The Real 'Adrift' Story Is Way Sadder Than The Movie


Shailene Woodley's newest movie makes Divergent look like a walk in the park. In Adrift, Woodley portrays Tami Oldham, a sailor who accompanies her fiancé Richard Sharp on a sailing trip from Tahiti to San Diego. But when a hurricane strikes during their journey, they find themselves in a fight for survival. It's definitely an intense story, but the most remarkable thing about it is that it's based on actual events, and photos of the real Adrift people really hammer home the harrowing and heartbreaking reality of the film.

The movie is based on Tami Oldham Ashcraft's memoir Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea. It details how, in 1983, she and her fiancé/fellow sailing enthusiast Richard Sharp set out on a trip from Tahiti to San Diego, but their journey was altered when they encountered a devastating hurricane. This is where the movie largely diverts from the actual story — at least up until the very end. In the film, Sharp is tossed from the boat during the storm and is badly injured, breaking his leg and several ribs. Once the storm clears, he is brought back on board by Oldham, who then cares for him while she attempts to bring them to shore, with him only offering moral support. The true story, however, is far more heartbreaking.

As the film shows at the very end, the real Richard Sharp did not survive the hurricane. When the storm hit, he told Oldham to go below deck, and when she emerged the next morning, she discovered that Sharp had been taken out to sea — never to be seen again. She then had to make her way to the nearest landmass — Hawaii —all by herself. She managed to do it, surviving for 41 days at sea on her own until she was rescued by a Japanese research boat off the coast of the 50th state. So obviously the movie altered the story throughout to make it more of a love story and less sad overall, but how does the film hold up when it comes to other accuracies? Like, for instance, the resemblance of the cast to their real life counterparts? To start the comparison, here's a photo of star Shailene Woodley as Tami Oldham in the film.


And here's a picture of the real Tami Oldham from around the time of her fateful sailing trip, posing alongside the real Richard Sharp.

The similarities between Woodley and Oldham aren't super strong, but frankly, they're not terrible. Woodley bears at least a passing resemblance to Oldham — especially with her hair and that shell necklace — and the casting department definitely could have done a lot worse. But where the movie really shines is with its casting of Sam Claflin as Richard Sharp. The English actor shares a strong likeness with the late sailor, so much so that the real Tami Oldham was a little taken aback by it.


"It's uncanny how much Sam looks like Richard, for one thing," Oldham told The Movie Times in a recent interview. "He's just perfect for the part. The other day we were all together and he had us all laughing, and I just looked at him and went, 'You just remind me so much of Richard,' because everybody's drawn to him. He's just got this charismatic way about him ... I think the universe sent us Sam to play Richard, he's just so perfect."

Oldham, who now goes by the last name Oldham Ashcraft, has been giving a number of interviews in the run-up to the film. As a result, movie fans are able to see what the sailor extraordinaire looks like today in her late 50s. Is this a preview of what Woodley will look like in 35 years?

Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Adrift may have greatly altered the true story on which it is based, but judging from the photographs of the film's real life characters, the movie didn't stray too far when it came to the looks of its stars.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated from its previous version due to an error.