(Spoiler Alert ***)
Here are a few (I say a few) fun facts about the movie 127 Hours.
The casting of James Franco as Aron Ralston
- James Franco wasn’t Danny Boyle’s first choice to play Aron, Cillian Murphy (Inception and The Wind That Shakes The Barley) was. Other actors who were considered include Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson and Lars And The Real Girl), Sebastian Stan (notable for Black Swan, Rachel Getting Married and his appearances on TV’s Gossip Girl).
- When James Franco came to audition for the part of Aron Ralston, Danny Boyle thought he was stoned although he was just tired from studying at Columbia and NYU University. They cast James Franco because of his variety and his comedic side, seen in Pineapple Express.
- To prepare for the role James Franco met Aron Ralston and was shown Aron’s real tapes when he was trapped in the canyon. Such material was unlike any other videos he had utilized when preparing for other roles, such as when he played James Dean and Allen Ginsburg. During the ordeal Aron would record the last things he would say to his mother, but also he would turn the camera off when he got emotional because he didn’t want her to see that.
- For James Franco, the role was complex because he was acting in a vacuum with no other actors to react to, but at least he had the video camera to react to. In essence the camera was a survival mechanism for Aron.
- James Franco did perform some stunts himself.
Danny Boyle’s Direction
- For Danny Boyle the mantra of the film was to make an action film where the main character can’t move. Therefore the kinetic directing style employed by Boyle was important.
- One thing Aron objected to was the scene at night, where he freaks out that something is behind him, and he uses the flash of the camera to identify what’s behind him. Initially it was a 6 foot tall raven which he thought was going to eat him. They changed this to Scooby Doo as the raven was the only living thing Aron had a relationship with during the ordeal.
- Originally the ending of the film included three scenes where Aron met his mom, went to sister’s wedding and went and saw his ex-girlfriend. However James Franco told Danny Boyle these scenes would be cut from the film before filming them. When Danny Boyle showed it to his friends they said you were ending an unconventional film in a conventional way so he got rid of these scenes.
- During the “cutting the hand” sequence, initially the script consisted of lines whereby Aron says the knife is too blunt. However James Franco was important in acting as a grey filter, who as a great actor, had the instinct to know when to get rid of unnecessary and rubbish writing.
- Also this sequence was graphic because Danny Boyle didn’t want to sensationalize it like a horror movie or trivialize cutting the arm, so that it’s not too easy or too comfortable so that you look away. In effect when it happens you go on an extraordinary journey with Aron which has an ending and therefore you have to go through a portal to something else with him as well.
- When Danny met Aron for the first time about the story, it was during Aron’s book tour, when he was in Holland. Aron wanted it to be made into more of a documentary.
- Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy and producer Christian Colson have all been down the canyon and the boulder is still there.
- The main camera they used was a Silicon Imaging 2K camera which was important for tiny spaces.
- To give the film its physical energy, Boyle would film long takes.
- The aim was to compress editing, therefore editing by John Harris took about three months.
- The title of the book was changed from Between A Rock And A Hard Place to 127 Hours because Boyle wanted it to sound more like an action thriller.
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy’s collaboration on the script
- When Danny Boyle approached Simon Beaufoy to write a screenplay about Aron Ralston’s extraordinary story, he didn’t want to do it because it seemed impossible. Given Simon is an experienced mountain climber he knew about the story of Aron and didn’t know how to dramatize it. So he told Boyle, as he was kind of obsessed with the idea, to write the screenplay himself. Until Boyle wrote a 6 page treatment and 40 pages of screenplay about how the film would look , Beaufoy came on board with the idea. This treatment consisted of the crowd scenes which make up the opening sequence of the film. In effect the reasons for why Aron was down in the canyon, by himself, with no one (his family and friends) having any idea he was there was the main trigger for Beaufoy to start playing with the script.
- The major cinematic grammar for the film was the video camera as it allowed the filmmakers to go back into Aron’s past.
