One of the best things about winning an Oscar is the new-found strategic power a filmmaker has at his disposal when he’s shooting from the hilltop. From that high ground stronghold, Danny Boyle took his certified prestige to leverage an unlikely project that might never have been green-lit without the fortified clout the Academy can confer.
The advantage we got with the [Slumdog Millionaire] success we had was that you had an opportunity to do something with it, and I‚Äôve wanted to make this film since 2005‚Ä¶I didn‚Äôt want to do it like Touching the Void, because that was so wonderful and I didn‚Äôt want to do it like a documentary. I said I wanted to do it where you are part of the experience, and where the audience is trapped with [Aron Ralston] for the whole 127‚Ä¶Without that [Slumdog] success, we wouldn‚Äôt have gotten to make it. Because what you saw in the teaser trailer is the good bit, the fun bit ‚Äì and after that he‚Äôs stuck there.
Boyle framed the wordless conflict by regarding the boulder as a stone-cold Evil Wilson:
The bit after you saw him getting trapped in the trailer has him trying, for hours, to get out. Now we‚Äôd fixed it so he couldn‚Äôt move the rock; but by God he tried! He tried to rip that set apart. So we had two cameramen every day, because we didn‚Äôt have a villain ‚Äì except for the rock, but it‚Äôs inanimate ‚Äì but we‚Äôll have two cameramen and change them so it gives him something different to do.
After the cut, Boyle explains the cinematic handicap that attracted him to the story, and how camcorder culture inspired his approach:
“Do you remember the Brian Keenan story? He was chained to a radiator. I wanted to make something like that, where there are no movements; it‚Äôs just focused on you. So we had these digital cameras we used for Slumdog that are very small and manoeuverable and you can get in there. It makes the story more urgent in a way. This guy took a video camera with him, he filmed himself every day. He hasn‚Äôt shown them to everyone except his mum and a couple of friends, they‚Äôre in a bank vault. He showed them to us and James Franco. When he runs out of water, there‚Äôs a gap in the tape where he didn‚Äôt tape himself for two days, and there‚Äôs no gap on the tape. And the change is incredible, this shrinking of the human spirit. And this was before YouTube but he was obsessed with documenting everything. But we want it to be a challenge for you guys as well, to see if you can watch it.‚Äù