story was also this incredible friendship that you've shared with Bonnie for forty-plus years and the yin and yang of your relationship. Anybody who asks me, is Diana like that? I say, yes, but she's also even more inspiring. I think that's true. I do think that -- again, we're now just waxing our own personal opinions.

While Annette's character certainly can be acerbic at times and focused with her own relentless pursuit, I think what people leave that film with, hopefully -- it's great to just talk about your own film instead of having other people talk about it -- is that speech at the beach, is that gratitude, is that appreciation for friendship, for family, either chosen or found, but also an inspiration that it's not just about your accomplishment, but about people of a certain age, women of a certain age, people in general not giving up on their dreams and finding a way, as cheesy as that sounds with the book title, Find A Way. I can't ever imagine giving up my life into somebody else's hands to tell that story. That has to be so impossible. I have to say, despite the fact that you complained every step of the way, you did so fairly and with a desire to ensure that the film that we were putting into the world would leave people with the same level of inspiration that you hoped your actual swim had and the fact that you had inspired, time and time again, forty-plus people to put their jobs on hold, to put their lives on hold, and to focus on something greater than themselves. Kudos to you.

Diana: In the end, the bottom line -- we're just here to really dig down and share every little kernel. In the end, I'm so damn proud of this movie. By the way, I don't know if I ever told you this. Before I had met Teddy, I knew Andrew already. Bonnie and I have a friend in the movie business who's done a lot of big movies, Quiz Show and etc. I said one day, "Gail, I'm not an actress, per se, but I do get on stage. I tell stories. I use foreign accents and whatnot. Should I screentest to play myself?" Gail took a pause. She said, "You only have to ask yourself one question. Do you want anyone to see the movie?" I said, "You don't have to hit me over the head with a hammer." She said, "Diana, you can go and talk to groups in Tokyo. You can do the off Broadway. People go to the movies because they want to see a movie star, and we got a movie star."

Teddy: Before we transition to questions, we were supposed to shoot on a very quick schedule from the time that Annette Bening and Jodie Foster signed onto the project. Then due to Netflix coming on board the project and hurricane season that we probably should've accounted for, we pushed our schedule an extra nine months, which gave Annette about a year of training time to really try to match the incredible physical prowess that you had. I think in that time, you also got to work with Annette and Jodie. The four of you would get together on a fairly regular basis to really get to know each other so they could try and distill something more of an essence of a relationship and a dynamic. What was that process like?

Diana: It was just wonderful. I can't speak for the rest of the acting world, but both of them, these two people, as different as they may be, are grounded, sincere, lovely, funny, smart people. If you all would sit down with dinner with them, there's nothing movie star about them at all. Bonnie spent more time with Jodie. I spent more time with Annette. Then the four of us spent time together. People are sort of naïve. They ask us and say, did they take videos of you and see if you sit with your finger like this on your cheek? They did none of that. They were just getting to know us. We got to know each other's dogs and families. We ate dinners together and shared a lot of laughs and sincere talks. Annette's son is a transgender individual. I had had certain opinions about transgender women competing against women athletes, cisgender athletes. We had really deep philosophical talks about that. I came to a place. Annette and I respected each other over that. There were just lots of different issues. It was wonderful. One hysterical thing happened on the set. Bonnie and I got to the set. You guys shot everything in the Dominican Republic. Everything.

Teddy: We did.

Diana: They created Cuba, New York City, Key West, Los Angeles. It was all right there in the Dominican Republic.

Teddy: All within ten miles of , Dominican Republic.

Diana: As I say, we knew each other quite well, all of us. Jodie came off the set. She wasn't going to work for an hour. She and Bonnie and I were just walking along. She had these necklaces like this that were inside her T-shirt. She pulled them out. She put them out like this. We were walking. Bonnie stopped her. She said, "That's odd. I have a piece very similar to that my father gave me." Jodie said, "No shit, Bonnie. That's what we're doing here. I am you. We had these necklaces replicated." At that very moment, Annette was sitting on a stool about twice the length of this store. She was about to do an interview. She was wearing what I used to wear, a white shirt with a across and short shorts. Jodie says to us, "Now see, look at Annette over there. Do you think she wants to wear ? No. She's trying to be Diana. That's what we're doing." We had fun. We had depth. We will be friends forever, the four of us.

