Director Danny Boyle
Producers Christian Colson, Danny Boyle, John Smithson
Production companies Cloud Eight Films, Pathé Pictures, Everest Entertainment, Decibel Films, Darlow Smithson Productions
US distributor Fox Searchlight Pictures
International sales Pathé International
US release date November 5, 2010
“Danny and I had been looking for something to do together after Slumdog Millionaire,” says UK producer Christian Colson of the genesis of 127 Hours.
Boyle sent Colson a copy of Aron Ralston’s book — based on the rock climber’s remarkable escape after his arm was trapped under a boulder in a Utah canyon — along with a six-page treatment. Boyle had met with Ralston back in 2006 but they had been unable to agree on how to crack the story. Ralston wanted to make a documentary while Boyle preferred the idea of a dramatic account.
In early 2009, Francois Ivernel, executive vice-chairman at SlumdogMillionaire-backer Pathé UK, persuaded Boyle to revive the Ralston project. Colson’s Cloud Eight Films has a deal with Pathé and Boyle had a relationship with Fox Searchlight, which agreed to co-finance with Pathé. The Slumdog Millionaire team was back in business and the budget clocked in at about $18m.
“We spent a lot of time talking to Aron, not just for his sake but for ours,” says Colson. “When you’re making a film based on a true story, it brings responsibility. You want to honour the original property but we wanted to re-interpret the story.”
They took Ralston to Canyonlands in Utah, and also introduced him to screenwriter Simon Beaufoy. Once the script was finalised, shooting began in Utah on March 15, 2010 and wrapped two months later. On September 4, 127 Hours premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and has garnered eight Bafta nominations and three Golden Globes nominations.
“Creatively, we wanted to make a film with a kind of urgency,” Colson explains. “We cut Slumdog very quickly and the process of making the film somehow becomes imprinted on the movie itself. We thought that would be a good model for this story.”
To maintain the intensity, Boyle worked seven days a week. As Ralston, Franco was squeezed into a tiny space on a set in Utah which was an exact replica of the fateful canyon.
“The idea was to put James through the closest approximation of what Aron went through,” says Colson.