Simon Beaufoy Talks Alternate Ending To '127 Hours' That Was Cut (Poor Lizzy Caplan)

by Kevin Jagernauth
January 18, 2011 1:38 AM
2 Comments
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When we first saw Danny Boyle’s survival tale “127 Hours” at TIFF, we called it “Lean, efficient, despairing, thrilling and ultimately life affirming” as well as one of the best films of the year. By now you know the film is the true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco) who was stuck in a Utah canyon for days after his arm became trapped under a boulder. Little did we know at the time that the film’s leanness was partially the result of a major trim to the third act of the film. The film’s writer Simon Beaufoy recently spoke with the NYTimes about this last minute alteration. “We had a much more resolved ending, so they [the audience] had an emotional connection. There’s a long scene with his mother in the hospital, there’s a long scene with the ex-girlfriend where she told him a few hard truths, there was a scene at his sister’s wedding, which he referenced in the movie. So we had this very unusual movie, and we resolved it in this very Hollywood way.”

Apparently the film had even been shown to test audiences in this form when Boyle and Beaufoy had the revelation that they didn’t need it. “Everyone was happy, but the day before we were due, we were looking at it in the cutting room and we had been debating it and we said, it’s a great ending, but not for the movie that we made. It felt dishonest. So we cut it. We felt that the movie really needed to – once he got rescued, it needed to punch out. I felt, emotionally, the movie was over when he says the words, ‘I need help.’” After they realized this, they re-edited the film and screened it once again for test audiences. “It all happened very late in the day. It’s a very weird thing making a true story, because you need your freedom, as filmmakers, to do what you need to do.”

Good news for the film but bad news for the cast portraying Ralston’s family including Lizzy Caplan (“Party Down,” “Cloverfield”) seen in the finished film only briefly as Aron’s sister Sonja. The real-life Aron Ralston was “very precise” about getting all of the details of his story right in the film, down to the color of his bicycle and whether he had turned left or right. Beaufoy said that this worried him at first but eventually told Ralston “Listen, to honor the greater truths of your experience, we have to tell it this way.” He continues, “When you make a movie, a dramatization based on the real experience of a living subject, you can’t airbrush that away into to a perfect movie arc. So I think the end of the movie nods to that, it nods to that ambivalence that’s still in him. In life, unlike in movies, people don’t change – what’s the word I’m looking for? – absolutely. They change a bit, slowly.”

The finale of the film now fits so perfectly it’s strange to imagine the film continuing on for an entire act. No word whether any of this footage will turn up on the film’s upcoming release on DVD/Blu-ray in the spring. The picture seems to have lost a little of its momentum throughout awards season which is a shame because it really is a solid film. If you haven’t seen “127 Hours” yet for some reason, (especially if that reason is you don’t think you can handle the “arm scene”), you should really catch it while the film is still in theaters. -Cory Everett

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2 Comments

  • KC | January 18, 2011 11:37 AMReply

    I don't know if the Playlist caught these, but Simon Beaufoy's BAFTA screenwriting lecture is interesting for the fact that he seems to have been in the very midst of that decision. In any case, well worth a watch (as are the other 5) for a series of extremely articulate and thoughtful commentaries of the films on which he's worked:

    http://www.bafta.org/access-all-areas/screenwriting/lectures/simon-beaufoy,1437,BA.html

  • Ken | January 18, 2011 3:28 AMReply

    It has yet to play anywhere near me. Will I really have to wait til the Spring for the DVD? That's bogus.

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