About The Production
Vertical Limit chronicles a damaged yet loving brother-sister relationship against the backdrop of an intensely dangerous mountain rescue. The dynamics of the human urge for survival are played out on the chilling might of K2, the world's second highest and most challenging mountain.
For director Martin Campbell, the mountain environment is the added dimension— not the core— of the film. It is a film about relationships, not a mountain movie or a film about climbing. "Forget the mountain, forget the snow, forget the conditions— Vertical Limit is a drama that could be played out on flat land, and it would still be a fantastic movie about love, family and courage."
Producer Lloyd Phillips says, "This is first and foremost a drama— but it's a drama set against a
mountain. It's a story of people— of personalities— and the dramas that take place within and between these characters."
Chris O'Donnell was called upon to essay the role of the foremost of these characters, Peter Garrett. Garrett's life is devastated after a climbing accident in which he was forced to cut the rope holding his father in order to save his sister and himself. His sister hasn't forgiven him, and when they meet after three years of estrangement, he must climb K2, the world's most feared mountain, to rescue her.
"There is no doubt in his mind about what he has to do," explains O'Donnell of Garrett's mission. "There's not a chance that he's not going after her and giving it his all. If it kills him in the process that's fine, because the idea of living without having tried would be harder for him. His only concern is to get her out."
O'Donnell was attracted to the role and intrigued by the project. He also wanted to work with director Martin Campbell.
"Martin 's amazing. I felt really comfortable working with him. He was so prepared. In his head he'd already cut the whole movie, so he knew exactly what he wanted. That's the way I like to work," says O'Donnell. "He really pays attention to every little nuance. It's been great because we've really been able to pick out little points and beats to make a scene special."
Fellow Chicagoan Robin Tunney joined the cast as Peter's sister, Annie.
"I've actually known Robin for a while because she's from Chicago, and we had the same agent 10 or 12 years ago," says O'Donnell. "It was the strangest feeling to be making this film in New Zealand with this girl I knew when we were making television commercials back in Chicago. She's really talented. A lot of our scenes are pretty emotional because of what our characters have gone through, and it's been great working with her."
Tunney was attracted to the character of Annie because "she's incredibly individual. A lot of times when you're looking for roles in film as a woman, you're the girlfriend, or the wife, or the daughter, or the appendage. This woman is very independent, and that's hard to come by."
Annie's relationship with her brother is the emotional heart of the film. Tunney explains how the siblings withdrew from each other in the complicated aftermath of their father's passing: "In the three years since their father's death, Peter's thrown himself into photography and has been incredibly isolated. My character has thrown herself into climbing, the sport that her father loved and she also loves. That's her way of grieving."
Tunney was also fascinated by the questions Annie must face once she is trapped in the ice cave with Elliot Vaughn, whose philosophy on surviving the catastrophe is diametrically opposed to hers. "She'd rather give her life to save somebody else's, and he is more 'survival of the fittest,' out for himself," says
Tunney. "I don't think that's right or wrong. I think everybody can say ideally how they
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