Here at HollywoodLife.com is was both a pleasure and an honor to speak with director Hany Abu-Assad about his first big studio film, The Mountain Between Us. For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, it stars the incredibly talented actors, Kate Winslet and Idris Elba. The film tells the story of two strangers who are left stranded on a mountain after a horrific accident. The two lead characters are Ben, played by Idris, a neurosurgeon on his way to a life-saving surgery, and Alex, portrayed by Kate, a photojournalist rushing to her wedding. With no help on the way, their only hope for survival is to work with each other to escape the uninhabitable conditions they’ve been left to die in. Check out what the director had to tell HollywoodLife.com EXCLUSIVELY about the critically acclaimed film!
HL: What drew you to this story? Why did you want to bring it to life on the big screen?
HAA: The combination of two themes – survival and love is very original. The story of survival is a completely different structure than the story of a romance. This marriage was done once in the past successfully with The African Queen. I felt that trying again would be a great challenge, and I think audiences will love it. I really wanted to make an homage to all of these epic romantic movies from the past that we don’t do anymore.
HL: What made Kate Winslet and Idris Elba perfect for these characters? Was there an audition process or did you hand select them?
HAA: You don’t audition big stars like Kate and Idris, they audition you as a first time director for a studio movie. The process of choosing actors is a collaboration between the director, producer and the studio. We all have to agree on the names before we go and make an offer to the actors. We came up with a lot of combinations, but when Peter Chernin suggested Idris Elba, the excitement was beyond expectation. When we saw Kate and Idris on the same week at the BAFTAS presenting the best British movie, the picture was complete. They are not just great actors, but also the combination of them is magical.
HL: Explain the decision to film on an actual mountain. What were some of the challenges you faced? What were the actors reactions to shooting on location?
HAA: The biggest challenge was keeping warm. It was extremely cold, but you also have to keep your equipment warm. Cameras won’t work if it’s freezing, so not only did we have to keep them warm, but we also had to keep them on all night. We shot in remote areas where some places were just accessible through helicopters. So we were very dependent on the weather. The weather is changeable, so we had to be prepared every morning for six different call sheets. For every weather situation we had a different call sheet. Don’t forget we also had a dog with us, and we had to make sure he wouldn’t use the pristine snow as his play field. Above that, we needed him to act in this extreme weather.
The actors loved this adventure, and they were very brave — even doing their own stunts. Kate fell into the freezing water herself, and Idris himself was harnessed to fall off of the mountain cliff.
HL: What is one thing you want moviegoers to take from this film?
HAA: A good movie won’t push the audience to take one thing away from it. A good movie is a mirror that will allow audiences to reflect their own authentic reaction. What I always try to do is make the audience think about the situation the characters are in. Recognizing the situation can lead the audience to feel and to invest emotionally in them. Feeling makes you think wider beyond than the obvious thoughts. Every audience member will do that themselves without the film pushing them.
HL: Is there anything that was shot that didn’t make it into the final cut? If so can you tell us what it is and why it was cut?
HAA: There were a lot of scenes that didn’t make it into the final cut. They were mostly scenes that felt like they weren’t advancing the story or the characters. For example, there was a cave scene between Alex falling into the water and the cabin scenes. It was a very beautiful scene with very beautiful design. But it felt like a double beat for the cabin. So we decided to cut it out.
Tell us, HollywoodLifers — Are YOU looking forward to see The Mountain Between Us? Let us know why or why not in the comments below!
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