By Daniel Garris
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials debuted in first this weekend with $30.32 million. However, the young adult sequel from Fox debuted significantly below expectations and an underwhelming 7 percent below the $32.51 million debut of last year's The Maze Runner. With that said, without adjusting for ticket price inflation The Scorch Trials delivered the eighth largest September debut of all-time (just ahead of 2009's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs). Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials outpaced Black Mass by a comfortable $7.68 million in the battle for first place this weekend.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials opened with $11.00 million on Friday (which included an estimated $1.7 million from Thursday night shows), increased 11 percent on Saturday to gross $12.25 million and declined 42 percent on Sunday to gross $7.07 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.76 to 1. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials received a solid B+ rating on CinemaScore, which was just below the A- CinemaScore rating of its predecessor. That and the film's sequel nature suggest that The Scorch Trials won't hold up as well in comparison going forward.
Warner's Black Mass debuted in second place with $22.64 million. While the Johnny Depp led crime drama didn't nearly reach the heights that its strong online pre-sales had suggested, the film was still off to a solid start and opened in line with low-end and earlier expectations. Given its moderate price tag, the film's debut was arguably Depp's strongest since the launch of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides back in 2011. Black Mass opened just 5 percent below the $23.81 million start of 2010's The Town, but whether it can duplicate that film's holding power remains to be seen.
Black Mass started with $8.77 million on Friday (which included an estimated $1.4 million from Thursday night shows), was unchanged on Saturday with $8.77 million and declined 42 percent on Sunday to gross $5.10 million. That gave the film a relatively front-loaded opening weekend to Friday ratio of 2.58 to 1, which isn't the greatest initial sign for the film. Black Mass received a B rating on CinemaScore, which while respectable, doesn't suggest that the film will hold up especially well going forward.
Universal's The Visit placed in third with $11.57 million. The low-budget M. Night Shyamalan directed horror thriller from Blumhouse Productions was down 55 percent from last weekend. That represented a sizable, but respectable second weekend decline, especially given the overall new competition that arrived in the marketplace this weekend. The Visit continues to exceed expectations with a ten-day take of $42.56 million. That places the film 32 percent ahead of the $32.20 million ten-day gross of 2006's Lady in the Water.
Last weekend's top film, Sony's The Perfect Guy was down three spots and a sharp 62 percent to land in fourth with $9.75 million. Despite the sharp second weekend decline, in the bigger picture the low-budget thriller starring Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy and Morris Chestnut is still performing very nicely with a ten-day gross of $41.46 million. That places The Perfect Guy 4 percent ahead of the $39.70 million ten-day take of last year's No Good Deed.
Everest was off to a healthy fifth place start this weekend with $7.22 million. Universal's adventure drama opened exclusively in 545 IMAX 3D and PLF 3D locations, which gave the film a very promising per-location average of $13,251 for the frame. Everest took in $2.30 million on Friday, was up an encouraging 30 percent on Saturday to gross $2.99 million and declined 36 percent on Sunday to gross $1.93 million. That placed the film's weekend to Friday ratio at a strong 3.14 to 1. Given the strength of this weekend's exclusive debut, prospects are looking bright for Everest when it expands into traditional wide release next weekend.
Sony's War Room continued to hold up very nicely this weekend with a sixth place take of $6.22 million. Continued strong word of mouth continues to drive the Kendrick Brothers produced faith based film, as it was down a slim 20 percent from last weekend. War Room has grossed a terrific $49.05 million in 24 days. The film is currently running 20 percent stronger than the $40.90 million 24-day take of last year's God's Not Dead.
Meanwhile, as War Room continued to excel this weekend, fellow faith based film Captive stumbled out of the gate with an eleventh place start of just $1.39 million. The drama thriller from Paramount starring Kate Mara and David Oyelowo opened below its already modest expectations. As was the case with Samuel Goldwyn's 90 Minutes in Heaven last weekend, potential for Captive was clearly limited by the continued success of War Room.
