Ever thought of living off the grid? As 'Nomadland' earns Oscar buzz, meet the real people who inspired the story of lifelong travelers

ByGeorge Pennacchio OTRC logo
Monday, April 19, 2021
The real inspirations for 'Nomadland'
'People are more hungry for a true quality of life.' Meet the real people behind the story of 'Nomadland'.

LOS ANGELES -- "Nomadland" continues getting attention this awards season. It earned six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. It already won the Best Picture prize and the Best Director honor for Chloe Zhao at the Critics Choice Awards - same for the Golden Globes.

This all started as a non-fiction book about modern day nomads. The most well-known of those nomads, Bob, is the author who started it all.

In "Nomadland," Jessica Bruder experienced the life of the people she wrote about, the seniors who travel the American West, stopping to work along the way. Frances McDormand plays a woman named "Fern" whose circumstances take a dramatic turn, and she takes a chance at life as a nomad.

"In a way that she is a docent. She is a tour guide," said Bruder. "And the only reason I'm in the book, because I would usually rather stay the heck out of the frame, is to really serve that role. So when I see how much she can do in silence and how much she can do as a guide that, to me, feels very familiar."

Click here to see a full list of 2021 Oscar nominees

David Fincher's "Mank" leads nominations to the 93rd Academy Awards with 10 nods, and for the first time, two women - Chloé Zhao and Emerald Fennell - were nominated for best director.

Bob Wells, a leader in this community, doesn't personally need the money, but he's one of several real-life nomads who got paid the union rate to basically play themselves in the film.

"It was a joy. People all came for the joy of the experience," said Wells. "People are more hungry for a true quality of life, not just survival, a higher quality of life. And so when they see a real valid alternative, they're willing to take it."

Wells says there is real bonding among the members of this community.

"I call them bungee cord relationships," said Wells. "So I'll meet someone. I know I'm going to spend a day, an hour, a week and then I may not see them again for a year. But in that brief period of time, we've established this bungee cord bond, an invisible bungee cord. And it goes for thousands of miles and maybe years at a time but we're coming back together. And it'll be just like we never left."

"Nomadland" is available now on Hulu.

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