Aron Ralston Discusses "127 Hours"
127 HOURS ***** Riveting! A captivating cinematic experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Featuring an emotionally draining performance from James Franco, director Danny Boyle displays his unique visual flair and exquisite craftsmanship as a visualist who knows how to turn a great story into and unforgettable experience. It is difficult (if not impossible) to tell a story that most people know, and equally impossible to keep the attention for 90 minutes with most of the action taking place on one, isolated location. Boyle succeeds on all levels, allowing the compelling story to have an imaginative and soulful inner life that drives the narrative. The result is a powerful anthem of hope for anyone who has ever suffered hardship, and poignantly shows the triumph of the human spirit. Yes, everyone is waiting for that "rock" that will change their lives, just as Boyle's extraordinary creation is guaranteed to change the way you look at life and how you regard your role in the bigger scheme of things. (review by Daniel E. Dercksen)
127 HOURS is the new film from Danny Boyle, the Academy Award winning director of 2008's Best Picture, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. 127 HOURS is the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston's (James Franco) remarkable adventure to save himself after a falling boulder crashes on his arm and traps him in an isolated slot canyon in Utah. Throughout his journey, Ralston recalls friends, lovers (Clémence Poésy), family, and the two hikers (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara) he met before his accident. Over the next five days Ralston battles the elements and his own demons to finally discover he has the courage and the wherewithal to extricate himself by any means necessary, descend a 65 foot wall and hike over eight miles before he is finally rescued. Told with a dynamic narrative structure, 127 HOURS is a visceral, thrilling story that will take an audience on a never before experienced journey and prove what we can do when we choose life.
Fox Searchlight Pictures and Pathé present, in association with Everest Entertainment, a Cloud Eight / Decibel Films / Darlow Smithson production. 127 HOURS is directed by Danny Boyle from a screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) based on the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston. The film is produced by Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson and the executive producers are Bernard Bellew, John J. Kelly, François Ivernel, Cameron McCracken, Lisa Maria Falcone and Tessa Ross. The cast, headed by James Franco, includes Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, Clémence Poésy, Kate Burton and Lizzy Caplan. Using visually inventive techniques to recreate the lead character's full range of experience, the production utilized two primary cinematographers, Anthony Dod Mantle, B.S.C., D.F.F. (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) and Enrique Chediak (28 DAYS LATER), production and costume designer Suttirat Larlarb (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), editor Jon Harris (KICK-ASS) with music by A.R. Rahman (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE).
On a Friday night in April of 2003, 26 year-old Aron Ralston drove to Utah to spend the weekend hiking in the stunningly beautiful and remote Canyonlands National Park in Utah.
Six days later, he would emerge to recount the most remarkable story of outdoor survival -- and an unforgettable tale of human strength when faced with adversity.
Many who had heard the story of how Ralston survived the harrowing 127 hours in the wild, his hand pinned by an immovable fallen boulder, with scant food and mere drops of water, escaping only by an act of incredible bravery, wondered:
What did he go through in this sudden, extreme moment of reckoning?
How did he possibly find the will to hang on in such a desperate situation?
Would I do what he did in order to live?
These are the questions that also intrigued the team of director Danny Boyle, producer Christian Colson and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, who last collaborated together on SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, the exuberant love story set in India's slums that became an Academy Award winning global phenomenon. But Boyle also saw something more in Ralston's inspiring story. He saw an opportunity to forge a groundbreaking first-person cinematic experience, one that could immerse the audience in every emotionally charged second -- every fantasy, dream, memory, regret and inspiration - as Ralston moved from despair to a powerfully moving re-commitment to life that led him to do what seemed impossible.
From the moment he first began reading Aron Ralston's best-selling memoir, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Boyle knew exactly what kind of film he wanted to convey from this real-life story, one that would use a highly subjective camera to penetrate the lead character's personal journey, to get under Aron's skin and into his head during the most urgent life-or-death circumstance, in a way no other medium could.