On the platform front, Lionsgate's Sicario was off to a strong start with $401,288 from 6 locations. That gave the crime thriller starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin a per-location average of $66,881 for the frame. Sicario will expand into wide release on October 2nd.
Jonathan Papish @ChinaBoxOffice
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the #1 film at the international box office this weekend earning $43.3 million (+62%) from 12,303 screens across 66 markets. The sequel from 20th Century Fox has earned $78.0 million overseas and $108.3 million worldwide taking into account its #1 North American opening this weekend.
Top territories include South Korea where Maze Runner opened behind local film The Throne with a 4-day total of $7.4 million, 141% ahead of Maze Runner’s opening, Russia where the film opened #1 with $3.8 million, Brazil with $2.7 million, Venezuela with $2.46 million, Thailand with $1.88 million, Spain with $1.87 million, Holland with $1.2 million and UAE with $1.1 million. Strong holdover markets include UK/Ireland down 36% for $2.4 million and $8.0 million total, Australia down 33% for $1.7 million and $5.0 million total, and Mexico with $1.7 million for $7.2 million total. Malaysia ($1.0M/$4.2M cume), Taiwan ($934K/$5.1M cume), Hong Kong ($844K/$3.5 million), and Philippines ($738K/$2.34M cume) all repeated at #1 for the 2nd consecutive weekend.
The Scorch Trials opens in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and 4 smaller markets next weekend.
Universal’s Everest scaled to $28.2 million across 36 overseas territories in its opening frame this weekend. Combined with North America’s IMAX opening, the film has an early worldwide total of $35.8 million.
Everest opened #1 in 13 of its territories this weekend including the UK/Ireland ($5.0M), Mexico ($4.4M), Australia ($2.3M), New Zealand ($458K), and Iceland ($130K), the home of director Baltasar Kormákur. The film opened #2 in Germany ($2.8M) behind local film Facke Ju Gohte 2, and Spain ($1.6M) behind Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. On the premium format front, Everest climbed to over $3 million from 172 IMAX screens and 60% of the film’s overseas box office came from IMAX 3D and Real-D 3D.
Everest will release in 29 additional territories over the next few months including Brazil, France, Italy, South Korea, Russia and 17 smaller markets next weekend.
Minions grossed $22.8 million (-13%) this weekend from 57 overseas territories for an international total of $785.3 million and a worldwide total of $1.118 billion. Universal’s global animated hit jumped over MI5 to take the weekend crown in China with $19.4 million for an 8-day total of $49.8 million. Despite performing under expectations, Minions will pass the lifetime gross of Despicable Me 2 ($53 million) sometime this week.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation grossed $21.2 million (-58%) this weekend from 53 total overseas territories, bringing the international cume to $464.7 million and the worldwide total to $656.4 million. China took in another $18.2 million just behind Minions and has grossed $120.3 million after 13 days of release. Rogue will pass Interstellar ($122.6 million) this week to become the highest-grossing imported 2D film of all-time in China.
Inside Out marched into Italy this weekend, earning $6.0 million to take the biggest opening ever for a Pixar release there. In total, Pixar’s original hit grossed $9.8 million (+85%) from 34 overseas territories, lifting the international total to $408.8 million and the worldwide total to $761.683 million after 14 weekends of release. The UK/Ireland has been particularly friendly to Joy and her emotional gang, handing over $58.1 million to become the third highest grossing Pixar title behind Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 and the second highest grossing original animated title behind Frozen. Two territories remain for Inside Out: Germany on October 1 and China on October 6.
Straight Outta Compton earned $3.8 million (-12%) in 20 territories this weekend. The NWA biopic has earned $30.3 million overseas and $189.2 million worldwide. France opened with $1.4 million at 275 dates and Belgium opened with $106K at 21 dates. Compton opens in Denmark next weekend.
