The Grow Further Interview, Part 2: Cuba Swim, Inc.

Diana Nyad is ready to wring every money-making and attention-grabbing opportunity she can from her upcoming biopic. She’s been fantasizing about this moment for over 40 years.

Above: Detail from Miami Herald, 31 July 1978. According to an article published the following week, Nyad’s company “Cuba Swim Inc has a 24-member staff [and] is bigger, gaudier and costlier than anything like it before.”
In the second part of Diana Nyad’s Grow Further interview, she describes her upcoming biopic as an orgy of opportunity:

I have a fairly long list of things that, if that movie is going to have a moment, if it’s going to be recognized, and win some awards, etc., which means my story will be out there again and have a bit of a moment again . . . (10:34)

. . . she’s going to take advantage of that moment:

    • She plans to write a children’s book.
    • She wants to perform her Off-Broadway show, The Swimmer, in Los Angeles. [God help us.]
    • She wants to start an amateur storytelling contest. (09:59)
    • She claims to have begun a project with Annette Bening: “We’ve started to work together a little bit, Annette and I.” (10:32)
Above: Diana Nyad and Annette Bening in a detail from Nyad’s Medium post, “DR Visit,” 12 April 2022.

On what? Nyad doesn’t say.

I suspect the answer is “nothing.” If it were something even a speck more than “nothing,” Diana would tell us. Recall Nyad’s previous celebrity collaborations-in-name-drops-only—like the one with Reese Witherspoon on the National Archive of Sexual Abuse, an organization that doesn’t exist and never did, or the one with Richard Branson in which his yacht would play guide-boat to thousands of people swimming from Miami to Manhattan. That never launched either, but she did get to visit Branson’s private island.

This isn’t the first time Nyad has counted her chickens prematurely. A month before her first attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida, she told the Miami Herald that the crossing “could set up my whole future. . . . When I finish this swim, I want to have projects that pay well that I’m also proud to do.” She saw herself replacing Anita Bryant as the national spokesperson for orange juice. Later on, she envisioned becoming “one of the best broadcasters there’s ever been.”

As usual, she didn’t rise to the heights of her Everest-sized ego. She bombed as a commentator at the 1984 Summer Olympics: “Try as they might,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s William Taaffe, “ABC’s lesser lights, including such 15-watt bulbs as Gordon Maddux, Cathy Rigby McCoy and Diana Nyad, couldn’t sink the show with their biased commentary and shallow interviews.” In the short-lived “Day’s End” five years later, she bombed again as a member of its cohost trio, “three of the dullest personalities in show business,” according to The San Francisco Examiner’s Michael Dougan. He predicted the show would “end in precious few days, and good riddance.” It hobbled along from March through June, then disappeared.

Nyad was slightly more realistic about a movie career. “I don’t think I’m as good on the big screen. But that doesn’t completely eliminate Hollywood” (Miami Herald). And to prove that, she had a script ready to go in 1978: “I’ve written a screenplay based on my life. It’s kind of like Rocky. And the happy ending is my Cuba swim.”

Nyad had to delay her happy ending for more than 30 years. By early 2013, her nephew Timothy Wheeler had finished The Other Shore, a documentary about aunt Diana and her four failed attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida. But when the likely faked climax finally arrived on a Key West beach that summer, Tim was there, “shooting so that he can massage that ending that I wanted.”

And now Diana’s 40-year-long biopic fantasy has almost come true. However, she should know better than anyone that the desire to reach another shore does not guarantee the arrival. Obstacles remain, some of which could sink a film based on a memoir she swears is word-for-word true but that she filled from cover to cover with lies.

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Tomorrow: “Diana Nyad and the Case of the Vomiting Valedictorian.”

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