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Film

127 Hours
New York Press Conference
Interview With director/co-screenwriter Danny Boyle, actor James Franco, co-screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, producer Christian Colson & author Aron Ralston

Crosby Hotel
October 19, 2010

Read Frank J. Avella's Review
of 127 Hours


The amazing creative team behind the astounding new film, 127 Hours came together for an afternoon to discuss Boyle’s follow-up to his Oscar lauded Slumdog Millionaire. Here are excerpts from that press conference.

ON HOW THE PROJECT CAME TOGETHER

Danny Boyle: I was in London, I live in London, I heard the story in 2003. And I had-- it's weird what happened to the Chilean miners recently because in the same way that stories snagged, you know, the way it just snags people. I mean, look, people in Britain were really fascinated. And obviously, we heard the story when Aron came out of the canyon…And I remember following the news, tryin' to think oh, what, that'll be interesting. And then, I read his book in 2006…And I went to meet Aron in Holland…and we talked and I had a very particular and passionate vision of how I thought it should be, and you wanted to keep a bit more control of it… because you'd written a book and it was very factual and I was basically sayin', oh, no, don't do that, do this. Anyway, we couldn't find common ground on it…But, we got back together again…And my take on it was always that you'll never be able to watch-- if we depict it correctly, what happened to you, you'll never be able to tolerate it unless you can empathize. And the way we all know that happens is through actors. And so, we got together and started writing a script of it as a first person immersive experience. And Christian and I approached Fox Searchlight and said, please, we did so well last time. Let us develop this, please, let us make this story…And then, we saw a few actors, and we met this guy…I remember seeing Pineapple Express and thinking, whoa, great movie. But also thinking, wow, Franco, he's got real range, hasn't he? And that was a key ingredient.


James Franco in 127 Hours

ON JAMES FRANCO PLAYING ARON

James Franco: I think a lotta things happened there. A lot of very important things that ultimately guided me through the performance…Aron did some of the early work of just walking us through and showing us some of the things that he did…But most importantly, and I think everybody that's up here was in this room. We were at the Four Seasons in L.A., and it was the first time I met Aron, and he brought this-- ratty-- VHS tape that had the original reel videos on it. And we all sat there and watched it…And for me it was incredibly powerful for a lot of reasons…On the video, it's Aron in the middle of the situation, not knowing that he's gonna get out. And he made the messages up until, you know, within an hour of figuring out how to get out. And so, I imagine by the end-- I mean, I was saying to myself while we were watching it, wow, there's a guy that thinks he's gonna die, and, in some ways, he's accepted it…For me, as a performer, what I saw on those tapes was a guy with the knowledge that he was probably gonna die, but the way he delivered the messages was with such dignity and strength.

ON ADAPTING THE BOOK INTO A SCREENPLAY

Simon Beaufoy: Danny started the ball rolling with an extremely impressive piece of work that made it possible. Of all the mountaineering stories, this is the one that shouldn't be able to be told 'cause it's just one person on their own and they don't even move. It has everything going against it in terms of making a good film. And that was my initial response when Danny and Christian said, oh, we're doing a film about Aron. And I scratched my head and I thought of all the stories, why choose the one that's impossible to make? And then, Danny presented this document which had a way in, and it had all the verve and how it could be shot and how it could be done.

And crucially and very cleverly, he realized that he wasn't really down the canyon on his own. Because he had this video recorder, he was talking to somebody. And that is what really makes the film possible. Is that in a funny kinda way, there's two people down there. He's talking to himself, but he's also talking to his extended family. So, you have a route back through the video recorder into the rest of his life. And that, for me, was really fascinating because then you can explore what on earth this guy was doing down there, which is something we talked about a lot…what it is that drives people like Aron to push themselves nearer and nearer the edge of something, and challenge themselves more and more and more until they get to a place where they're sort of walking a very dangerous edge. And to me, that was the most interesting part and what makes this screenplay more than just a story about an extraordinary man getting out of an extraordinary situation.

ON ASSEMBLING THE CREATIVE TEAM

Christian Colson: It sort of assembled itself.,,Danny and I were looking for another movie to make together. He sent me the book and said what do you think about this? I thought it was an impossible adaptation...A beautiful book but enormously challenging to adapt. And he then shared the treatment with me-- which unlocked the way into the story Aron's book, which is exquisitely well written, I should say, can you see me Aron when I'm saying this?

Aron Ralston: Thank you, I appreciate that. (LAUGHS)

Christian Colson: I think one of the key creative decisions that happened very early on was to take that out of the story… it's one guy in one place with no one to talk to for six days, facing almost certain death-- and actually magnify that problem-- (LAUGHS) rather than reduce it.

We will immerse ourselve in this guy's experience more fully. And in order to do that, we're gonna have to develop a new grammar cinematically-- to keep motion and dynamism and interest and variation in the story.,,that was an enormous breakthrough, creatively, at the start of the story, which really got everything else rolling. And from that point it felt very natural to go and talk to Simon who we'd just worked with-- had a great time on Slumdog with. It felt very natural to go to Anthony Dod Mantle given that we were gonna be enormously reliant on these very small digital cameras that we used in Slumdog. We went back to that group of people. And indeed, to our studio partners. It felt like the right thing to do on the back of the success that we'd all enjoyed together, to go back to the same group of people and try and make a very different film but within the same family.

ON RALSTON’S FEELINGS WATCHING THE FILM

Aron Ralston: I mean, the whole film is very intense. I think it balances both my own personality-- my humor, a little bit of my confidence, maybe arrogance, the analytical nature as well as a little wild around the fringes...

I think James is much more charming in the film than maybe I personally am…Over in Newark, I got to see a rough cut of it, and I was crying from within the moment of when the boulder falls on him and pretty close to the beginning of the movie, and from that point, all the way through.

But at the moment of liberation, I'm like, I'm sitting there snacking on my popcorn when everybody else is, like, gripped in their seats. And I'm like why am I making so much munching noise here. But I was watching it thinking, wow, that's really well done-- which it is. And it's very authentic to what I went through.

But for me, and I think for a lot of people in the audience, it's the release, it's the liberation. You’ve gone through the entrapment. You've been there, and you want him to cut his arm off. And you understand why he smiled as James does. I really lobbied for that during the screenwriting, if there was one thing I cared about, it was that there was this smile, even just for a glimpse, just a glimmer that this is a happy thing. This is a euphoric experience.

ON WHAT DREW JAMES FRANCO TO THE PROJECT

James Franco: I was attracted to the setup. Aron's very incredible true story aside, just as a performer looking at a script like that was very exciting to me.

There are a lot of contrasts in this movie. There's an incredibly intense situation, but there's humor. The character is static, but the cameras and the technology they're using is cutting edge. And this is really, I believe, the most kind of cutting edge-- mainstream movie that you can find just based on what they're doing with the technology, how they're using the cameras. But to serve the film, not to show off and to serve the experience. And, in that way, you get Beckett on speed.


 

 

 


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