Teddy: Thank you. This was amazing. I feel like we have time for questions if anybody has any. I don't see any hands. No. Yes.

Female Voice: Hi. This question is for Bonnie. When you watched the film, how did you feel about your character?

Bonnie Stoll: I feel inspired to be that person. A lot of that, I'm humbled by watching it. Who wouldn't want to be portrayed by Jodie Foster? I aspire to be that person.

Diana: Everybody should have a Bonnie.

Teddy: Bonnie, I'm realizing you should sit here.

Bonnie: No, no, no.

Teddy: Let's have the two of you guys sit for just a little bit for questions. I assure you they're going to be for you guys. Please.

Diana: Yes, ma'am.

Female Voice: Can you tell us some of the rules of that swim? You just eat with a tube in your mouth? You never get out, ever? No one can touch you? What are some of the rules?

Bonnie: She can't touch the boat. We can't touch her. Some of the rules were, no sarcasm. It never works with forty people. I don't want to know what she or he did wrong. People will handle it themselves. Don't tell on people. It's just gossipy and silly. It never works. Another role was, never, if you get the chance to speak to Diana, tell her what time it is, how many hours she's been in the water. How many more miles to shore are we? It changes every minute because of that Gulf Stream. We on the crew were mesmerized every day. Diana never saw the dolphins and the turtles. It was fabulous, really, for a lot of it.

Diana: I think you're asking also about technical aspects of the swim.

Bonnie: Oh, you were? I missed that part.

Diana: Just the basics are that you are not going to have any aid in either propelling forward, so that would be fins or holding onto some sort of rope or being pushed from the back, or in flotation. If you're going to stop and you're going to tread water, as Bonnie says, you're never allowed to touch the boat or touch the kayaks, but you can reach out and get a CamelBak hose and tread water and take fuel down. You can take whatever we have to eat and take it down. You can't be held up so that you could rest. You can't be helped in flotation or propulsion. That's basically what an unaided swim is.

Male Voice: Did you ever read the script before you guys filmed the movie?

Diana: Yeah. Julia Cox is --

Bonnie: -- She got nominated by the Writers Guild. That was really cool.

Diana: It's a Writers Guild nomination?

Teddy: Writers Guild Best Adapted Screenplay nomination came out yesterday.

Diana: That's really cool.

Male Voice: At which point did you read the script? Was that early on? Was that closer to filming?

Diana: I actually wrote the first version of the script. I'm a writer, but I realized very early on -- I'd been working on it for about six months. They say in the movie business that a good script is taut. I don't know what the antonym is. Fat. My script was fat. I called Andrew Lazar one day. I said, "What's our goal here?" It's for me to become a screenwriter?" which I didn't want to become. I just thought I knew this story well. "Should I let go, and we'll get an A-list screenwriter who really knows what they're doing and help bring this inspiring story?" I gave it up. There was another script. Everybody passed on that. This young woman, Julia Cox, came in. She's a good writer. She's sensitive. Teddy and Andrew have said they've seen a lot of scripts. Didn't you say, Teddy, it was one of the best scripts you'd read in a long time?

Teddy: Yes. I would say the first script we had was also very interesting. You despised it. Tonally, it was very different and a little more poppy, a little more almost Big Short; I, Tonya; break the fourth wall. That was very well crafted, but just tonally felt wrong. It was good enough for us to be able to submit to some interesting directors. Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi, the directing team, read it, said, "We love the story. We don't like the script." Then we went and we found Julia, who wrote a new draft from scratch that we worked on very closely and was something that we wanted to share with you once we thought it was ready. Diana and Bonnie both weighed in on factual inaccuracies. Diana continued to -- I think in your head, you always had Chariots of Fire as a comp. We tried to say, if you made Chariots of Fire today, no one would watch it. How do we do something that is more reflective of the personalities and the times while still being inspiring?

Diana: Who's back there? Way back.

Female Voice: I have a question. This is sort of for Bonnie. What brought you into this project? I know .

Bonnie: At first, it was the tan that I was going to get, if I'm honest. When Diana brought it up, I wouldn't commit to anything unless I would see something about it in person, so I went to Mexico for a training swim. I saw what my best friend does best. That was beautiful.

