Sneak Peek Review & Celebrity Interview: Hany Abu-Assad, Director of The Mountain Between Us

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The Mountain Between Us, from Chernin Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, offered for select media a sneak peek into one of the most highly anticipated films of the fall 2017 season followed by a casual Director conversation.

Directed by Hany Abu Assad, The Mountain Between Us stars Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, Beau Bridges and Dermot Mulroney, was adapted for the screen by Chris Weitz from the novel by Charles Martin.

The main trailer for the film, which has been playing since June, sets the premise, Winslet and Elba are strangers and stranded at the airport in Utah.


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An upcoming storm has grounded all flights and for Alex Martin, played by Kate Winslet, and Ben Bass, played by Idris Elba, arriving on the east coast by the morning is imperative.

Martin, a journalist, is cutting this a bit close and she makes a call to her waiting family who has gathered in New York where she is to be married in less than 24 hours and Bass, a doctor, is performing an emergency surgery in the morning and as he tell the Airline representative, he'll "fly wherever he has to this evening to get there by morning."

The sneak peek follows the trailer building into the gripping survival story as Bass and Martin seemingly have their respective emergencies handled and in flight, Walter, the pilot, played by Beau Bridges, a Vietnam vet, is happy to run an afternoon hopper over the mountain to Denver.

Mid-flight, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, the storm they were trying to avoid moves in quicker and he suddenly is hit with a stroke, while he is trying to send Mayday messages, he regains for a moment, screaming "brace" for impact, the tail snaps off, and the two, unsure of what to hold onto, as this twin prop didn't come with in-flight instructions.

The trailer jumps around and the two awaken he first, relatively unscathed, and she next with a serious leg injury.

"The pilot?" she asks. "Buried him yesterday," Bass replies. Three days have passed since the accident and now, the test of man against nature, man against the mind, against injury, will, and determination begin.

As the two make the decision to move ahead, the story brings in the layers of humanity, of strangers, of friendships, each with a unique set of knowledge, he a doctor (in case of physical injury) she a journalist ( full of quick facts, Jeopardy knowledge on any number of topics) both important to survival. 

The sneak peek, a twenty minute or so clip, was ultra engaging, powerfully gripping, a highly charged suspenseful film of survival against all odds. So looking forward to seeing the entire film!

The Mountain Between Us is a film to see on the big screen, vast horizons of mountain ridges, high elevation, eight days of the film was shot above the tree line at the highest elevation with temperatures at -38C.

Interview With Hany Abu-Assad

After the teaser we met Hany Abu-Assad in the lobby of the screening room at the Fox Studio Lot in Los Angeles for a causal conversation and brief question and answer sessions.

The Mountain Between Us was, without saying, grueling to shoot. For all those who think the location was really the backlot of Fox in sunny Los Angeles and through computer generated imagery the film is made.  Not on this one.

The Mountain Between Us was shot on location in the Canadian Rockies, and to hear Hany tell the story he hired Jeff Mohs, the location scout for The Fifty Shades of Grey, DreamCatcher, and 88Minutes, to find this vast wilderness and ridge of mountains.

As Abu-Assad told us, "They looked at locations around the world" and when they say this mountain range, a sea of white peaks, nothingness as far as the eye could see, he decided this was it.

Deciding was a bit different as it takes a village to make movies and everyone he wanted needed to know where the most brutal and demanding location would take them.

"You go the first time with your location manager, than you take everyone on your team, one by one, and they are all hypnotized by the location, and they all agree this is so beautiful," he said laughing. "Oh my God," he said, "this is so beautiful no one has captured the location."

Which for the director of photography, Mandy Walker, who is known for her skill in capturing the beauty and intensity of vast landscapes, means an opportunity to put her impressive stamp on the cinematography. 

The location, above the tree line, could have been an accident waiting to happen. Recognizing the thrill of filming on the edge of the earth, and the need to protect the talent and crew, additional precautions were added, and extra insurance people to ensure the safety of the talent and all were added.


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Every day, Abu-Assad said, "The team will go before us. They checked the stats before the day. The insurance companies had four safety people, Fox had four people, crew had four or five more safety people." The entire location was checked he said, "before we (the director and the talent) before they were flown into the location, above the tree line. It was really dangerous. It was a huge risk to go up."

Kate Winslet has said: If I knew it was so high and so dangerous I wouldn't have agreed to do this. And she added, as a true professional, "so okay let's go ahead and make it safe."

For her Abu-Assad said, they brought in someone who would do a walk through. If the scene called for Kate to walk through blinding snow, which from the previews one can see the amount of snow trekking involved,  "so each step she took, someone had to walk before her to make sure there were no holes or unsafe ground."

For Idris Elba, in addition to the same dangerous conditions experienced by Kate, he has stunts, which he agreed to perform without a double. The clip shows him sliding out of control down the mountain side. When asked if the depth of the mountain was portrayed exactly, Abu-Assad laughed and said, "The slide is actual; the depth is for effect."  

When asked about wilderness training: Abu-Assad said they all, everyone, crew, talent, had to participate in Wilderness Training. The location manager he prepared us. Everyone took courses in wilderness safety; don't move, don't shout; transmitters; don't move a lot. In order to create warmth, if you can, sit ( he demonstrated the position) warmth will go up and heat you

As we learned the cast and crew were flown in by helicopter to the location for eight days of the most demanding and challenging days of the shoot. With nature, effectively in control, each day before the cast and crew would arrive, with the possibility of any number of weather related emergencies, pre location checks were completed before the go ahead was given.  

The Mountain Between Us premieres at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival and will be in theaters everywhere October 6, 2017. 

 

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