'127 Hours' Amputated Hiker Aron Ralston Relives Ordeal Through Movie
127 Hours tells the story of Aron Ralston, a hiker who became trapped in a canyon when a boulder pinned his arm. After five days of waiting to be found, Ralston severed his own arm to get free. Now that the film, starring James Franco as Ralston, is coming out, Ralston enjoys revisiting the events.
“It’s a lot of fun, actually,” Ralston said. It’s intense. It’s been emotional at moments both from the standpoint of feeling reconnected with experience and seeing it through someone else’s story telling abilities. It kind of clarifies, in some ways, what are the more salient aspects of the story. It reconnects me with my family when I see the little vignettes where the character in the film hearkens back. That’s what kept me alive through all that time I was in the canyon. It’s why I got out of there, why I got out of that canyon. To reunite and reconnect with them, it was what was left after everything that was stripped away from my existence over the days that I was there, the love that I have for them. So to watch the movie, to be a part of this is to reconnect with that. Especially when I can watched it with my mom sitting next to me, at a screening with my wife, who came to LA and here with me on this trip. We sat and watched it at the Fox Searchlight studio, one of their little mini theatres. We cried together the whole way through holding hands. That deepening bond that’s there, very emotional.”
The Danny Boyle film has also given Ralston a little objectivity about his story. “There was also that sense of connection and identification that I have with this story that's [made me have to] increasingly come to see it as a story. It was given to me, passed through my life like a fluid through a conduit that has come in order to be shared with other people. I had to let go of it. You can’t hold onto water in a pipe. It’s got to pass through in order to reach someone. Through Danny and this film team, who in so many ways have just been an extension, a hose, connected and turned it into a fire hose really to get it out to probably tens of millions of people will go see this. But that means I have to let go of it. There’s a detachment. That’s been a challenge at times to let it become what it needs to. I was reassured and had the trust that they would tell it very accurately and authentically which they have. It was something that was a struggle, I had to come to grips with the idea that I wasn’t in control of this story any more. That’s a good thing. If I had made a film it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as what it is, so it’s a beautiful thing, what this story is. That was part of the emotional process, letting go.”
You could do worse than the Academy Award winning director of Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting. That assuaged Ralstons fear “that it would become a Hollywood ‘based on a true story’ kind of a film, which, by title, it is. But at the same time it’s as close to a fact driven documentary as could possibly be made and still be a drama. It’s also, as a drama, quite close to virtual reality. I really go through it when you watch it, so I imagine other people are fainting and passing out in the theatre. Yeah, you're going through it! It’s a testament to how powerful the story telling is. What I was afraid of was it becoming something I could barely recognize as being my story because I wanted it to inspire people. I thought to inspire people it needed to be authentic. It absolutely is both, authentic and inspiring. It touches me, it deepens the relationships I have in my life and I hope it does the same things for others, which I think it is.”
Ralston is back in the canyons, hiking away, even in the same spot where he lost a piece of himself. “The first time I went back was only 6 months after the initial incident of my amputation. I’ve been back I think a total of 10 times in the last 7 years, at least 5 of them have been with the film. Being there with the film team has kind of been a part of this experience for me now. It was a lot of fun to go back and actually, one of the return trips was pretty poignant because it fell on the anniversary on when I was trapped there. So being there, in that moment, 7 years after having been there and now watching this guy James Franco reenacting my experience, hiking with his amputated arm all bloody down through the canyon, it’s like sitting there being a ghost inside my own memory. It was this very bizarre kind of bi-directional time warp. The past flowing into the present and the present flowing into the past at the same time.”
127 Hours is now playing.
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