After winning 8 Oscars in 2009, the team behind Slumdog Millionaire decided to seek a very different challenge in telling the true story of Aaron Ralston, a climber who, when stuck in the middle of a Utah canyon, had to sever his own arm with a blunt knife. James Franco is captivating as Ralston, and their is little respite from his entrapment as Danny Boyle finds a way of telling his story that is vivid, energetic and moving. Following a screening of the film at BFI Southbank, journalist and writer Amy Raphael chaired a discussion about the film with the principal members of the production team.
Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy talks about how he couldn't see the cinematic potential of the film until Boyle sent him a 40 page draft script that brought to life its possibilities. The main discovery for him was that Ralston had a video camera, and the idea of that connecting him to an audience and to the rest of his life transformed a claustrophobic story into one about the discovery of relationships and humility. Christian Colson, the film's producer, discusses how the videos Ralston made are an extraordinary document that became a guide to his character, a unique perspective on how he was dignified, courageous and composed in his acceptance of death. Though the production team had to convince Ralston that a narrative film was the best medium for his story, once he became involved he was open about the darker and less forgiving elements of his characterisation. Boyle reveals an intense drive for authenticity that meant he was keen to make the shoot particularly difficult and demanding for his star. The process he arrived at clearly paid off with a performance that underpins a raw and uplifting film. Fittingly for such a brilliant collaboration, it's a film that is ultimately about a man who is saved by realising he needs other people.