Last week saw the announcement of the start of production on Everest, Baltasar Kormákur's true-life tale of desolation and death on the world's tallest mountain. It's the story of two ill-fated expeditions in 1996 that resulted in the deaths of several climbers, including Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Rob Hall, a New Zealand climber played by Jason Clarke in the film. Empire spoke to the film's producer, Working Title's Tim Bevan, about what we can expect from the movie.
How long has this taken to get in front of cameras?
It's taken a while. Probably about twelve years, 12 to 13 years. It's been through various incarnations, this story. I got turned onto the story when I read [Jon] Krakauer's [he was part of the Adventure Consultants' party led by Rob Hall] book, Into Thin Air, and then I discovered that Universal owned a few other books about the incident. They owned Beck Weathers' [played by Josh Brolin in the film] Left For Dead and they owned the transcript of the radio conversation between Rob Hall and his wife as he was dying on the top of the mountain and various other stuff. And over the years we've got to know everyone who survived it, in particular a guy called David Breashears, who is the guy who made the IMAX movie [1998's documentary, Everest] and is the guy that made this story very much part of his life, a guy called Guy Cotter who now runs Adventure Consultants and was a big friend of Rob Hall's and is actually our mountain safety officer on the movie, and Jan Arnold - who is Rob Hall's widow. That's been the cauldron. We had one close encounter with the movie in 2006-07 when Stephen Daldry was going to do it for a while. That went to base camp and then it went dormant for quite a long time and then Baltasar, after he had made Contraband with us, was told about the story and that rekindled the whole thing.
After The Deep, he seems like the perfect guy for this.
|It's got bundles of character, bundles of drama, bundles of different opinions... It's got all those dramatic ingredients.|
He's a great fit. It's been waiting for the right director, which is a guy who can do the action and the drama and who also comes from the coldest place in the world. (laughs) Secondly, it was always our intention to give the audience the sensation of going up the mountain, and with where visual effects are now and where 3D is now, you're much more likely to be able to do that than you were a decade ago. And to wait for the right ensemble of actors. It had to be a bunch of people who were up for it and they are very up for it, they're all freezing their arses off in the Dolomites at the moment. It's a very congenial, happy bunch of people doing something that they want to do. It's not going to be an easy film to make.
There have been movies about mountaineering before, but effectively none about tackling Everest. Why?
Because it's fucking high and fucking cold and a lot of people die up there! The interesting thing about the '96 incident was that it's got oodles of all that. It's got bundles of character, bundles of drama, bundles of different opinions about what actually happened. It's got all those dramatic ingredients.
It's got a great cast. Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Jake Gyllenhaal... and the first image was of Jason Clarke as Rob Hall.
Jason is fast-rising. I'm delighted he ended up playing the part because we're in a place where Antipodeans are playing Antipodeans and Americans are playing Americans. It makes it easier in terms of the authenticity of the piece. When you have a big ensemble like this, there has to be some democracy to the casting, otherwise it gets too big and tips the balance. I already know this - there's a nice verité feel to the film and if you have a stonking big movie star in the middle, it doesn't work at that point because you don't believe it.
You're shooting in Italy right now. Did you do any shooting on Everest itself?
We've done the plate shooting on Everest. We've been working very closely with David Breashears, and our plate unit flew up to 24,000, 25,000 feet. They were at the level of camp three.
Are you heading up a mountain yourself?
|I'm going to watch this from the Working Title screening room and say, 'that's not real!'|
No. I'm going to be the ultimate judge. I'm going to watch this from the Working Title screening room and say, 'that's not real!' The cast went up to 15,600 feet. They were just below base camp.
I imagine it's well insured.
It's very well insured. But I think it's important that they do that. Selling the effects of altitude on film to an audience is not easy. Above 26,000 feet you might as well be on the moon basically, and that's what happened to them, you're in the death zone and nobody can come to rescue you. When things go wrong above 26,000 feet that's a very, very bad situation.
In a way, this reminds me of the situation you faced on United 93 where you were dealing with the families of the passengers on that plane. How have your dealings been with the survivors and the families of those who passed away?
They've been great. The passage of time helps that. Jan said last year, our job is to honour the dead from this and respect the living. That's what we want to do.