Annette Bening stars as swimmer Diana Nyad opposite Jodie Foster as Bonnie Stoll in Netflix's "Nyad"
Annette Bening is bringing an inspiring true story to the screen.
On Thursday, Netflix debuted the first trailer for Nyad exclusively with PEOPLE, showcasing Bening as marathon swimmer Diana Nyad, who resolves to complete a swim between the coasts of Florida and Cuba.
The film also stars Jodie Foster as Diana's friend and coach Bonnie Stoll, plus Rhys Ifans, Ethan Jones Romero, Luke Cosgrove, Jeena Yi and Eric T. Miller. A synopsis from Netflix describes Nyad as a "remarkable true story of tenacity, friendship and the triumph of the human spirit."
Nyad is directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the filmmakers behind the Oscar-winning 2018 climbing documentary Free Solo.
Vasarhelyi tells PEOPLE they "couldn't believe" they got to work with "two of the best actresses of their generation," Bening, 65, and Foster, 60, on their debut narrative feature.
"Annette was always the one for the role of Diana, and she was fearless in putting in the work to embody the character," says Vasarhelyi. "She trained for over a year to get the swimming right, and I remember that when she did that first stroke on camera, the entire crew was holding their breath in excitement."
Chin adds that during production Bening would be in the water tank "for hours at a time and she even had several stunt doubles that we barely used."
"She worked with this incredible Olympic swimmer Rada Owen to really nail her movements in the water and build her physique," says Chin. "As Diana got further in the swim within the film, Annette even started changing her stroke to show the exhaustion on screen. She was so physically connected to the mindset of the character, and she still swims today."
The film centers on Nyad, a sports journalist retired from marathon swimming. At 60, she "becomes obsessed with completing an epic swim that always eluded her: the 110 mile trek from Cuba to Florida, often referred to as the 'Mount Everest of swims,' " per a synopsis.
She is "determined to become the first person to finish the swim without a shark cage" and "goes on a thrilling, four-year journey with her best friend and coach Bonnie Stoll and a dedicated sailing team."
Vasarhelyi and Chin "have always chosen projects that focus around individuals who push boundaries and find the strength within themselves to do extraordinary things," says Vasarhelyi, who noted that it is "so rare for a movie to be centered around a strong female character like Diana Nyad."
"Diana is this unapologetically driven, capable and complex character with this audacious dream. And Bonnie Stoll, her friend and coach, cannot be underestimated either," says Vasarhelyi. "The idea of being able to explore the bond between these two incredible women, who refused to believe that it was too late in their lives to accomplish this extraordinary thing, felt special and important."
And Chin adds, "Diana had this incredible drive and vision, but none of it would have been possible without Bonnie and the commitment that they had to each other to make this swim happen. The film has so many joyful moments too. And if we can also inspire audiences to go after their dreams and try something new, we've done our job as filmmakers."
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Nyad first gained national attention in 1975 at age 25 for completing a swim around the entirety of Manhattan in New York City, according to The New York Times.
She then attempted to swim from Cuba to Florida with assistance from a cage intended to keep sharks away in 1978, but abandoned the idea after completing a separate swim from the Bahamas to Florida instead and took up a career in broadcasting and sports media.
Ultimately, Nyad completed her swim from Cuba to Florida in 2013 after five total attempts.
The Associated Press noted in 2015 that some in the marathon swimming community have questioned Nyad's accounting of her successes over the years. While speaking with Vanity Fair about the new movie, Chin noted that the production team's own investigation into those criticisms "found that they weren’t valid."
Julia Cox wrote the film's screenplay, based on Nyad's memoir Find a Way.
Nyad is in select theaters Oct. 20, and streaming on Netflix Nov. 3.
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