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September 2015

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DIRECTOR'S CHAIR 14 POST SEPTEMBER 2015 ho you gonna call when you need to make a film about a climbing tragedy set against punishing conditions on the world's highest mountain? Easy — Baltasar Kormakur, the Icelandic director whose credits include the harrowing ac- tion drama, The Deep, where the director jumped into the frigid Icelandic waters with a camera to make sure the true story of a fisherman who survived the sinking of his trawler looked authentic. Inspired by the events surrounding a treacherous attempt in 1996 to reach the summit, Everest documents the journey of two different expeditions challenged beyond their limits by one of the fiercest snowstorms ever encountered, and their struggle for survival. With a stellar cast that includes Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), Josh Brolin (True Grit), John Hawkes (Lincoln) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain), the film also features a top cre- ative team that includes director of pho- tography Salvatore Totino (The Da Vinci Code) and editor Mick Audsley (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, the director talks about making the film (which will be released in 3D and IMAX 3D), all the special effects, and his love of post. Did you feel an added sense of responsibility making this, as it's based on a true story? "I did. So, I read all the books and ac- counts, and met with people involved in the tragedy, and set out to make a film that's as authentic as possible, and that could give audiences a sense of place — Everest in all its glory and might and danger. I wanted people to feel like they'd almost climbed it themselves." What were the main technical challenges of pulling all this together? "Every single thing was a challenge, start- ing with the financing. You can make this on a small budget, and it's not the sort of film studios are panting after. It's a heavy drama without a really uplifting ending, and I wanted an ensemble cast with top actors, so that adds to the budget. And then you can't just go to Everest and start shooting — so it's like a space movie in that sense. There's only so far up you can go, because of insurance companies, and you can't risk an actor's life just for a film. So I pushed to the limit everything I could shoot on location in Nepal, on the foothills of Everest, and then we shot in the Dolomites in the Italian Alps, and at Cinecitta Studios in Rome, and then at Pinewood Studios in London." How tough was the prep and shoot? "Very tough. It was January in Nepal when we shot for two weeks, so it was so cold, and we used helicopters to drop off gear as there were no vehicles, and then we all had to hike up as far as we could — just below base camp at 18,000 feet, and people were falling out and had to be air-evacuated quickly. Then we shot in the Dolomites at around 12,000 feet, and the first day it was minus 30 Celsius. We had five weeks of that, along with so much snow that we had avalanche warnings every day on the call set, and often had to leave and find new places to shoot. Then we did two weeks in Rome and recreated base camp, and ended up for six weeks at Pinewood on the huge 007 stage, where we had enough height for the sections of Everest that we built on stage." How did you go about building Everest? "We used places in the Dolomites to stand in for Everest, and then we used some enhancements and changes in post, and combined all that with sets. We also mapped out the mountain in a 3D model so we could use that in post, and also have an idea of where we were shooting. And at Pinewood, we created this huge transparent box so we could drop the temperature minus 30 Celsius as we also used real snow for the set. I don't think it's ever been done before, but it had to be authentic on the actors' faces and so on, and snow's really hard to fake anyway." How early did you have to integrate post into the shoot? "Right from the start. We did as much in-camera stuff as possible, and we were editing the whole way through. Dadi Einarsson, our VFX supervisor who worked on Gravity, used to be at Framestore and together we created a VFX company in Iceland called RVX, which headed up all the VFX for this. So all that was going on during production, long before we even got to post." Do you like the post process? "I love it, as it's like cooking. You've gone out hunting in the cold wilds, and now you're back in a nice warm kitchen with all the ingredients, and you start creating. I like each part of filmmaking, including shooting — I like the physical- ity and excitement of it, along with the difficulty and exhaustion. But I often feel that the DPs and people who work almost entirely in production really miss out a lot, as you learn so much in post BY IAIN BLAIR BALTASAR KORMAKUR: EVEREST CREATING AUTHENTIC STORIES W The crew shot on-location in Nepal and Italy. Kormakur is inset.

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