Being an actor isn’t always easy — just ask “127 Hours” star James Franco. Sure, there are paparazzi and the pitfalls of celebrity to deal with, but sometimes you’re posed with other challenges — for example, you might have to operate climbing gear entirely with your left hand while being trapped inside of a claustrophobic canyon.
That’s exactly what Franco was forced to overcome while shooting “127 Hours,” the latest feature film from “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle. Based on the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston, who got pinned beneath a boulder in Utah and had free himself by amputating his own arm, “127 Hours” put Franco into some truly compromising situations. The end result, according to the actor, was a performance that occasionally crossed the border between acting and real-life experience.
“You could write [in a screenplay] that he tries to tie the pulley and then he gets frustrated, you can do that moment, but actually trying to do [that while] being trapped, and doing it with my left hand, and doing that for like 15 minutes, I remember yelling out [the F-word] a couple of times,” Franco told MTV News of his experience. “That was like the character and me blurring at that moment.”
As Boyle explained, Franco was largely left to his own devices during the shooting, not only for creative reasons, but also because of physical restrictions. “In the canyon [where we were filming], you couldn’t really fit anybody in there [aside from Franco and two cameramen],” said the director. “I wasn’t in there. I was outside. I had a video link and a microphone so I could talk to them if I needed to and I could hear them, obviously, because I was linked to James’ mic. But there was only room for a cameraman in there.”
As if his virtual solitude wasn’t difficult enough, Boyle left Franco to film his own performance for long stretches of time, although only a portion of these takes made it into the movie’s final cut. “We ended up doing these really long takes, and then we’d use little snatches of them in the film, which makes it feel really vibrant,” said the director. “You only get bits of it, but [Franco] would have to go through the whole process of trying to rig that. To rig a pulley one-handed is really tough, and it wasn’t like we could stop and say, ‘OK, props, could you come and rig the pulley for James here while [he] relaxes?’ He had to rig the pulley. There were a couple of times where it was really tough to do one-handed.”
“For me, that really showed how parts of the way we approached this performance are authentic on a real level,” Franco said in summarizing the experience. “[We're] blurring the line between acting and experiencing, giving yourself physical tasks and trying to really complete them in a way.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “127 Hours.”
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