Diana: I'm sorry, to back that up a little bit, in 1980, it was the era -- I don't know if you all remember or if you got into racquetball. It was the era when racquetball had its heyday in the United States. There were glass courts. All the aerobics centers had gone over to racquetball. There was a professional tour, men's tour, women's tour. Those athletes were hot at that time. They were well known. They had contracts. I went to play in my first professional racquetball tournament. I wasn't very good. I knew I was going to lose quickly. A friend told me, "When you go, you will lose quickly. You got to go see this woman named Elaine Lee. She's such a fiery player. She's really exciting." I lost quickly. I went and got a lunch. I heard all this screaming down at the glass court at this club. I went down, and I sandwiched in. People are yelling. This Elaine Lee is going horizontal across the court with her hand, with her body grabbing shots like this. She was so exciting to watch, a really dynamic athlete. I said to the guy sitting next to me, "Where is that Elaine Lee from?" He said, "That's not Elaine Lee. That's Bonnie Stoll from Connecticut." We met that day. I'm not sure, we have to do some research, but I became Bonnie's fitness coach very quickly. Thirty-five years later, we switched roles. I became the athlete, and Bonnie became my coach. I don't know that there's another story of that in the world of men's or women's sports. Yes?

Female Voice: Thanks for the wonderful conversation. I've got a question. Could you talk about the sense of self versus team on this journey? You talked about the motivation being deeply personal. At the same time, obviously team of people who joined you on the mission. Is there that separation of self versus team and then that consciousness of, are all of this group of people supporting me, or are we doing this together? I find that really interesting.

Diana: Honestly, a big question when I finally made it was, how could you possibly do this at age sixty-four when you couldn't do it at age twenty-eight? One, we did train differently. We knew more about nutrition. It took us five times to learn more about the whole navigation and the jellyfish and the currents and all that. I think the paramount difference was that when I was younger, I was more blustery. I was more ego oriented. I was like, I am doing this. I came over to knowing that I couldn't do it without the team. Yes, I was the one doing that hard work, the body, athlete work, but the whole team, starting with Bonnie, but John Bartlett, as I say, all of them, they all played an integral part. We really each had a role. They all had a role. Mine was in the water. Their roles were significant to getting across. It's like the paparazzi. Who do we talk to next? Yes.

Female Voice: You mentioned between your first attempts and then the more recent ones, the malaise in between. How did you find the motivation to do that? Then how are you finding the motivation after the fact to do whatever is next and find that next passion?

Diana: I don't know Serena Williams, but let's just surmise that she's living a great life. Children, great husband, businesses, friends. I would surmise that she will never know the high-octane drama and thrill of playing in front of those thousands of people in a night match at the US Open, of having those thousands of people around the world admire her as the best woman player, maybe one of the best players who's ever lived. Sports are cruel that way. You succeed when you're young. It's a tragedy that you probably won't feel that again. I was lucky to come back at an older age and get that again. I'm seventy-four now and pretty vital, a lot of energy. I've got goals and dreams. I work on them with fierce fire every day. Probably, the Cuba swim is the biggest thing I ever did. It's hard to try to drum up that same depth of, as I say, high-octane life that you had as an athlete. When you say, how did I get motivated? I wasn't in a state of malaise for the thirty years. I was enjoying that career as a sportscaster. It was at the upper echelon of ABC Sports and National Public Radio. I was telling stories about great, great people doing extraordinary things. I got to the end of that thirty years turning sixty feeling like, but I'm just talking about other people. Storytelling should be enough in itself. It is. It's a career. I'm in that career. There was something in me who wanted to go back. That dream was unfinished. It had started at age nine. I always felt it dangling out there. It wasn't hard to get motivated for it at all.

Kyle Owens: In the film, there's a few mentions of a mental playlist of songs that were going on in your head while you were swimming. I was really wondering what your real mental preparation was for those long, long swims.

Diana: Thank you. This is, by the way, Zibby's brother.

Kyle: I'm Zibby's husband, actually.

Diana: Oh, excuse me. Stand up and say hello. Say your name.

Kyle: Hi.