- The hardest part of the script and the whole film was to make the audience forget that he survived. Therefore the audience have to be immersed in the experience and literally be down the canyon with Aron.
- The opening sequence was crucial to get the audience on board with Aron. Thus the crowd sequences were put in the beginning and the end of movie to show that everyone needs people even Aron. He learns through his experience he can’t survive alone and he does need people.
- The graphic detail put into the pivotal scene, when Aron cuts off his hand was described in equal intricate detail in Aron’s book. So they wrote the detail not only to honour the book but also because the audience have the responsibility to survive the experience with Aron.
- As the film is only about one guy, Danny Boyle wanted to create variation so obviously use James Franco’s versatility but, also get two cinematographers; Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak. Using two cinematographers allowed him to achieve compression to also reduce shooting schedules so basically they had ten day shooting weeks (so they had two nits shooting five times a week).
- The song used in the title sequence Never Hear Surf Music Again by Free Blood was found during location scouting in Utah, when Danny Boyle was playing the ipod of the costume designer of the film, on the car stereo.
AR Rahman and the score
- AR Rahman wrote all of the songs on solo guitar as it is perhaps the major instrument in American culture. Also this instrument fit with the script because Aron is young and has an never-ending enthusiasm.
- For the scene where Aron sees a hallucination of his future son Rahman gave Danny a track with Dido singing. Danny liked it but wanted AR Rahman in the track as well, which is essentially a lullaby, so both of their voices are heard in If I Rise.
- When AR Rahman read the script, he decided the music should be more personal and intimate.
- There were three different musical themes in the film. The sun theme whereby Aron receives sunlight on his leg, the lullaby Dido sang and the driving guitar, used for example when cutting his hand.
If I Rise:
- The film consisted approximately of a budget of 18 million dollars. The filmmakers shot in Moab and Salt Lake City, Utah. Filming began in March 2010 and was in post-production by June 2010.
- Danny used the success of Slumdog Millionaire to do 127 hours, a film which was pecuiliar and which some studios would be nervous about doing.
- Most of the film shot in a replication of the canyon in Salt Lake City. They filmed in the real canyon for about a week.
Trivia about Scenes
- James Franco utilized the same camcorder in the movie Aron had during his whole ordeal in Blue John Canyon.
- The pivotal amputation scene was filmed in one take with multiple cameras as only one prosthetic arm was created. Furthermore to re-construct Aron’s perspective, special effects designer Tony Gardner collaborated with medical professionals for this crucial scene.
- Although the fall scene lasted about 8 seconds, it took several days to film.
- James was never allowed to take his hand out of the wall during filming, so he could be more dextrous with his left hand like Aron.
- When Aron tries to move the rock initially, James tried to move it and like Aron he forgot and drank a third supply of the water- which in Aron’s case was a critical mistake.
- After the fall sequence most of the film was shot sequentially.
- Aron was trained as an engineer so in reality he tried so many ways to escape include crushing the boulder with another boulder and lifting it with a pulley system.
- When Aron cut his hand off he was smiling but Simon Beaufoy didn’t want to put this in the script. Instead in the film when Aron breaks his bone James Franco laughs. Aron described breaking his arm off as a sense of liberation to get back to the people and the world he had abandoned.
- Aron read every draft of the script and made comments about it.
- The hallucinations that Aron has in the film, came from Simon Beaufoy having conversations with Aron. One good example is the flash food, where Aron said that he feared if there was a flash flood in the canyon, he would die instantly.
- After watching the film for the first time, Aron cried after the first 20 minutes because of the honest depiction of the film; in that the recollections of the character and his experiences with his family are what kept him alive in the canyon during the affliction.
- On the last day of the ordeal, Aron had a premonition that he had an unborn child, as shown in the film. It was this vision which gave him the determination to get out of the canyon and go and have his son. He met his wife three years ago and his premonition came true when he had his baby boy Leo.