"I knew I wanted to bring the audience into the canyon with Aron and to not let them go until he himself is released," the director explains. "Of course, I saw this as an extraordinary story of outdoor survival, but I also think there is a whole other layer to this story that will be surprising for people. It's not simply about how Aron survived, incredible as that is. There is a life force that Aron tapped into that goes way beyond his remarkable courage as an individual, and that's what we hoped to capture on screen. It's something that binds us all together and when Aron, who seems all alone in this canyon, is pulled back to the idea of community, there is something very powerful that happens."
Boyle goes on: "People often say about the story, 'Oh, I don't know if I could do that.' But I think we all would do anything we could for this life that is so beautiful and keeps us going. What I think Aron experienced in that canyon over those six days was a sudden realization of the full value of life. One of the ideas of the film is that he was never really alone in the canyon. Physically, he very much was, but he was surrounded spiritually by everyone he'd ever known or loved or dreamed about. That made the difference and we wanted to get that feeling into the story."
Boyle was acutely aware that he was about to attempt something that, on the face of it, sounded impossible, "We were going to make an action movie in which the hero can't move!"
How can action be sustained when the film's hero can only maneuver inside a sphere of a mere few feet, and everything he does is largely inside his own head?
"I felt we could make the film so visceral and involving on a visual and emotional level that people would get lost in the story, just as Aron got lost in the canyons," answers Boyle.
The team knew that there was only one actor they felt that could convey the conviction and emotion needed to draw the audience in. "James has this extraordinary technical facility," notes Boyle, "and that's what was needed because 127 HOURS is nearly a one-man film. But James went beyond that, stepping up to every single challenge, physical and emotional, that was thrown at him. He was so wonderful for this role. He got so into it, it became, in a way, as much about James Franco as it was about Aron Ralston."
What made the project even more interesting to Boyle and Beaufoy is that it was clearly the polar opposite to their previous experience on SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. In a dizzying, 180-degree turn they went from shooting in the "Maximum City" of Mumbai to shooting in a claustrophobic canyon in the middle of nowhere, barely large enough to squeeze in just one man.
"It was extraordinary to go from the crowds of Mumbai, where you're surrounded by a billion people, to the opposite extreme of a man completely on his on own," says Boyle. "It was a wonderful contrast and a terrific challenge. The films couldn't be any more different - and yet, in a way, they are both about beating impossible odds."
127 HOURS evokes the grand tradition of films depicting men pushed to their limits by nature from CALL OF THE WILD to TOUCHING THE VOID but 127 HOURS breaks the mold by celebrating life rather than the triumph of the individual.
"While he was trapped, Aron could not have been any further from human contact but that triggered in him a realization of how important all the people and loved ones he left behind were to him. It spurred in him a connection with life that was so profound it kept him going. That is what the film is about. It is definitely not the one-man story it might appear to be on the surface," says Boyle.
This is what also attracted Everest Entertainment to the story, who helped finance the endeavor. "I'm really pleased for Everest to be part of bringing such a meaningful story to life," said Lisa Maria Falcone. "We are constantly looking for memorable and passionate projects that resonate with their audiences and 127 HOURS is a prime example."
