James Franco stars in 127 Hours.
127 Hours of Hellish Hope
Chatting Aron Ralston, Arm Amputation, James Franco, and More with Director Danny Boyle
Monday, November 15, 2010
Danny Boyle’s follow-up to his Academy Award-winning Slumdog Millionaire is the film 127 Hours, which depicts the true survival story of Aron Ralston, who was forced to amputate his own arm while pinned beneath a boulder in the mountains around Moab. The film is exhilarating, uplifting, and one of the best of the year. I was fortunate to recently sit down and speak with director Boyle.
When did you realize that this could be a movie? I read Aron’s book in 2006, and I approached him then about making it as this kind of film with an actor playing the part and it being first person. At that stage, he had just finished the book and didn’t want to give up that kind of control. He wanted to try and make it a documentary. … I didn’t think it would work like that. I said the only way you’ll ever be able to depict it properly and for the audience to tolerate what happens at the end of the movie is if you have that empathy with the lead actor that only great actors can give. … He is a kind of a superhero, but we always thought the story is not a superhero story—it’s actually the fact that he is pulled back down to Earth to all of us, to what we all share, and that allows him to get out of there. All his superhuman strength is redundant, which you can see at the beginning of the film when he tries to get out of there. He tries everything, and he can’t, because nature’s grain of sand has literally gone “No, wait,” and that’s what always struck us about the story.
Here’s a story about a trapped man, but he’s constantly moving. Can you talk about your approach? We had this mantra where every day we said to everyone in every way that this is an action movie where the hero is stuck and he can’t move, but he does move. … He’s on this journey about understanding himself. It’s classic drama really, except it’s real. … It was also the relationship James had with the camera which allowed us to give us the sense that this was constantly acted because the danger with a film like this is inertness. You can be still—and James is amazingly still when he leaves the video messages—but you can never be inert. There must always be some spark in there, which is sometimes physical, sometimes emotional. There is a journey going on the whole time before he achieves what I call the grace to get out of there, which is lineage really. In the film, there’s the hallucination of the child. Aron did see this child, but he was 27 and was not interested in being a parent. He was “playing the field” as we say in Britain, and he saw this child, and it wasn’t religious; it wasn’t like Jesus or anything like an epiphany in that sense. It was clearly his kid, and he had this incredible memory of his own father taking him to the Grand Canyon and this lineage idea that he did have a part to play and something important to do other than achieve climbing mountains or achieve records or fast times—he had something to contribute. And that’s how we’re all connected, isn’t it? You pass on life either directly or non-directly, and that gave him the clue to get out of there because, in seeing the kid, he literally worked out that the bone would bend, which he never would have thought of before that. And he did it just like that.
James Franco stars in 127 hours.
For showtimes, check the Independent's movie listings, here.