Diana: Excuse me. Zibby's husband. I don't think there's any better mental preparation to swim for fifty-three hours than swimming sixteen hours and eighteen hours and twenty hours and twenty-four hours. Now you're immersed in it. You know how to get through those long hours. Ed Viesturs is a friend of mine. I don't know if you know him. He's a good friend of Jimmy's. He's climbed Everest more than any human being, the pure way, without bottled oxygen. I asked Ed at one time -- a lot of runners and cyclists -- I'm sure you all do this. Swimmers especially because you don't have much visual or audio input. You're in the interior of your mind. You start counting. You start singing just to get through the hours. I make long-term goals. I take a song like Janis Joplin's version of "Me and Bobby McGee," and I would sing it a thousand times, the whole song from the first note to the last. It would take me nine hours and forty-five minutes to sing all that way. I asked Ed Viesturs once what he sings up on the mountain. He said, "I only have one song." I was picturing, he's up at the top of the world, he must be singing John Lennon's "Imagine." He said, "No, I sing 'Oh, the bear went over the mountain. The bear went over the mountain.'" My playlist is of my generation. It's Bob Dylan and Neil Young especially. Out there in the middle of the night, I can hear that. You're not allowed headphones because headphones take away from the discipline that your mind has to have to get through those hours. That's against the rules of the sport. I could hear that eerie, in the middle of the night especially, that Neil Young falsetto. "I hear you knocking at the cellar door." It would just sweep me away, even though I'm just hearing it in my head.

Female Voice: It came out today that we're at a ten-year low of women characters in feature films. I would love to hear what both of you think about the fact that this movie is not only primarily about two women, but two women who are over sixty. I wondered how you guys feel. It's amazing. It's so inspiring to hear a story that isn't just a twenty-year-old girl who falls in love with a guy or is a superhero or whatever. I wonder how you guys feel being the subject of that kind of movie.

Diana: Do you want to address that first? I had no idea that there's a dearth of women characters at the moment, strong women characters.

Teddy: We just thought it was a great story. There are so many amazing actors of a certain age, women in particular, who don't get great roles anymore after they're past their perceived prime. It's not a great talking point for two lead male producers in our forties and fifties, but we're just very sensitive. I just thought, my god, these women are incredible. These women are incredible. The story deserves to be told, whether it's what feels like it's in vogue or not. People are going to be inspired by this story. That's a testament to you. Luckily, that allows Annette to be the one person over forty who's nominated for an Academy Award this year. And Jodie. Sorry, I was thinking of best picture.

Diana: I would add to that, we could break it down and say, how many sixty-four -- that was sixty-four, my age when I did the swim, when she shot the movie. She's in a bathing suit for two hours.

Bonnie: Thirty-five days.

Diana: There's never any shallow recording of this. By the way, she looks great. She was not a swimmer. She was never afraid of the water. Grew up in San Diego. She had worked on a fishing boat in high school or college. She wasn't afraid to dive in there, but she never had a freestyle stroke. She never swam on a swim team. For her to dedicate herself -- she had an Olympic swimmer, Rada Owen, who worked with her. I was with her a bit also. For her to be absolutely unabashed about, I am playing this swimmer, who wears a bathing suit, who goes out fiercely to swim twelve hours in the pool and fourteen hours in the ocean, she made it, as I was at sixty-four -- was I embarrassed to come out on the shore in a bathing suit at sixty-four? No. I think that she clearly rose above all that. Nobody who ever reviews the movie talks about anything but her being this athlete.

Bonnie: She's still swimming. She found her passion at this time in life. It's really fabulous. She swims every day.

Diana: She does. She loves it.

Teddy: I think we have to wrap it up now. Diana and Bonnie will stick around.

Diana: I got to say one more thing. Teddy, you could tell me. Friends of ours in the movie business say to us, you have no idea how strong the commitment must have been from your producers to take this on and move quickly through getting the actors, getting Netflix, getting it shot. Usually, you linger around for a couple of decades. Things fall apart. The fact that you had the faith in me, in Bonnie, in our story, I'll never forget you for it, Teddy. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Diana Nyad and Teddy Schwarzman, NYAD

NYAD by Diana Nyad and Teddy Schwarzman

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