By Mary Anne Potts; Photographs by Chuck Zlotnick, Fox Searchlight
For his new film, 127 Hours, British director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) takes on the story of Aron Ralston, the then-27-year-old hiker who, in 2003, was canyoneering in Utah’s remote Blue John Canyon when his hand became pinned under an 800-pound boulder. He had told no one where he was going. After five days with just his own urine left for hydration, Ralston had one last option—to cut off his hand. He did it with a cheap multitool. And he survived.
To make the movie, which is based on Ralston’s best-selling autobiography and stars actor James Franco, the film team trekked into Canyonlands National Park and even camped out at Blue John Canyon. The three-foot wide slot canyon was far too hard to access for the majority of filming, so they built a replica on a soundstage, carefully mapping out each contour of the stone.
Here, Boyle talks about camping out in canyon country, the transforming power of life-or-death decisions, and what he believes we’d all do when caught between a rock and a hard place.
What was it like to work on a film that requires so much hiking, climbing, and rappelling in such a remote part of the country?
Danny Boyle: It was shocking. We camped for a week in the actual location in Utah. As I lay in my single-man tent at night, it was so quiet, it woke me up. It was unnervingly quiet, with no sirens going off, no people arguing. I realized then that it had been 33 years since I last went camping. My take on this film was not so much that it was a wilderness film. In some curious way, even though it’s about one guy in the wilderness, it’s actually a film about people. And the film has an urban rhythm more than a meditative wilderness rhythm.