USA TODAY US Edition
REAL-LIFE CHARACTERS A MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB
Each of the actors in Everest portrayed a real climber caught in the disaster. USA TODAY’s Bryan Alexander provides the personal histories of the main players in director Baltasar Kormákur’s depiction of the deadly 1996 storm.
JASON CLARKE AS ROB HALL
Clarke remembers hearing how expedition leader Rob Hall made one final radio call to his pregnant wife.
“He managed to say goodbye to his wife from the top of Everest,” Clarke says. “And you knew he was still up there, unsavable, and was going to die.”
Prepping for the role, Clarke spent time in New Zealand with Hall’s widow, Jan Arnold, herself a high-altitude climber, and with Hall’s daughter, Sarah, born two months after his death.
“Jan showed me deeply personal things,” Clarke says. He also read the transcript of the final conversation, calling it “extraordinary.”
JOSH BROLIN AS BECK WEATHERS
The Texas pathologist was assumed dead after spending an exposed night in the storm. He made it back to camp and battled through another bitter night before a high-altitude helicopter evacuation.
Weathers, now 68, lost portions of his right arm and nose. He wrote his own account, 2000’s
Left for Dead, and met with Brolin before filming.
“Hearing tapes and seeing video of him was more informative,” Brolin says. “But meeting him was more profound.”
He delved deep for the full story over drinks. “It was great to be able, via Jack Daniels, to get to an emotional place,” Brolin says.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL AS SCOTT FISCHER
Mountain Madness expedition leader Fischer has been the subject of some controversy after speculation that a friendly rivalry with Hall might have kept both climbers from turning their clients back sooner. Fischer also died in the storm.
Gyllenhaal says Fischer’s grown children contacted him and asked to meet before filming.
“Scott was fictionalized into a bit of an antagonist,” Gyllenhaal says. “People who are not necessarily rule-followers get a bad rap because they think outside the box. Scott was a really loving, extraordinarily charismatic, positive person.”
MICHAEL KELLY AS JON KRAKAUER
The outdoor writer and mountaineer was in Hall’s expedition and wrote about the deadly events on Everest for Outside magazine and later in the 1997 best-seller Into Thin Air.
Everest isn’t based on Krakauer’s well-known version of events. “We all have varying accounts of what happened on this very same trip,” Kelly says. “And we all believe what we want to believe. Our script is a mashup of many of these stories.”
Kelly was unable to meet Krakauer, now 61, before filming. “But I cannot wait to. I have so much respect for him.”
JOHN HAWKES AS DOUG HANSEN
The Washington state postal worker had been forced to turn back from Everest’s summit in 1995 and perished after his push to the top in 1996.
Hawkes contemplated whether he should take the part when he learned that Hansen’s family opposed the film.
“If it were my dad, I probably wouldn’t be excited about someone dredging up a story years later,” Hawkes says. “It’s an extra weight of responsibility. I hope we found some sort of essence of truth.”