They say write what you know. And in the case of “127 Hours,” screenwriter Simon Beaufoy did just that.
Beaufoy won an Oscar for his “Slumdog Millionaire” screenplay without having grown up in the slums of Mumbai, but while penning the script for director Danny Boyle’s film about the harrowing five days rock climber Aron Ralston (James Franco) spent pinned against a boulder, the writer drew on his perilous experience on the rocks.
“Been there – a rock fall in particular,” Beaufoy tells Popcorn Biz. “I got these stones whizzing down from out of the sky. You can’t dodge them. They’re going way too fast, and they make this terrible buzzing noise. There’s the smell of cordite as they hit things on the way down. And you just think, ‘I’m in the hands of God or destiny or whatever, because I can’t dodge these. If one is going to hit me on the head, it’s going to hit me on the head and there’s nothing I can do about it.’”
Beaufoy said he and Ralston “really did connect on that level because Danny and [producer] Christian [Colson] – they’re urban boys. I think Aron felt very reassured that I climbed and that I understood him on that level. Although it was kind of a reckless thing to do, I didn’t judge him. A lot of people judge him, but he still goes out canyoning and climbing stuff. I completely understand that that’s part of who he is.”
“The climbers are on a fairly strange journey, the good ones,” Beaufoy explained. “It’s kind of a self-challenging, rather egotistical pursuit, really. And the better they are, the closer to the edge they’re treading. There are two different types of people – the ones who go to the edge of the precipice and step back and go 'Woo-hoo! I won’t do that again. I got away with it.' And then, there are the other ones who go, 'That’s good. Let’s see if I can tread a bit further towards the edge.' And he was on that path.”
Beaufoy was moved to visit the real-life Utah ravine where Ralston’s ordeal unfolded.
“That’s where I start with the writing – I always start with the real people and the real place, if you can. It’s a very lonely spot. Interestingly, the boulder, which is still there, is rather disappointing. It’s just another rather scrappy boulder. There are lots of better, more cinematic boulders in that particular crack. But there it sits, this little thing that caused all this trouble.”