A survival drama film, Cast Away was released in 2001 with Tom Hanks in the lead as a fedEx executive who spends four years alone on a desert island after a storm forced a plane crash over the Pacific Ocean. Hanks put in a sublime performance as Chuck Noland, drawing in praises and awards including the Golden Globe. Left alone on the island with no one around, Noland tries to stay alive eating raw fish and crabs and talking to a volleyball that drifts ashore.

Is Cast Away Based on a True Story?

While many say that the story is suspiciously similar to that of Robinson Crusoe, arguments about the film being based on a specific real-life character are unfounded and fake. Some scattered accounts of survival adventure from the history, however, are claimed to carry resemblance to the Cast Away central character, but none came so close as that of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor who spent four years as a castaway, the true inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe.

Who is Alexander Selkirk?

A sailor serving under Captain Tomas Stradling, Selkirk was left to survive alone after he offered up to stay back in a desert island in the South Pacific Ocean for the ship’s safety reasons. After the crew made a stop mid voyage on an uninhabited island to load up the ship with supplies, Selkirk wanted to repair the leaky ship, and expressed his grave concern about the security if they were to resume the journey without fixing the issue.

On receiving Selkirk’s offer to be marooned, Straddle decided to leave him alone on the island of Juan Fernández, where he turned out to be a skilful survivor. He held on to his dear life living in huts built from pepper trees on the shoreline, eating lobsters and other small sea creatures. Desperate for a way out, he regularly surveyed the ocean for rescue even as misery, solitude and guilt were eating away at him. A privateering ship rescued Selkirk four years and four months later. His story is described as a sheer act of valour and will which later become a sensation. Selkirk resumed as a sailor for the remainder of his career, calling it quits while serving as lieutenant aboard the Royal ship Weymouth.

Similarities with Cast Away

The key inspiration for Cast Away is Robinson Crusoe which is based on Selkirk’s true story. Both the characters speak about the determination and will of man marooned with no help in sight coming back to normal life after years of unfortunate exile. Just like Selkirk, Chuck Noland in Cast Away has suffered loneliness, depression and remorse as he desperately scans the shores for way out. They both remained on the uninhabited island for four years until a ship arrived and rescued them quite unexpectedly. Their life in exile changes all of sudden as they come across roaming ships and the two quickly get back to their former lives.  The way both characters were left to survive using the resources in the island have a lot in common. Noland receives a few packages washed ashore, one of which contains a skating shoe which he uses as a knife.

Similarly, Selkirk has proved extremely skillful and innovative by making use of the materials that he came across on the island. He took the barrel hoofs lying abandoned on the beach and forged a new knife central to his survival on the shore.  He made two separate huts using pimento trees, and used one of them to cook food while keeping the other for sleeping.