By Bryan Reesman HE THOUGHT of even fic- tionally witnessing the real-life horror experienced by moun- tain climber Aron Ralston has understandably made many moviegoers squeamish. (Ralston, whose right hand became pinned under a boulder during a hike in Utah, had to take drastic measures to escape from his five-day nightmare.) But the truth is that the acclaimed 127 Hours is an engrossing film. Using flashbacks, hal- lucinations and solo video footage, it vividly paints a portrait of a nature- loving loner who learns to better appre- ciate his life and his family and friends through his terrible ordeal. A key part of the film’s success is the per- formance of Golden Globe– and Oscar- nominated actor James Franco, who worked under the assured direction of Oscar-winner Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire). Franco is the film’s anchor, and he summons a fan- tastic performance that will keep you glued to the screen. Franco tells The Costco Connection that while Ralston was very much involved in the creation of the film, Boyle also made sure that filming the movie was an experience he and Franco went through together. “The story itself is incredibly dramatic,” declares Franco. “But the fact is, if we really told the true story, the guy would be there for five days with long, long passages of time where nothing was going on. So it was the filmmakers’ job to take all that material and turn it into something dramatic and exciting and something that built up to a climax and had an arc to it. Once we made the step towards making a movie, we wanted it to be realistic and wanted to honor Aron and the xperience that he went through, but there are slightly different kinds of requirements when you are making a feature film than just he facts. It’s more about bringing the experi- ence to life.” Replicating that experience meant shoot- ing primarily in one very claustrophobic loca- tion. That factor and the intensity of the material admittedly drove Franco a little crazy. “If you can just imagine going back to the same spot every day and performing the most intense kind of material—it’s like Sartre’s No Exit, you know? That was one of the reasons why Danny wanted a short, intense schedule.” Simultaneously utilizing two accom- plished directors of photography, Boyle was able to amass three and a half months’ worth of material in just two, explains Franco. While the actor was on the set six days a week, he says the director worked all seven. On the extra day, Boyle would shoot scenes with the other actors.
Pressurepoint James Franco, as Aron Ralston, contemplates his options after becoming pinned under a boulder in 127 Hours.
James Franco’s journeybehind 127 Hours
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Indeed, those additional scenes, which include family members, recent acquain- tances and a truly freaky cameo from an in- flatable Scooby-Doo, help flesh out Ralston’s personality and traces of his life story that he felt metaphorically led to his predicament. Being able to watch videos that Ralston made while he was trapped certainly helped Franco channel the angst Ralston felt at the time. “Whenever Aron tells the story now, every- body knows that he got out,” notes the actor. “But on the video it’s not hindsight. He’s in the middle of it and doesn’t know that there’s a happy ending. It was pure behavior. It was not somebody telling me what it was like, it was eeing somebody right in the middle of it, and the surprising thing was how composed he was. He made them [video messages] over the course of the five days, up until within
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an hour of figuring out how to escape. He was
starting to deteriorate physically and emotionally, but he held himself together all the way
through, because he was making the messages
for his family and his mother. At the end he
thought it was the last thing that they would
ever see of him. He tried to make them controlled enough that his mother would be able
to watch them.”
Luckily, Franco and Boyle made a highly
watchable film from very dire straits. It may
not always be easy to sit still through, but 127
Hours is a testament to the human spirit and
the ability to transform oneself through painful life lessons. C
New York freelancer Bryan Reesman has been
published in The New York Times, American
Way and Inked.
More in archives
To read The Connection’s
interview with Aron Ralston, go
to Costco.com, enter “Connection.”
At Online Edition, search “Ralston.”
MARCH 2011 ;e Costco Connection 65