127 Hours: Interview with director Danny Boyle

127 Hours 127 Hours 127 Hours 127 hours 127 Hours

Danny Boyle is the director of "127 Hours," the true story of a man who was forced to cut his own arm of after a tragic climbing accident. The film, which stars James Franco, is being released by Fox Searchlight on November 5.

An extraordinary story


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.”  


An impossible movie?


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!” 


“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.


On James Franco as Aron Ralston


The team believed 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.”


Middle of nowhere


“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.”  


“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.