'Everest' director says he knows now why people climb it

Thu Sep 3, 2015 6:45am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur has made many small-budget movies in his home country, but he says he did not feel out of his depth making the star-studded mountain disaster movie "Everest" that opened the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday.

"You know, it's a big cast on a big mountain. But, in the end, they were all ready for what was in store for them," Kormakur told Reuters following the press screening of his film about a 1996 expedition to the world's highest mountain that left five climbers, including two team leaders, dead.

The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as American Scott Fischer and Jason Clarke as New Zealander Rob Hall -- rival team leaders who both perished when a violent thunderstorm struck Everest in early May while their teams were near the summit.

Also starring are Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley and Emily Watson.

Kormakur said that making the film made him understand why people tackle Everest, which has claimed the lives of some one in seven people making the attempt over the decades.

"I actually kind of was drawn to the mountain the closer I got to it, I have to admit that," he told a press conference.

"I do understand people who actually do this, either for passion or for work. I think in some ways you get the most real version of yourself, you can get to the core of who you are and there is something existential...to figure out who you are in nature and how you function in nature."

Kormakur, who spent years preparing for filming that took place on Everest as well as for alpine shots in the Dolomites and studio work, said some of the actors had gotten sick while shooting in the comparatively high altitudes.   Continued...

Cast member Jake Gyllenhaal (R) and director Baltasar Kormakur pose during the photocall for the movie "Everest" at the 72nd Venice Film Festival, northern Italy September 2, 2015.  REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini