James Franco is the sole actor on-screen for much of Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, stuck in a narrow canyon under a boulder until an extreme escape leading to lesson No. 1: Acting alone isn’t as simple as it appears.
“Conceptually it sounds like an interesting project, at least to me: a guy alone in one space, wow. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to translate into something that people will rush out to see. “Two things had potential to connect with an audience: A lot of the story would be told through minute physical action. If done right, it’s similar to what they teach in writing classes: Show, don’t tell. And when I do speak, it’s an unusual circumstance where I’m talking to a videocamera. It was like a justification for old-fashioned soliloquies, talking straight to the audience, an unusual construct. “I’ve never spent five days trapped anywhere, but I do talk to myself a lot when I’m alone. We all do. If I can capture something that people recognize, they’ll relate to that, even in this extreme situation.”
No actor works solo, even when he’s shown alone. “Because of the way the set was designed it was a re-creation of the canyon nobody could fit in there with me other than (the camera operator). Essentially I was, like, acting with him. “One of the first scenes we did was when I had to try to get free. Danny told me don’t stop, just keep going. I guess the shot lasted for 22 minutes, me banging against the boulder and doing everything I could to get out. I knew I was going to get beat up. I told Danny okay, I’m fine with that, as long as you get it on the first take. That sort of set the mold for every scene after.”