Like most people who heard Aron Ralston’s story, Danny Boyle didn’t forget it. Ralston did, after all, amputate his own arm to escape a boulder that trapped him, then repelled down a cliff and hiked through Utah’s Canyonlands National Park to find help.
Now — after convincing someone to fund an action movie set almost entirely in a crevice, and casting James Franco to carry the film essentially alone — Boyle’s ready to launch “127 Hours,” his gorgeous, tense and unfathomably action-packed depiction of Ralston’s grueling six days.
It’s an adventure film in a space smaller than a cubicle. How did you sell that one?
In movies, you pay your money and you go into this black box with these other people and you sort of are voluntarily trapped with all of these people — unless it’s s— and you walk out — but I always thought there was some equation where this would work. I mean, OK, he can’t move, but it’s an action movie — his mind, his heart, everything’s really moving, all the time.
Essentially, it’s a one-man show. What made you cast James Franco?
The first time I met him it wasn’t a good meeting. He does this thing where he looks stoned the whole time. And you think, “Am I here? Does he know I’m here?” But then we had another meeting in L.A., and it was fantastic. That sleepy thing he does is a front that he puts up to sort of protect him from all the Hollywood stuff.
What are the challenges of filming in such a tiny, claustrophobic space?
I wanted the crew to be frustratingly restricted, and they were. And they were annoyed about it, you could tell, but I think that was part of the deal. Because when you watch a movie, I think you do know if there’s a cheat. James should only have what Aron had, nothing more. We were very tough. The only difference was, obviously, if he wanted to pee, we allowed him to go to the restroom. And obviously, we kept him hydrated.