MEETING ARON RALSTON
As soon as Danny Boyle had discovered Aron Ralston's story he sent his producing partner Christian Colson, who produced SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, a copy of Ralston's book. Colson confesses he was not immediately sold. Read more
JAMES FRANCO ENTERS THE CANYON
From the beginning, Danny Boyle knew he was going to require something quite extraordinary from his lead actor, not just in his performance but also someone who could possess the physical capabilities demanded by the role of Aron. Not only would that actor have to be able to handle being in nearly every frame of the film and have to work in physically suffocating quarters, under mentally unhinging circumstances, he would also have to let the camera get deep inside to the most primal of emotions. Stripped of everything, even the ability to move, Aron was left with a raw view into who he was and who he hoped to become. Read more
BOLD VISION AND VISUAL IDEAS
The highly unusual nature of the 127 HOURS shoot meant that Danny Boyle and his team had to think way outside of even the most creative filmmaking box. For Boyle, everything was about a single word - momentum. His driving force was to keep the screen, at every second, full of both constant motion and emotion, no matter how little changes outwardly for Aron over the days and nights of his journey. At the beginning of the film, Boyle sets the film's high speed, high adrenaline tone by following Aron playing in the outdoors in the daring, on-the-edge way he always did. He flies through the colorful desert on his mountain bike, scrambles over red and golden rocks with two girls he meets while hiking, and leaps with abandon into pure blue pools of water. Then the world stops for Aron and all the motion now happens inside his mind. Read more
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
DANNY BOYLE's (Director/Screenwriter/Producer) first feature, SHALLOW GRAVE, earned him the Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film at the BAFTA Awards, as well as a host of other accolades including Best Director at the San Sebastian Film Festival, The Empire Award for Best Director and Best British Film and the London Critics' Circle Film Award for Best British Newcomer. Boyle's second feature, TRAINSPOTTING, is one of the highest grossing British films of all time. The critically acclaimed film won four Empire Awards including Best Director and Best Film and was nominated for a BAFTA Alexander Korda Award.
In 2002 Boyle made the smash hit horror film 28 DAYS LATER, which earned more than $80 million worldwide. The film earned Boyle a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.
Boyle's other feature films include MILLIONS starring James Nesbit, Alex Etel and Lewis McGibbon, THE BEACH, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, A LIFE LESS ORDINARY, starring Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz, ALIEN LOVE TRIANGLE and SUNSHINE starring Cillian Murphy. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is his eighth international theatrically released film and beginning with the People's Choice Award at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival went on to win more than 100 international industry awards including 4 Golden Globes, 7 BAFTAs and 8 Academy Awards.
His work in television includes producing Alan Clark's controversial ELEPHANT and directing STRUMPET, VACUUMING COMPLETELY NUDE IN PARADISE and the series MR. WROE'S VIRGINS for which he received a BAFTA nomination.
Boyle's career started in the theatre with Howard Barker's VICTORY, Howard Brenton's THE GENIUS and Edward Bond's SAVED, which won the Time Out Award. Boyle has also directed five productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
SIMON BEAUFOY (Screenwriter) trained as a documentary director at Bournemouth Film School but became a screenwriter by accident after losing a lot of the BBC's money on a documentary that never got shot. His screenwriting credits include the feature films THE FULL MONTY, AMONG GIANTS, THE DARKEST LIGHT, THIS IS NOT A LOVE SONG and co-writer on MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY. His latest adaptation for the screen, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN, is currently shooting.
He also wrote BURN UP, a two part thriller for the BBC about the politics of Climate Change and YASMIN for Channel 4. He previously collaborated with Danny Boyle and Christian Colson on the multi Academy Award winner, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. He is currently writing a pilot, EMERGENCY SEX, for HBO and Executive Producer Russell Crowe.
ARON RALSTON (Based on by) growing up in the Mid-West before moving to Colorado with his family in 1987, had little exposure to the wild outdoors. But by the time he set out for a hike in a remote area of Utah's canyon country in April of 2003, he was already an experienced outdoorsman, mountaineer, and skier. Seven miles into the canyon that day, Aron accidentally dislodged a boulder that crushed and pinned his right hand. After six days of entrapment alone, he freed himself with a cheap multi-tool knife and hiked to a miraculous rescue. Since his accident, Aron has written a bestselling book, spoken to audiences in 200 cities around the world, and helped develop new prosthetic devices. With his adaptive creations, Aron has returned to his outdoor passions, including his landmark mountaineering project of climbing all 59 of Colorado's 14,000-foot-high mountains, solo, in winter. In 2008, he made the first disabled ski descent of Denali, North America's highest mountain, and a year ago, he became the first amputee to row a raft through the Grand Canyon. Today, Aron and his wife Jessica live in Boulder, Colorado, where they are raising their newborn son, Leo. Besides consulting on the major motion picture adaptation of his book, Aron advocates for Utah and Colorado wilderness.
THE ART OF ADAPTATION