Disney’s tiniest superhero Ant-Man flew into Japan and Greece this weekend and hauled off with $3.2 million (-37%) from 11 total overseas territories. The film has now grossed $223.8 million at the international box office and $401.387 million worldwide with China still to come on October 16. Japan bowed at #3 behind two local films with a two-day opening of $1.7 million, exceeding both the openings of Captain America 2 and Thor 2.
M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit scared up $2.4 million (-37%) from 17 overseas territories this frame, lifting its early international total to $8.2 million and the worldwide cume to $50.55 million. Spain held well with $1 million for a 10-day total of $3.6 million and UK/Ireland took $813K for a 10-day total of $3.1 million. The Visit opens in Australia, Austria, Germany, Norway, German-Switzerland, Lebanon, and the UAE next weekend.
Films grossing less than $2 million overseas this weekend + local language films (Weekend Total/Overseas Total/Global Total)
The Throne (South Korea) - $9.2M/$12.3M/$12.3M
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - $2.2M/$55.0M/$99.54M
Hitman: Agent 47 - $2.17M/$55.95M/$78.17M
Fantastic Four - $1.57M/$108.3M/$164.0M
Ted 2 - $1.3M/$129.5M/$210.8M
Capture The Flag (Spain) - $773K/$8.3M/$8.3M
Jurassic World - $760K/$1.009B/$1.659B
Black Mass - $675K/$675K/$24.035M
Kingsman: The Secret Service - $576K/$281.8M/$410.06M
By Daniel Garris
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials debuted in first this weekend with an estimated $30.3 million. However, the young adult sequel from Fox debuted significantly below expectations and an underwhelming 7 percent below the $32.51 million debut of last year's The Maze Runner. With that said, The Scorch Trials is currently tied with 2009's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs for the eighth largest September debut of all-time (without adjusting for ticket price inflation). Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials outpaced Black Mass by an estimated $6.94 million this weekend in the battle for first place.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials opened with $11.0 million on Friday (which included an estimated $1.7 million from Thursday night shows), increased 11 percent on Saturday to gross $12.25 million and is estimated to decline 42 percent on Sunday to gross $7.05 million. That places the film's estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.75 to 1. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials received a solid B+ rating on CinemaScore, which was just below the A- CinemaScore rating of its predecessor. That and the film's sequel nature suggest that The Scorch Trials won't hold up as well in comparison going forward.
Warner's Black Mass debuted in second place with an estimated $23.4 million. While the Johnny Depp led crime drama didn't nearly reach the heights that its strong online pre-sales had suggested, the film was still off to a solid start and opened in line with earlier expectations. The film's debut was arguably Depp's strongest since the launch of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides back in 2011. Black Mass opened nearly on par with the $23.81 million start of 2010's The Town, but whether it can duplicate that film's holding power remains to be seen.
Black Mass started with $8.82 million on Friday (which included an estimated $1.4 million from Thursday night shows), was unchanged on Saturday with $8.82 million and is estimated to decline 35 percent on Sunday to gross $5.73 million. That gives the film an estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio of 2.65 to 1, which isn't the greatest initial sign for the film. The film received a B rating on CinemaScore, which while respectable, doesn't suggest that the film will hold up especially well going forward.
Universal's The Visit placed in third with an estimated $11.35 million. The low-budget M. Night Shyamalan directed horror thriller from Blumhouse Productions was down 55 percent from last weekend. That represented a sizable, but respectable second weekend decline, especially given the overall new competition that arrived in the marketplace this weekend. The Visit continues to exceed expectations with a ten-day take of $42.35 million. That places the film 31.5 percent ahead of the $32.20 million ten-day gross of 2006's Lady in the Water.
Last weekend's top film, Sony's The Perfect Guy was down three spots and a sharp 63 percent to land in fourth with an estimated $9.66 million. Despite the sharp second weekend decline, in the bigger picture the low-budget thriller starring Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy and Morris Chestnut is still performing very nicely with a ten-day gross of $41.37 million. That places The Perfect Guy 4 percent ahead of the $39.70 million ten-day take of last year's No Good Deed.
