From India's slums to the hell of Utah for Danny Boyle

Director to film story of climber who had to cut his own arm off
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The Independent Culture

His films have explored the heroin-ridden dens of Edinburgh and the heart-wrenching slums of Mumbai. Now the acclaimed British director Danny Boyle will cast his artistic eye over America's Western wilderness with a film that charts the struggle to survive of a lonely mountaineer who was forced to amputate his own arm.

According to Variety, the Oscar-winning film-maker is confirming plans to direct 127 Hours, based on the ordeal of Indiana-born mountaineer Aron Ralston. Production is to begin next year and reunites Boyle with the Oscar-winning team behind Slumdog Millionaire. Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy is in talks to write a script and Christian Colson will produce the film which is earmarked for release late next year.

Mr Ralston, now 34, has become something of a celebrity since his ordeal in 2003, where, after wondering alone into Utah's Blue John Canyon, his arm became trapped under a boulder.

Describing that moment in his 2004 book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Mr Ralston wrote: "The rock smashes my left hand against the south wall; my eyes register the collision, and I yank my left arm back as the rock ricochets; the boulder then crushes my right hand and ensnares my right arm at the wrist, palm in, thumb up, figures extended; the rock slides another foot down the wall with my arm in tow tearing the skin off the lateral side of my forearm. Then silence."

His story fiercely splits opinion. Sympathisers have billed it as an extraordinary tale of courage and determination. Others have berated Mr Ralston for his failure to inform others of his plans beforehand and being ill-equipped to handle what followed.

Yet few can argue that his tale will not make a compelling film. After numerous futile attempts to set himself free, Mr Ralston spent more than five days pinned against the mountainside with nothing but his own thoughts. He resorted to drinking his own urine and filmed a goodbye video to his family.

According to his book, it was during the second day when the macabre idea of sawing off his own arm presented itself as a solution. "My two biggest concerns are a cutting tool that can do the job, and a tourniquet that will keep me from bleeding out," he wrote. With a backpack containing little beyond digital cameras, climbing gear and a small Leatherman multi-too pocketknife, options were sparse.

A trial attempt proved futile. Stabbing the blade into his wrist and cutting through muscle and fatty tissue, Mr Ralston recalls the problem he encountered. "The soft thock-thock-thock tells me I have reached the end of this experiment. I cannot cut through my forearm bones."

It was five days later, that he cut off his arm. "I thrash myself forward and back, side to side, up and down, down and up," he wrote. "I scream out in pure hate, shrieking as I batter my body to and fro against the canyon walls, losing every bit of composure that I've struggled intensely to maintain. Then I feel my arm bend unnaturally in the unbudging grip of the chockstone. An epiphany strikes me with the magnificent glory of a holy intervention and instantly brings my seizure to a halt: If I torque my arm far enough, I can break my forearm bones."

Though 127 Hours is in early development and no cast additions have yet been announced, Oscar-nominated actor Ryan Gosling has been linked with the lead role. For his part Mr Ralston, who now commands up to $37,000 on the motivational speaking circuit, plans to climb Mount Everest in September next year to raise public awareness on climate change. "I still do like adventures," he told The New York Times. "But it's different. It's not coming from an esteem-building, need-fulfillment place, like my life won't amount to something if I'm not the first person to make some major accomplishment."