“The Dark Divide” is based on the true story of butterfly expert Dr. Robert Pyle (David Cross) and his perilous six-week journey through Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest to discover a new species of butterflies. It takes place in 1995, just after Pyle’s wife Thea (Debra Messing) loses her battle with cancer. The affable scientist quickly realizes he may be in over his head on this trek, as we see the story unfold in a series of flashbacks, moments of self-reflection, and the unique characters he meets on the trail.
Cross, who also produced the film, says he wanted to take on this role because it’s very different from any role he’s ever played.
“I’m not often afforded these opportunities and I loved the story,” Cross says. “Robert, the guy who’s story we’re telling, is the most wonderful, optimistic, ebunkular human being you’ve ever met. And it’s his wife that really pulls that out of him.”
Messing plays Thea, Roberts’s strong and supportive wife who’s battling cancer. Thea encourages her husband to take control of his life, get out of the classroom and explore the forest he loves to write about, but seldom visits. Thea is also a very different type of character for Messing, who is almost unrecognizable in the film.
“I’ve never been asked to do a role as challenging as this,” Messing says. “And I love the fact that it was a true story. I was just trying to understand what it was like to have cancer, what that does to a marriage, and what happens as you approach death.”
With this cast, you might be expecting a comedy, but this is more of a journeyman film of self-discovery in a part of the world that is virtually untouched by humans. As Robert overcomes each hurdle, he finds a new appreciation for Thea, and how much she brought to his life.
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“The Dark Divide” was produced by The Public House, TBVE film, and is the first feature film from REI Co-op Studios. It also stars David Koechner, Cameron Esposito and Gary Farmer and will be released in select theaters on Sept.18.