After the premiere of Everest was screened at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood last Wednesday, director Baltasar Kormákur was surely delighted to receive the stamp of approval from mountaineer Alison Levine. Having completed the Adventure Grand Slam back in 2010, which consists of climbing the highest peaks on all seven continents in addition to reaching both the north and south poles, Levine is certainly a credible source when it comes to the Everest experience.
“When I heard that they were making this movie I thought, ‘Oh great, another cheesy, adrenaline-junky-Everest movie that seemed so unrealistic,” Levine said on the red carpet. Despite her previous scepticism, she went on to add, “I could not believe how close this trailer looked to the real conditions on Everest. This, to me, looks like the most realistic climbing movie I’ve ever seen.”
Further praise was delivered in Justin Chang’s review in Variety, in which he remarked that “the ever-present howl of the wind and the scrape of boots on snow are kept in just the right balance with the characters’ voices.”
For Kormákur, ensuring that the film portrayed an authentic Everest experience was of utmost importance. The film documents the real life events of 1996, in which eight climbers lost their lives after a severe snowstorm hit whilst they were at the top of the mountain. “I just felt like we should do everything that we could possibly do with the elements,” he said, “the more that we make the Marvel studio films fantastic for what they are, the more we need to contradict that and make films that feel real.”
Whilst many films rely on the aid of green screens, shooting for Everest took place at both the Italian Alps and near Everest’s South Base Camp in Nepal. “The crew had the hardest time because you have to walk up the mountain and then… you have to shoot for twelve hours,” Kormákur shared about the filming process. “There were avalanche warnings every day on the course, we had to evacuate. We lost our sets due to the avalanches, but what I liked about it was that you’ll look up at the mountain and wonder, ‘What is this mountain going to let me do today?’”
The mountain did not only challenge the crew. Josh Brolin was able to defeat his fear of heights on set, whilst actress Naoki Mori spoke of enjoying the experience despite the usual creature comforts of a film shot in-studio. “There are no cars, no heating, no facilities and basically we had to carry everything ourselves and trek,” she said. “Lunch would be like two boiled eggs and a bit of Yak cheese… but we loved it.”
Everest premieres at U.S. cinemas 25 September 2015 and in UK cinemas 18 September.