Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: Danny Boyle
Other cast: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Lizzy Caplan, Clemence Poesy
Release date: January 28, 2011
Running time: 1h34min
An adventurous mountain climber becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive.
Danny Boyle had been wanting to make a film about Ralston’s ordeal for four years; he wrote a film treatment and Simon Beaufoy wrote the screenplay. Boyle describes 127 Hours as “an action movie with a guy who can’t move”. He also expressed an interest for a more intimate film than his previous film, Slumdog Millionaire (2008): “I remember thinking, I must do a film where I follow an actor the way Darren Aronofsky did with The Wrestler. So 127 Hours is my version of that.”
Boyle and Fox Searchlight announced plans to create 127 Hours in November 2009, and News of the World reported that month that Cillian Murphy was Boyle’s top choice to play Ralston. In January 2010, James Franco was cast as Ralston. In March 2010, filming began in Utah; Boyle intended to shoot the first part of the film with no dialogue. By 17 June 2010, the film was in post-production.
Boyle made the very unusual move of hiring two cinematographers to work first unit, Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak, each of whom shot 50 percent of the film by trading off with each other. This allowed Boyle and Franco to work long days without wearing out the crew.
Boyle enlisted makeup effects designer Tony Gardner and his effects company, Alterian, Inc., to re-create the character’s amputation of his own arm. Boyle stressed that the realism of the arm as well as the process itself were key to the audience’s investing in the character’s experience, and that the makeup effects’ success would impact the film’s success. The false arm rigs were created in layers, from fiberglass and steel bone, through silicone and fibrous muscle and tendon, to functional veins and arteries, and finally skinned with a translucent silicone layer of skin with a thin layer of subcutaneous silicone fat. Gardner states that the effects work was extremely stressful, as he wanted to do justice to the story; he credits James Franco equally with the success of the effects work. Three prosthetics were used in all, with two designed to show the innards of the arm and another to emulate the outside of it. Franco would later note that seeing blood on the arm was difficult for him and his reactions in those scenes were genuine.
Franco admitted that shooting the film was physically hard on him: “There was a lot of physical pain, and Danny knew that it was going to cause a lot of pain. And I asked him after we did the movie, ‘How did you know how far you could push it?’ … I had plenty of scars… Not only am I feeling physical pain, but I’m getting exhausted. It became less of a façade I put on and more of an experience that I went through.”
127 Hours was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on 12 September 2010, following its premiere at the 2010 Telluride Film Festival. The film was selected to close the 2010 London Film Festival on 28 October 2010. It was given a limited release in the United States on 5 November 2010. It was released in the United Kingdom on 7 January 2011, and in India on 26 January 2011.