Ralston headed into rural Utah without telling a soul about his plans for weekend adventure. What happened soon after would alter his life forever.
The experienced hiker and mountaineering aficionado had lived through countless moments of fear and always survived. What 127 Hours director Danny Boyle and James Franco so impeccably show in the film is how the man who cheated death so many times prior would land in the bottom of a canyon with his hand trapped by a boulder and immediately guzzle two-thirds of his water. The real life transformation of a human being is on display in 127 Hours courtesy of Aron Ralston's journey from careless adventurer to cherish-every-moment family man which ultimately makes Franco and Boyle's film a triumph.
Aron Ralston recently sat down with us to talk about the most emotional moments of his 127-hour march towards salvation and how the film 127 Hours is the most priceless of gifts to his family and friends.
SheKnows: Does it bother you to think that people will think of 127 Hours as the movie about the guy who cut his arm off?
Aron Ralston: [Laughs] People who walk into the film, for the most part, are going to remember it as the movie about the guy who cut his arm off. And if there's one thing I hope by the end of it that they realize, that not only are they glad that the guy cuts his arm off, that we are also all going to get out of there, together. I was smiling. In the movie, and in real life, there was that moment -- briefly in the film -- where you see James smile. It's an almost maniacal laugh. It shows that this is a triumph. This is an exuberant experience of euphoria, which it was for me. I was smiling as I was doing that and felt the most intense pain I'll ever experience too, but it was also this grin from ear to ear.
SheKnows: You were going to get out of there…
Aron Ralston: I was going to see all the people in those vignettes, the relationships that were so important to me. Danny put these touches there to give a little glimpse into this guy and the people that he loves, the regrets that he has, not appreciating his parents, that was me, I said that. That was lifted verbatim from the video tapes that I made in the canyon.
SheKnows: In the film, when James actually breaks the bone, he smiles…
Aron Ralston: Yeah! That was it exactly. It was an epiphany, a eureka moment. I knew within an hour, right after the accident happened, the first thing I said in the canyon was, "You're going to cut your arm off." I said that out loud.
SheKnows: Was the process of freeing yourself pretty close to what we see on film?
Aron Ralston: I actually tried cutting by sawing into my arm to no avail, just like what happens in the movie as you see James go through it. The second day, I figured out the tourniquet. The fourth day, I stabbed myself and was like, "Ah-hah! I did it!" Again, there's one of these triumphs. But, for the bone, the knife was too dull. It was solving a riddle: How do you cut your arm off with a knife that is too dull to get through the bone. The answer to the riddle is you don't cut through your bones. You break them. I figured out, through it all, that the bone isn't what is trapping me -- it's the knife that is too dull. Then, the boulder changes into: It's not the problem. It's the solution. I can use the boulder and its vice-like grip to break my bones and from that point, I can get out. Once, it just dawned on me out of a very emotional, almost rage trying to rip my arm free -- James is in that space where he's just wrenching himself around -- and finally I felt the bones bend. You realize, "That's it! That's it!" It was like, "Watson, come here!"
Aron Ralston: It was such an amazing experience to be smiling -- to break your own bones and be smiling.
SheKnows: At the end, James takes a picture of the boulder and the entire scene as he readies to walk away. Did you really do that?
Aron Ralston: Yeah, it was like, "Good riddance." [Laughs]
SheKnows: Have you seen 127 Hours with your family yet?
Aron Ralston: It's been emotional for me, personally, every time. The first time I saw it, I went through the experience myself just watching it. It reminded me of the gratitude I have for my family, the intensity of what I went through, how close it was where I nearly didn't make it. When I watched it the second time, it was with my wife [laughs]. Also, the third time was with her and my mother-in-law, with several of my closest friends and my sister, and then my parents. Every single one of those times is like watching it again freshly, going through it, because it's the first time for them. My mom, sitting with me, holding my hand, by the end, there's this building salvation. The amputation is over, we all made it through, we weren't even crying at that point. But, as he hikes and that music builds, I was talking with AR Rahman about it, there's this surge of euphoria where he's going to get out of there. He's marching, he's stumbling. Then, there's the helicopter. At this point, my mom is squeezing my hand so hard that I think I'm going to lose my other arm [laughs]. We're both just involuntarily rocking in our seats saying out loud, "Thank you God. Thank you God." [Begins to get quite emotional] That's what a beautiful gift this is, how many hundreds of times I've told this story and talked about it, writing a book and all these other emotional processings that I've gone through. To sit there, that is what Danny gave my family and me was this story in such a way that it brings us even closer. I go back to that moment in the hospital where my mom held my hand and we cried together for five minutes when she said [pauses to compose himself], "If it hadn't been a broken arm that kept you out in the desert for five days, you were going to have two of them by the time I was done with you." [Laughs] She never wanted to let me go again. I didn't want to let her go either. It was almost an echo of that sitting in the movie theater. My wife, too, what a respectful and honoring experience it has been throughout the whole process.
SheKnows: Does your family see you in James Franco?
Aron Ralston: Oh my God, so many people are saying, "That's so you!" [Laughs]
Next…Aron on working with James Franco and how family graciously grounds him!
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