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Alaska to see Sean Penn-directed film

"Into the Wild", directed by Sean Penn will have its premiere in Alaska.

Two screenings are planned for the film, the true story of a 24-year-old Virginia man who hitchhiked to Alaska in 1992 and eventually died in an abandoned bus. The film's debut is scheduled for Sept. 3 and will be released across the United States on Sept. 21.

The movie, based on Jon Krakauer's book, was written and directed by Penn. He said the local screenings are a way of thanking Alaskans who worked on the movie while it was being filmed on location last summer.

The film stars Emile Hirsch, Vaughn, William Hurt and Catherine Keener.

Penn said the local crew members helped tremendously with filming in locations that rarely attract camera crews. Much of the story takes place between Fairbanks and Anchorage, including remote areas.

The film follows Christopher McCandless as he sheds his possessions and attempts to live a simple wilderness life. He embarked on a poorly equipped trek, ended up taking shelter in the bus and eventually died.

Penn told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that McCandless embodied the wanderlust that everyone experiences.

"I think this is a story of personal will," he said.

Penn told the newspaper he picked up "Into the Wild" in a bookstore a decade ago and ended up reading it cover-to-cover twice before going to sleep that night. The next day he began working to secure the film rights.

McCandless is viewed in a largely sympathetic light in the book as an idealistic wanderer on a badly planned journey of self-discovery.

When he finally made it to Alaska to scout locations last year, Penn said the enormity of the movie's backdrop dazzled him. Although other locations were briefly considered, he said there was no doubt "Into the Wild" would be filmed in Alaska.

"The first words that came to my mind were nature on steroids," he said. "Bigger, deeper, stronger, colder, wilder, exciting."

The Denali Education Center will get the proceeds from the $25 tickets to the Fairbanks screenings. Penn is not planning to attend the screening but a producer for the film may be available for an after-movie discussion.

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