In time for the UK release of Danny Boyle’s ‘127 Hours’ today (January 5th), I’ve posted a mishmash of interviews I’ve conducted with the three major players in the film below. You can check out my full interview with Danny Boyle here, James Franco here, and Aron Ralston – who’s real life story 127 Hours is based on – here. The film is about as riveting and gut-wrenching as you could imagine. I haven’t seen a movie in a long time that has captured the strength, love and will of the human condition as triumphantly as 127 Hours has.

Were you surprised by how fast the film is? It’s about a man trapped by a boulder in a canyon and the audience might expect a very confined experience. And yet it’s not that at all.

James Franco: Danny is so good at incorporating all the elements that make a great film. Once he’s edited and the music is in there and everything, he delivers a full experience. But, I think another reason the movie feels so intense is not necessarily because of this amputation scene that a lot of people are focusing on, it’s because of the overall effect of the movie – the way that it’s shot. And I thought about this before we did it and it’s a story told primarily through physical actions and all these little victories and failures and if done right it brings an audience close to a character. He’s not telling you how he’s feeling, he’s showing you, he’s doing it and so the audience really gets on board with the character. And when the character does speak, it’s a very unconventional device where he’s talking directly to his video camera. And that gives the character a justification to talk directly to the audience. Yes, he’s talking to his family and friends but he’s looking right into the lens as if he’s talking right to the audience. So it creates a very intense experience. The first time I watched the film with an audience I felt it was like something I’d never experienced before, watching a movie, in a movie I was in with an audience, where I felt like something really intimate with them, because the camera is so close and the nature of the material and everything. I had to do a Q and A after and for a minute I felt like,’ oh I’m not even going to be able to speak’ it was that weird.

What was your personal reaction when watching the film? It’s an incredibly intense experience.

Aron Ralston: My experience of watching the film for the very first time was incredibly intense, I was in an audience in a theatre watching it and I was crying from about twenty minutes into the film all the way through to the end. And not because of a pain that I felt, but because in a lot of ways it reminds me so effectively of what was so important that I got out of that canyon for. It’s the scenes like when you watch the father take his little boy to the edge of this vast canyon landscape to watch the sun rise, which is what my Dad did with me when I was twelve year old, we watched the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. It was like in some ways watching your family’s collective memory being put up on the screen. I was just sitting there sobbing and thinking, ‘I love my Dad, my Mum and my Sister (laughs).’

You see these little vignette’s of my life that the character is going back and recalling and THAT’S what kept me alive while I was in that canyon. Those touch stones of experience and love that from surviving that experience I learned it’s not just this will to live that we have, it’s this will to love, that’s what I was questing for, these connections, so whenever the film touches on that, it touches me in a very very deep way. Contrary to that you have the very gripping arm chair holding ‘whoaaaa I can’t believe we’re watching this’ moments as he goes through this liberation and the smiles that James shows. I was ecstatic to get out of there. To me the sacrifice of losing this hand was nearly inconsequential, it just amounted to me being able to get out and get back to my life and those people that I love.

Did you watch the real tapes that Aron Ralston made when he was trapped in the canyon? That must be very valuable for an actor to have that kind of material to draw upon…

James Franco: Yeah, and I never really had that before. Aron showed us the real videos and even on their own, they are incredibly moving and very powerful, because it’s a guy that has accepted his own death, but also is not wallowing in self-pity. He’s very composed, because he thought these were the last things his mother would ever see, and so, since he’s making them for her, and there were points where he was starting to get emotional, he turned the video camera off, because he didn’t want her to see that.  So they were very powerful in themselves, but as an actor, it’s material unlike anything I’ve ever had. When I played James Dean and Allen Ginsburg there’s film of them and it was very helpful to get their mannerisms and gestures down but it wasn’t film of them in the most intense moments of their lives. It wasn’t James Dean right before he crashed the car or confronting his father.  As an actor, you never find material like this. So obviously, it wasn’t necessary to have that material to play this role, but the fact that I had it, it was just like it was a gift.

A lot of movies deal with the theme of surviving in nature. How does 127 Hours fit into that genre?

Danny Boyle: It’s interesting because I didn’t really think of it like that. What you do is you just chase a story and the best ones are when you are obsessed and you think you can see it and you can’t understand why all these stupid people can’t see it as well because they are reluctant or cautious and you have to sell it to them more (laughs). But that’s important too, because it makes you work out ways to express the story and to expose it to the public gaze in a minor way and that’s a very important part of the process.

And did you become obsessed with this one?

Danny Boyle: It’s weird the way it happened because I could see it straight away. I just knew what I wanted to do with it. And then I had the frustration of meeting Aron and saying ‘OK, make this as a documentary, I accept that..’ Because it’s his story. And then it came back to me again and when I got to tell it, really I’ve only borrowed his story. James and I literally said that to him – that at the end we would give it back to him. In fact, there’s the scene at the end where James pops out of the pool and he gives (the real) Aron a look as he’s sitting on the sofa. He’s literally saying ‘thank you’ and giving it back to him.

We will have moved on in a year and we’ll be doing something else and Aron will still have this story to tell to his son at some point and there will be many more people who want to hear the story directly from him, they will ask him if the movie got it right and ask what was different in the movie. It’s an endless cycle for Aron, really. And you have to respect that and you have to say ‘thanks for letting us borrow it, we know we haven’t disfigured it and we hope you agree..’ Really, that’s all you can do.

Aron we see you’re married and you have a son now, what’s your life like today?

Aron Ralston: It’s a big shift for me going from this very self centred, somewhat solitary guy who appreciated his relationships….but at the same time one of the big lessons from coming out of that canyon was expressing that gratitude more to my friends and my family, my loved ones, which I did while filming the tapes you see in the film. Putting those lessons in to practise in my life didn’t come very easily for many years, I was very focused to maybe prove to myself that I was still capable of adventures and indeed I went on to larger adventures than I ever had done before the incident.

There was then kind of a shift about four years ago where I had three friends I had lost who all within a short space of time had committed suicide, none of them knew each other, but their depressions kind of shocked me to re-evaluate where I was and whether I was doing what I really needed to be doing with this story and with me having been given this glorious second chance had I actually learned anything? It started to recalibrate me around that time. I started doing a lot more wilderness advocacy, seeing this as a story the wilderness gave to me to share, not just for my own benefit and growth, but for everyone, to give back to that landscape both in Colorado and in Utah, these wild places that are basically unprotected.

That was a shift trying to do something for a cause, and then as it worked out…..see I had this vision when I was trapped about this little boy that changed everything, I was already at this point five days into it where I had calved my epitaph into the wall of the canyon, I had made my will and testament on this video tape, I was standing in my grave. So I knew and I was at peace with the idea of me dying. But then I saw this vision of this little boy and it shifted me, it gave me hope to get out because this is my future son, I could see me interacting with him without my hand at some point many years down the road and I realised if I’m going to have that son then I have to get out of here, I WILL get out of here, it got me through that last night, but as I’ve realised in the years following I didn’t see what the Mum looked like (laughs). But I did meet my wife Jessica about three years ago now, she and I got married just over a year ago and we had our baby boy Leo – the courageous little Lion who helped very truly save my life in the canyon from his future existence, he drew me through that last dreadful night. With my life today the big adventure is as anyone who’s a parent can attest to, the biggest adventure in life is being a parent! That’s where a lot of my focus goes too, as well as to the film right now.