MAK­ING EVER­EST A THRILL

Hav­ing a “real” ad­ven­ture in the bit­ing el­e­ments was a ma­jor draw­card for Josh Brolin, who stars in dis­as­ter drama Ever­est

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY MOVIES - NEALA JOHN­SON

Two years ago, while get­ting into the swing of climb­ing moun­tains – by scal­ing Cal­i­for­nian moun­tains Shasta and Whit­ney and the Eiger in Switzer­land – for his role in Ever­est, Josh Brolin de­clared the film would be the per­fect “swan song” for his days as a phys­i­cal on-screen pres­ence.

“It’s a daunt­ing thing we’re about to do,” the star of No Coun­try For Old Men and Amer­i­can Gang­ster said, “but it’s kind of per­fect for a 45year-old and that can be my swan song. Then I can go do geri­atric films af­ter that.”

Two years later, Brolin can only shake his head at his past self. “Of course I said that. Of course I said that. In­ap­pro­pri­ate, Josh,” he groans. “Maybe that’s what I needed to tell my­self in or­der to deal with my midlife what­ever ...”

So, does the geri­atric phase start now?

“No, you know what? It feels like the op­po­site now,” says the 47-year-old. “I feel like it’s the be­gin­ning of some­thing, I re­ally do. It’s just a dif­fer­ent time. I don’t know why. It is con­scious – it’s like, let’s fo­cus on great sto­ries. The sledge­ham­mer in the face char­ac­ters, those are fine but if you don’t have a great story ... I’ve just re­alised I’m not in­ter­ested in mak­ing a bunch of small films that no­body sees.”

Though his agent was ask­ing “Are you sure?” when Ever­est first pre­sented it­self, the prospect of get­ting out into the el­e­ments quickly se­duced Brolin. In fact, hav­ing a “real” ad­ven­ture was so much a part of the ap­peal that, when lo­ca­tion film­ing – at Ever­est base camp and on the Ital­ian Alps – fin­ished, Brolin got rather cranky.

“When we were on the moun­tain, I wanted to go as far as we could; then, when we got off the moun­tain, it was de­press­ing. When we went to Lon­don and had to be on sound­stages, I hated it. There was noth­ing at­trac­tive or in­ter­est­ing about it to me at all.”

But that, he says, was when “the real work” got done. And he’s proud of the re­sults. So proud, in fact, that the re­ac­tion of real-life Ever­est con­queror Rein­hold Mess­ner can’t even touch the edges.

“I heard Mess­ner said re­cently, ‘This is like the Hol­ly­wood ver­sion of a movie’. Of course it is, dude! It’s a movie, it’s not a doc­u­men­tary – we’re not climb­ing Ever­est.

“If we do a movie about a plane crash, we’re not go­ing to ac­tu­ally crash the plane. It’s a sim­u­la­tion, that’s what we do. But we try to make it as good as we can.”

The film is based on sur­vivor ac­counts of a real-life 1996 ex­pe­di­tion to sum­mit Mount Ever­est that went hor­ri­bly wrong, leav­ing five mem­bers of NZ ex­pe­di­tion leader Rob Hall and Amer­i­can Scott Fis­cher’s com­bined teams dead.

In the midst of a great ensem­ble that in­cludes Aussie ac­tor Jason Clarke as Hall, Jake Gyl­len­haal as Fis­cher and John Hawkes as a Seat­tle post­man at­tempt­ing the as­cent for the sec­ond time, Brolin gets to fully flesh out his climber, pathol­o­gist Beck Weath­ers.

At the ex­pe­di­tion’s start, Weath­ers is al­most of­fen­sively Texan. “Ar­ro­gance,” Brolin calls it. But, with each step up the sum­mit, his fear be­comes clearer. Even with his own moun­taineer­ing ex­ploits, it’s a fear Brolin says he’ll never be able to un­der­stand, “not even for a sec­ond”.

“There’s a shot in the movie (that shows) how iso­lated one would feel be­ing on Ever­est, know­ing that you’re gonna die and know­ing that not only will no­body find you but no­body will prob­a­bly ever see your body again ... There’s some­thing so ter­ri­fy­ing and so lonely about that. You have hor­rific dreams where you wake up and go, ‘Wow, that’s what it must feel like to touch hor­ror for a sec­ond’. But to not be able to get away from it? I just can’t imag­ine.

“Do­ing via fer­ratas (fixed me­tal climb­ing tracks that al­low climbers to tackle moun­tains in rel­a­tive safety) when I was in Lauter­brun­nen and Wen­gen (in Switzer­land), that was ter­ri­fy­ing for me – ab­so­lutely, paralysingly ter­ri­fy­ing. That’s my rel­a­tive par­al­lel but I’ll never know be­cause I’m not on Ever­est.”

Though he swore he would, Brolin has not climbed a moun­tain since film­ing ended.

“That’s usu­ally how it hap­pens – you get so in­volved then the movie’s over and you go, ‘OK, so what are we do­ing now? We’re play­ing a what? A deer hunter? OK, great’.”

Ever­est

stars ( from left)

Jake Gyl­len­haal as Scott Fis­cher, Michael Kelly as Jon Krakauer and Josh Brolin as Beck Weath­ers.

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