Everest was off to a healthy fifth place start this weekend with an estimated $7.56 million. Universal's adventure drama opened exclusively in 545 IMAX 3D and PLF 3D locations, which gave the film a very promising per-location average of $13,872 for the frame. The film's 366 IMAX locations were responsible for an estimated $6.0 million of the film's total gross this weekend.
Everest took in $2.3 million on Friday, was up an encouraging 30 percent on Saturday to gross $3.0 million and is estimated to decline 25 percent on Sunday to gross $2.26 million. That places the film's estimated weekend to Friday ratio at a strong 3.29 to 1. Given the strength of this weekend's exclusive debut, prospects are looking bright for Everest when it expands into traditional wide release next weekend.
Sony's War Room continued to hold up very nicely this weekend with a sixth place take of $6.32 million. Continued strong word of mouth continues to drive the Kendrick Brothers produced faith based film, as it was down a slim 19 percent from last weekend. War Room has grossed a terrific $49.16 million in 24 days. The film is currently running 20 percent stronger than the $40.90 million 24-day take of last year's God's Not Dead.
Meanwhile, as War Room continued to excel this weekend, fellow faith based film Captive stumbled out of the gate with an estimated eleventh place start of just $1.40 million. The drama thriller from Paramount starring Kate Mara and David Oyelowo opened below its already modest expectations. As was the case with Samuel Goldwyn's 90 Minutes in Heaven last weekend, potential for Captive was clearly limited by the continued success of War Room.
On the platform front, Lionsgate's Sicario was off to a strong start with an estimated $390,000 from 6 locations. That gave the crime thriller starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin a per-location average of $65,000 for the frame. Sicario will expand into wide release on October 2nd.
By Shawn Robbins
Fox reports that Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials bowed to an estimated $11.0 million on Friday, including Thursday's $1.7 million early show gross. While not a bad number by any means, that does fall over 2 percent short of the original's $11.2 million opening day despite having a $600,000 comparable advantage in Thursday night earnings. The first film was very well received by fans and posted unusually strong legs for the young adult genre as it went on to earn over $100 million domestically. Pre-release traditional tracking had been consistently in line with that of The Divergent Series: Insurgent (whose opening day was $21.2 million), suggesting a much higher opening weekend was in store for Scorch Trials. Unfortunately, poor reviews (49 percent on Rotten Tomatoes so far) and weaker fan reception (70 percent on Flixster versus 82 percent for the first pic) are softening demand for the sequel -- not to mention the late surging buzz of other openers this weekend. BoxOffice is projecting a $28 million opening frame, which could still give it first place.
Meanwhile, Black Mass pulled an estimated $8.815 million on opening day, according to Warner Bros. Johnny Depp's hugely buzzed-about turn as infamous real-life gangster Whitey Bulger has drawn strong reviews and early awards season chatter, translating into significant interest among adult crowds and the actor's fans. The opening day take was right in line with (slightly ahead of, in fact) other recent gangster flicks like The Town ($8.35 million in September 2010), Depp's own Public Enemies ($8.2 million on a July 2009 Wednesday), and of course, 2006's The Departed ($8.7 million). For director Scott Cooper, Black Mass' first day already makes it his best opener yet following Out of the Furnace and Crazy Heart. The studio reports a middling "B" CinemaScore, but audiences on Flixster have awarded it an encouraging 80 percent as of this morning -- lining up with critics' positive 76 percent RT score. BoxOffice is projecting the film will tally close to $26 million this weekend in a strong second place debut.
In third place yesterday, M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit was off 61 percent from opening day last week to $3.57 million. That's a typical drop even for well-received horror pics. With $34.6 million in the bank through eight days of play, the Shyamalan/Jason Blum collaboration is continuing its profitable run. Look for a sophomore weekend around $10.8 million.
The Perfect Guy slipped to fourth place on Friday as it slid 69.5 percent from opening day last week to $3.025 million yesterday. That gives it $34.74 million in all so far, 6 percent ahead of the pace of No Good Deed. BoxOffice projects a $10 million second weekend.
