Tuesday Sep 15, 2015

Everest: Filming on the world's highest mountain

Inspired by the incredible events surrounding an attempt to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Everest documents the awe-inspiring journey of two different expeditions challenged beyond their limits by one of the fiercest snowstorms ever encountered by mankind.

Their mettle tested by the harshest elements found on the planet, the climbers will face nearly impossible obstacles as a lifelong obsession becomes a breathtaking struggle for survival against the power of Mother Nature.

The amazing story has been brought to the big screen by director Baltasar Kormákur and Extreme.com sat down with the man himself to learn that creating the film had plenty of unique challenges itself.

Director/Producer Baltasar Kormakur on the set of Everest. Credit: Jasin Boland

Q. What drew you to the Everest project?

"I had the opportunity to do something real on a big scale with a script that doesn’t fall into the pitfalls of conventional Hollywood story telling. It allowed it to be real and human without villains and heroes, the usual stuff we often see.

"This is a powerful story that doesn’t need that kind of treatment, powerful on its own merits, and also has the opportunity to tell that story on that scale that the mountain offers you."

Q. Did you know much about the incident from 1996 which the movie is based on?

"Yeah, I remember it because at the time I had just had my daughter that year and hearing that gruelling story stayed with me for quite a while."

We had to evacuate them really quickly by helicopter because the weather was getting bad...

Q. You’ve got an incredible cast. Did anyone turn you down when they realised how gruelling the shoot would be?

"No, but they tried to once we had started and they realised how hard! They thought they couldn’t do it, but I wasn’t going to let anyone go and I think the ones that were weak at that moment were really happy when they got through it!"

Q. How did they prepare for their roles?

"Jason Clark, Josh Brolin and Martin Henderson all trained with guides. Jake [Gyllenhaal] was making another movie at the time so had limited time for prepping. He had done some climbing to my understanding prior to this and also trained when he came to set. We didn’t put anyone on the mountain with any training."

Q. How did you choose the locations for such an incredible backdrop like Everest?

"I went for everything I could in Kathmandu, up the hills. We walked along the foothills until everyone got so sick we had to evacuate them really quickly by helicopter because the weather was getting bad and we did that for a week.

"Actors were carrying their own stuff with no assistance, like back at film school, carrying equipment for the crew. It kind of bound everyone together really nicely going through these hills. Then we went to Italy and that was pretty gruelling too as it was -30C and it stayed pretty much like that for the next six weeks!"

Q. What was the most difficult sequence to shoot?

"In some ways some of the sequences that we couldn’t do in the elements were very complicated and dangerous and very high up and were done in the studio and even in the studio were very difficult."

Q. Were there any times during the shoot you thought that you’d taken on too much?

"Yeah, pretty much every morning at 7 o’clock as I went up to the set!"

Q. You’re an actor, producer and director; do you have a favourite job?

"A director, absolutely. I get a fulfilment that directing gives to me. Producing came more out of necessity, because I needed to produce my own films. I see myself as a director. As for being an actor, that’s more like a vacation for me."

Q. The film shows Mother Nature at her most beautiful and most dangerous. Do you think that’s what attracts mountain climbers to the sport in the first place?

"I think there are a lot of explanations to it. The beauty of it is absolutely one thing. There’s a kind of need to put yourself through it and to measure yourself against nature and understanding it. I think also it’s an existential thing. Inside some people it’s part of living life to the full. It’s something living inside and often the more we’re close to it the more we feel alive.

"I’ve had numerous people explain that to me from extreme sports. Some of those people have this and very few can explain it as they are not necessarily philosophers or psychiatrists, they’re climbers and they feel it’s a need. It’s like, you know “why do we have sex?” It’s a primal need."

You can watch the epic new movie Everest when it arrives in cinemas on Friday 18th September.

Channels: Extreme, Outdoor