Based on the true events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, Everest is a biographical disaster film that tells the story of two expedition teams’ summiting Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, when their will to survive is put to the ultimate test when one of the deadliest storms on record hits the mountain, bringing temperatures to dangerous lows with harsh gusting winds.
Geeks Of Doom was invited to sit down with fellow journalists to talk about Everest with stars Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Emily Blunt, John Hawkes, and Michael Kelly, as well as director Baltasar KormÃ¡kur about the filming process, the challenges of representing a character who died in the disaster, and more.
Check out the Top 5 things we learned about Everest and more here below!
1 – With the film being based on a true story, director Baltasar KormÃ¡kur took it upon himself to bring the story to life in the most honest way possible without bringing death upon his cast. By filming in various mountainous locations — including the Ã–tztal Alps in Italy; the mountains of Iceland, and at the footsteps of Everest in Nepal — as well as at CinecittÃ Studios in Rome and Pinewood Studios in the U.K. to get the shots that they couldnâ€™t get while filming at the aforementioned mountains, audiences can get a sense of the danger at hand. But for the cast, scaling these mountains was no easy feat, and the actors are willing to admit that what they do cannot be compared to anything in real life, let alone climbing Mount Everest.
“I finding it hard to compare acting to anything in the real world in a sense that what we do and what we are trying to do is mimic these guys did and continue to do, which is legitimately risk their lives,” said Jake Gyllenhaal. “I mean we had 25% at times, which was the harshest for us, which they experienced in reality. But there is nothing more fun, at least for me, then putting yourself in a situation that feels as real as possible. Because I think for me it’s fun to think of an audience watching that and feeling those feelings as well. I believe in the unconscious experience of a movie more powerful than the conscious experience.”
Josh Brolin, who plays Beck Weathers, a doctor on the expedition, added, “I think we are trying to be as respectful as we possible can given what we do. We fake it. We simulate it. We are not mountaineers. We joke around, we try to make little moments you can write about, but it is much deeper than that, and why we choose to do it.”
One of KormÃ¡kur’s intentions with Everest was to give the audience an authentic experience because he knows that most of them will be unable to see or climb the mountain for themselves. “Part of me to tell the story, is part of me to experience,” said Kormakur. “I mean I agree, I cannot experience what it feels like to be on top of Everest, but you want to get as close to it as we can. And that’s the way I choose to make the film this way. Not make it easy on ourselves. Try to find it, and find it in the elements.”
2 – Part of the challenges of making a film that is based on a true story is shaping the real-life characters and the events surrounding said characters. Jason Clarke, who plays Rob Hall, talked about creating a character and how much of it is fictional and how much of it is factual.
“When these are real people and you have met them, they have a daughter, and they have lived their lives, and have opened up themselves to give you little bits to help you make it, after holding on to it for 20 years, yeah you do your homework. You come with everything you have, and you submit yourself to the director and the film that he is making. Yeah you fight to maintain the integrity you’ve gotten to know and understand. That’s what kind of makes this story interesting. There is so much thought on what happened, who made what decision where, this is what I think happened, this is what I think happened now. I think that is what helps you keep focused on this, that these are real people, this is a real event.”
KormÃ¡kur then added that the script was more of a backbone for the film, and that the people, the books, and the research allowed the actors to shape their characters.
Gyllenhaal said there are a lot of choices when making a character based on a real-life person. The backstory, where they are from, is all written for the cast, but he said that how they behaved physically was important to shaping these characters. Even though the actor did not look like Scott Fischer, the leader of one of the expeditions depiected in the film, it was important for Gyllenhaal to capture the essence of man.
“In other stories about this expedition, Scott had been made to be an antagonist I think really for the purpose of trying the create tension,” Gyllenhaal said. “You need someone like that. Whatever was said about competition on the mountain, and this and that, particularly between Rob and Scott, what I discovered was the he was truly a free spirit and incredibly positive and loving person, and his children contacted me because they were worried they didn’t know how he was going to be portrayed. Balt and Jason were respectful of Scott, what was interesting too was us not particularly looking after ourselves but all of us looking after all the characters, and people who were on this expedition. Just double checking that nobody was put into a corner of cliche or characture, and finding the essence of who these people were. That was the most important thing. None of us are going to get who these people are. We are not doing imitations, we are trying to create the spirit of this adventure, and that all came from Balt.
3 – There is a method to the madness or in other words chaos is what held this film together. Emily Watson says that is part of the reason why this Everest works is that “In real life, details don’t always quite add up. They don’t add up to who somebody is. One of the principal factors in this film was chaos, and nothing quite made sense and nothing quite added up, and you had to go with that.”
4 – Climbing Mount Everest isn’t a walk in the park, with a number of climbers never returning to base camp. It’s not easy to comprehend why these climbers attempt such a dangerous feat, with so many dire consequences and absolute certain accomplishment that no one can take away. Some may call it selfish, others say it is an experience, but when there are those who sacrifice their family just to summit a mountain as dangerous as Everest, then it is mostly the former. Josh Brolin said,
“Itâ€™s an incredibly selfish thing, man. I get it. When you have a family, Iâ€™ve always had a family. I graduated high school, and then I had kids, so I donâ€™t know what life is like without having a family, my whole life has been saturated with it. Iâ€™ve made decisions that I donâ€™t know if I regret, but Iâ€™ve made decisions like I started skydiving when I was 21 and then within the year, I was doing it 5 to 6 times a day, so I have that thing apparently and it wasnâ€™t until I told my wife at that moment, I said, â€˜What if I jump with my year and a half oldâ€™ and she was like, â€˜You have to stop now.â€™ So whatever head space youâ€™re in, but the thing is I think itâ€™s very selfish.
I think people climb or do other things for different reasons, with Beck [Weathers] specifically, he talks about a depression he was running from. That was the one thing that he could do that was productive. I can step that extra step when most people canâ€™t, therefore I can touch the extraordinary, and if I feel like Iâ€™m one of the exclusives that can touch the extraordinary, that propels me to live further or it gives my life more meaning or whatever. So it can run as deeper as you want, I do think itâ€™s a selfish act. I think our lives are a selfish act on different levels, and then itâ€™s up to you how you want to live it.”
5 – There were times where KormÃ¡kur had to shoot at Pinewood Studios in England, where the film’s setting was recreated in front of a blue screen. Of course to get everything right, then KormÃ¡kur needed to recreate the elements that the climbers experienced during that time. But there was no artificial snow to simulate a blizzard. In fact, salt was thrown in front of a fan that was blowing at speeds of 100 mph, which wasn’t a pleasant experience for Brolin, who joked that he had a nice exfoliation.
Everest opens first in IMAX theaters on September 18, 2015, and in standard theaters on September 25, 2015.