Based on the true-life journey taken by 73-year-old Alvin Straight in 1994, the film follows his route over several hundred miles through Iowa and Wisconsin. Straight made his trip over a period of six weeks, traveling at five miles per hour on a '66 John Deere riding lawn mower. Though legally blind and crippled by severe arthritis, he was determined to travel by his own means to reach his estranged brother, Hank, who was in the hospital with a stroke. Straight knew he didn't have much time left to mend things with his brother.
Alvin encounters many different people in his travels and shares his simple wisdom on each occasion. The trip is marked by many set backs which increase his fears that he may lose the opportunity to make peace with his brother.
Lynch was attracted to the story because of the human interest relationship with Straight's brother. He also wanted a chance to film a movie on location during the fall season. It's going to be a very visual film. The story will mostly center around Straight and the people he meets in his travels across Iowa. Most of the dialog in the film will consist of conversations with the people he encounters. The film also reunites Lynch with Directory of Photography Freddie Francis, whom he worked with on Elephant Man and Dune.
Lynch will once again be working with Angelo Badalamenti on the soundtrack for the film. The non-Badalamenti music in the film hasn't been selected yet, but will be stuff along the lines of Gene Autry.
Filming was completed on October 19, 1998.
The film is being financed by Les Films Alain Sarde and Le Studio Canal Plus. No US distributor has been selected yet, but October Films is one of the bidders. "The Straight Story" will be the first release from the new company, The Picture Factory, recently established by Lynch with writer-producer Mary Sweeney and producer Neal Edelstein. The Picture Factory was formed to give young new filmmakers a chance to get their films made. Future Lynch projects will be under the Asymmetrical name.