Impressively taking fifth place yesterday was Universal's Everest. The dramatized true-story of the 1996 climbing tragedy opened to $2.3 million exclusively in 545 IMAX 3D and PLF 3D screens this weekend to generate buzz ahead of its wide expansion next week. This further cements the viability and appeal of premium screen formats for large scale films, not to mention adds another winner-to-be on Universal's record year. The studio is projecting Everest will take in a fantastic $7.1 million this weekend.
Just outside the top five yesterday was War Room as it continues to post excellent holding power. The drama was down only 15 percent from last Friday to $1.85 million and now boasts a $44.7 million domestic take. Look for a weekend around $6.7 million.
Also opening this weekend was another faith-based film, Captive from Paramount. Its $647,000 estimated opening day was just under 90 Minutes In Heaven's $758,767 bow last Friday -- about as good as can be expected with now three major faith-driven films in the market. BoxOffice projects a $1.7 million weekend for Captive.
Last but certainly not least, Lionsgate bowed Sicario in six locations to an excellent $133,810 on Friday, similar to the $135,602 earned by Birdman in four theaters on opening day last year. That registers as a $22,301 per-theater average for the Mexican-based crime thriller and sets Sicario up for a weekend around $420,000. The film will expand into wide release in early October.
Follow BoxOffice on Sunday for updated weekend estimates from the studios.
Update #2: According to sources, this is how the weekend is shaping up:
The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials: $34 million
Black Mass: $31 million
Everest: $6 million
Check back tomorrow for updated projections and official studio estimates.
Update #1: Sources report that Fox's Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials posted $1.7 million from Thursday's early shows, significantly improving upon the first film's $1.1 million debut exactly one year ago. The 55 percent jump is yet another indicator that the franchise's audience has grown since the original's debut last year thanks to positive reviews and word of mouth among teens and young adults. A weekend north of $40 million seems very possible at this point, with potential for even more if Scorch follows a similar daily pattern as its predecessor. The first pic opened to a $32.5 million weekend.
Johnny Depp's highly buzzed-about performance as Whitey Bulger is also translating into great success. Black Mass scored $1.4 million for Fox last night and sets the stage for an excellent weekend beyond pre-release expectations. By comparison, Black Mass' debut last night was in line with The Equalizer's $1.5 million and Gone Girl's $1.3 million last fall -- films that went on to $34.1 million and $37.5 million opening weekends, respectively.
Meanwhile, sources report that Everest pulled around $325,000 from select IMAX and PLF screens last night. There aren't many apt comparisons for this type of release as Everest expands wide next week, but it's definitely a positive start for the film.
No early Thursday grosses were reported for Paramount's Captive, which opens in semi-wide release this weekend.
More updates as they come...
By Daniel Garris
Sony's The Perfect Guy grossed $1.05 million on Thursday to lead the daily box office for a fourth consecutive day. The low-budget thriller from Screen Gems starring Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy and Morris Chestnut was down 10 percent from Wednesday. It should be noted that daily percentage declines were sharp in general on Thursday, due in part to Fox's Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails, Warner's Black Mass and Universal's Everest all entering the marketplace on Thursday evening. The Perfect Guy was the week's top film with a stronger than expected seven-day start of $31.71 million. That places the film a healthy 6 percent ahead of the $29.91 million seven-day start of last year's No Good Deed.
Universal's The Visit continued to hold steady in a very close second place with $0.998 million. The low-budget M. Night Shyamalan directed horror thriller from Blumhouse Productions trailed The Perfect Guy by just $56,338 for the day and by $712,152 for the week. The Visit exceeded expectations this week with a second place seven-day start of $30.998 million. The film is currently running 24 percent ahead of the $25.06 million seven-day take of 2006's Lady in the Water.
