The press junket for 127 Hours was informative beyond our private interview with Danny Boyle. The real Aron Ralston and the filmmakers discussed the film, already generating controversy for its graphic depiction of a self-amputation. Ralston had to sever his own arm when he was trapped in a canyon for five days.
Even Ralston wants everybody to know it’s all good. He was happy to make the sacrifice. “They’re going to walk into this movie thinking it’s the story of the guy who cut his arm off,” Ralston said. “I hope they realize it’s about the guy who was smiling when he cut his arm off. It was a euphoric experience for me because it was going to get me back to what was important in my life. I had a chance to learn about that while I was trapped.”
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James Franco plays Ralston in the film version of the five days he spent with his arm pinned under a boulder. “For me that one thing was relationships, love, my past relationships and future ones as embodied in the little boy that appears there most of the way through there,” Ralston continued. “In the end it’s that crowd of people around the couch, that group, those are my real friends, my family, my sisters, my ex-girlfriend, ten of my closest guy friends. My wife and our son on the couch together. That’s what gave me the strength and the courage and the perseverance and everything you can attribute to someone who went through that. To have them there, to be honored in such a way by the film team, we got to be in the movie together. I hope for the audience it makes it a human experience. We’re always somebody’s child or somebody’s family, sometimes both. I couldn’t just stay out there and die.”
Boyle added that the scene is supposed to mean something different to each viewer. So some of you may cringe, but some of you will cheer Aron on. “We want to see drama told in a cathartic way, with power, with emotion where you empathize and then you’re frightened,” Boyle said. “All those feelings charge up in you and you feel for the story. If you tell it well you have a point suddenly where it just focuses into a scene which I guess in this one is the amputation, where people can put all sorts of their feeling in it. Some people are exhilarated in it, shouting, ‘Yes!’ like that and other people can’t look. Other people are almost faint. People are breathless. I sat behind a couple of guys who were humming all the way through it, ‘hmmmmmmmm mmmmm mmmm’ like this. That’s what drama’s about. It’s that power you can get through it, it’s a wonderful opportunity but you have to take your own control of it.”
It has to be that way, because a real person really did it. Boyle wasn’t going to cheat Ralston’s story. “Whether the film was successful or not, or well told or not, inevitably there’d be incredible focus on that scene,” Boyle said. “So we told it as truthfully as we could. It is the section of the movie more than any other where we keep very closely to the book, very, very closely. The time it took him, it took over 40 minutes. The plateaus of pain he went through as he kept going and as I said, the most important thing is that there is a story in there about where he’s going. It’s not about a brutal act. It is brutal but it is about where he’s going, not about the moment itself and that helped him get through it. It helped us get through it I think and it certainly did for Aron. You mustn’t sensationalize that by adding gore or making it too Hammer house of horror, but nor must you trivialize it by making it look too easy or too simple or not painful enough really. So that’s what we tried to do.”
127 Hours opens Friday.