Sony's War Room continued to display terrific holding power on Thursday with a third place take of $0.769 million. The break-out Kendrick Brothers produced faith based film from TriStar and AFFIRM Films was up 8 percent over Wednesday and down only 22 percent from last Thursday. War Room placed in third for the week with $11.05 million. That represented a very solid 33 percent decline from the previous week and brings the film's three-week total to an impressive $42.84 million.
Based on studio reported weekly grosses, BoxOffice estimates that Broad Green Pictures' A Walk in the Woods placed in fourth on Thursday with $0.399 million. The Robert Redford led comedy claimed fourth place for the week with $6.80 million. A Walk in the Woods was down 48.5 percent from the previous week and has grossed a stronger than expected $22.06 million in 16 days of release.
Baltasar Kormákur began his filmmaking career as an actor in his native Iceland before moving behind the camera. As a director, Kormákur has helmed a variety of films from Icelandic thrillers (Jar City) to U.S. indie crossovers (Inhale) and, more recently, Hollywood action flicks for summer audiences (2 Guns). Kormákur's breakout film in the U.S. was Contraband, the stateside remake of the Icelandic hit Reykjavík-Rotterdam, in which he directed Mark Wahlberg in a role that was originally his own. The director's biggest challenge to date, however, will hit theaters this September with Universal's Everest. The film was partly shot on location in Nepal and recounts the tragic events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster that are chronicled in Jon Krakauer's best-selling nonfiction book Into Thin Air. Months of preparations were put to the test as the filmmakers and cast (including Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, and Keira Knightley) endured a brutally cold and difficult shoot, battling the elements to get the feel of the real-life drama on film. BoxOffice spoke with Kormákur about the challenges of shooting in the mountains and how it compares with the difficulties foreign directors encounter in Hollywood.
Before we even get into the challenges of shooting the film, I imagine pre-production was an odyssey in itself. How did you prepare to tackle this story? Did Jon Krakauer's book or the IMAX documentary play any role in the planning?
I read all the books. I did some mountaineering training to get into it. I actually do a lot of traveling on horses in the mountains, so it was a bit different-that's the Icelandic way of doing it. I went to New Zealand, traveled the whole world to meet everyone possible who was either a part of the story or closely connected to it. People like the widow of Rob Hall, the base-camp manager Helen Wilton, the physician Caroline Mackenzie, they're all in New Zealand. Guy Cotter, who was part of the story. And I had David Breashears with me. I went to America to meet Beck Weathers, and we spent two nights together there. Basically all the information I could gather --I have never prepared so much for a movie. I also wanted to make sure these people were OK with me doing this and create kind of a trust. I wanted to create a personal contact. I met Sarah Hall, Rob Hall's daughter, who is a large part of the story. All the mountain stuff, we spent quite a lot of time on that. The movie pushed us a little bit, so it gave me even more time to do these kinds of things. And being Icelandic, I'm born in bad weather, you know?
Is there any way to prepare for weather concerns like these during pre-production?
It's almost impossible. We kept on asking ourselves, where are we going to shoot this? What are we going to get? We ended up shooting in four countries. When we went to Nepal, to Kathmandu, we traveled up as close to base camp as we were allowed to by the insurance companies, and you don't know if you're going to have half of the actors puking or falling apart or not, so you've got to kind of play it by ear. And then in the Dolomites we ended up going to the coldest, highest place we were allowed to shoot. We were up at three to four thousand meters in negative 30 degrees Celsius. I don't know what that is in Fahrenheit, but it's damn cold. And we were shooting for 12 hours in places like that, so it created a situation where it hadn't snowed as much in the Dolomites. We were constantly getting ourselves out of avalanche danger. Then when you're doing the studio work, it's a whole different trouble. You're wearing the costumes that you had in negative 30 degrees. We thought about shooting in Iceland, even in New Zealand, and then there's the whole money issue about tax rebates. In the end, it was just about where it was physically possible to make this happen. We started in Nepal, we were up there really high in January and there's no tourism at that time, which was very good for us. But it was so cold, and there was no heating in the hostels. We stopped in little towns along the way, and we had to sleep with electric blankets-all with a cast of A-list stars. I think it gave a lot of reality for the actors to get to know each other very closely in a different way than knocking on each other's trailers and saying, "I just wanted to let you know I'm here." They were basically forced to be together, even carrying some of the equipment because there were no vehicles allowed up in Lukla, the famous airstrip you land on, the most dangerous airport in the world. Above that, we had a couple of helicopters dropping things off here and there, but you had to carry stuff to most of the places.
Many people when they do something like this, they train for months. Was there any kind of program that you put in place for the crew and actors before you started?
Most of the actors had training. It was such a huge cast and filmed with different groups of people, so there were times you had A-list stars as extras. It may not be their scene, but they're still there in the story. I know Jason Clarke and Josh Brolin, and I think Jake Gyllenhaal as well, most of these guys had a long training. They did it on their own for quite a while, and then we had group training. At that point, they were way ahead. We also went to a place outside of London where you can go into a decompressed cabin and feel the lack of oxygen. We tested that out on ourselves and our brains and got all the information about what it does to you so they could understand the dizziness and lack of clarity up there, but that came by itself when you actually got up there. Even at maybe three or four thousand meters, you're still getting mountain sickness. Just go to Sundance and you'll actually feel it.
One of the things that struck me in Werner Herzog's diary about the making of Fitzcarraldo, Conquest of the Useless, was that during production, it was the most unexpected, mundane challenges that proved to be the most difficult. Did you find the same to be true in your experience making Everest?
The weather was a daily issue. Our time in the Dolomites was the most complicated. It snows in the morning and then the sun dries it up later in the day. And then you have this drilling headache so you can barely concentrate on what you're doing. Then you come to set in the morning and the first thing you hear is, "We can't shoot today." Why? "Because there's an avalanche coming." There was a big avalanche accident in the Dolomites when we were there. The saddest thing is we had Sherpas die when we had a second unit up there. I'm not exaggerating; you can't make a more complicated film. Imagine going to work at seven a.m., standing in a freezing-cold elevator for 40 minutes getting up that mountain, and as soon you come up, there are clouds on the mountain.
I'm sure the payoff comes with actually getting on-location footage. What did you want the film to look like?
I wanted to make the film look like a feature film about Everest shot at Everest. I was very specific. There are numerous documentaries made there, handheld stuff, and I didn't want to go for that style. Though I like it, I just felt it would look like any other documentary on Everest. I wanted to give you a big scope of the mountain. It's not an action movie like some people maybe think it is. I'm sure the studio wants people to think it is. It's a dramatic story and for me, I wanted the wow factor to be there more than the shock factor. I wanted the viewer to realize the enormity of the mountain as the camera pulls back, and you see how big the mountain is and how small the people are. Everyone knows this mountain, so you can't fake yourself around it. You had to visualize the mountain with every shot. I call it the "hair extension" way: instead of shooting the whole thing in the studio and have a wig, you use the real stuff and then pepper in studio footage so you always have the reality as reference.
After such a difficult shoot, I assume your next film will be set in Miami or Hawaii.
I have a big film in the Persian Gulf about an oil spill with Cate Blanchett that I signed with Fox. I have a Viking movie that I've been developing and Universal has the rights to. I plan on doing that in Iceland actually, with a volcano. I guess I'm just stuck to filming them as hard as possible. I don't think any of them will be as hard as Everest. You can't push it much further than that. I don't know what could be more complicated; maybe a movie shot way under the ocean. I'll let James Cameron do that.
What has been your experience as an international filmmaker in Hollywood? Has it been as troublesome as some of the stories we hear?
Less so than I would've imagined after all the horror stories I had heard. I've had a really easy creative dialogue with people. I knowingly went for more commercial movies in the beginning just to get my foot in. It was a conscious decision to go that way when I started with those movies. It's quite a reach, and I don't think people realize how big of a step it is to cross the Atlantic Ocean as a director. I'm the only one from this country to ever have done that.