THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US
A Harrowing Adventure, An Epic Romance
With his novel THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US, author Charles Martin fashioned a
suspenseful, affecting tale that examines how two strangers with distinctive
personalities compromise and adapt to one another under extreme duress. That
story-the unfolding tale of how two compelling protagonists make their way
across a brutal landscape toward salvation, and ultimately, love-spoke to
Oscar-nominated producer Peter Chernin (Hidden Figures). At its core, the tale
offered an endearing exploration of humanity's optimistic, loving and giving
spirit that reminds us to always have hope and live in the present.
The veteran filmmaker optioned Martin's novel five years ago aiming to translate
the unusual love story built for the big screen, making a film in the tradition
of such classics as Dr. Zhivago and Out of Africa.
"I was highly attracted to the idea of doing a love story with scale," Chernin
says. "I was just highly impacted by this story of essentially two broken or
incomplete people who, through this experience, change their lives and grow into
who they are. These are two people in the most extreme situation imaginable. The
fact that they fall in love is one of the reasons that allows them to survive
this extraordinary ordeal."
By almost any account, Alex Martin and Ben Bass an unlikely pair. Both are
exceedingly accomplished and committed to their respective professions, but
there, the similarities end.
Alex is bold, fearless and feisty, a photojournalist known for her maverick
methods and dogged determination. True to form, she cuts it close traveling back
to New York and ends up stuck in Idaho the day before her wedding to long-term
boyfriend Mark. When her flight is cancelled due to inclement weather, she is
determined to find a solution, partnering with a stranger to charter a flight
that will get them both closer to their destination.
Ben Bass is a renowned children's neurosurgeon on his way to New York to perform
a vital, complicated procedure the following morning. He is precise, methodical
and disciplined, both in life and career and, though reluctant to board a small
plane, he sees no other option. That decision sets in motion a harrowing series
of events that will set the stage for Alex and Ben to forge a deep, unique and
Starring as Alex and Ben are two of the most respected actors working today:
Academy Award winner Kate Winslet (The Reader) and Golden Globe winner Idris
"These are two serious, world-class actors," Chernin says. "The idea of putting
them together in this sort of intense, emotional story made it feel more
special. Both of them came to this with a serious level of commitment. They were
incredibly excited about playing off each other and deeply committed to making
this story something of quality."
Winslet has a nearly unparalleled resume studded with standout performances
stretching back decades-she's often said that she likes to play women she
considers "ballsy," a description that certainly applies to Alex. "She's the
kind of woman who won't give up until she's got her story," Winslet says. "She's
one of those women who's been in war zones before, worked around the clock, gone
without sleep. She's brave, extremely brave."
In Alex, she says she saw the opportunity to portray a strong female protagonist
whose mental strength and clarity become vitally important to her survival, a
woman who is every bit as well drawn and alive as Ben. "When I first read the
script, I was actually attracted to both Alex and Ben," Winslet says. "I loved
the idea that these two characters would sustain an entire film from start to
finish. I've never read a script like that before. And I also really believe in
what the story says-that you can change, as a person, in immeasurable ways, and
it's perfectly possible to experience something in your life and then never
really be able to go back to the way your life was, or forward to what you
thought your life was going to become. So much changes for these two characters
through the experience that they share. I was very captivated by that."
Likewise, Idris Elba, well known for searing turns on the BBC series Luther and
in films such as Beasts of No Nation and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, was
drawn to the role of Ben, a man as strong and capable as he is handsome. "The
story and the extreme circumstances these two people find themselves in was very
appealing to me," he says. "It felt like something I could dramatically really
get my teeth into. Also, I hadn't done a romantic lead yet, so this is quite a
"This movie examines the concept that there's no perfect scenario to meet
someone you're going to fall in love with," Elba adds. "In fact, sometimes the
most extreme scenarios become a better place to understand if you can love
someone or not because you're facing them in a circumstance that isn't
comfortable. As an actor, you have to put yourself there as closely as you can
to whatever the character is going through and Ben has gone through a lot. His
personal life is in turmoil when we meet him and becomes ever more complicated
on this mountain."
To tell this gripping story of romance and survival, Chernin and producer Jenno
Topping ultimately turned to acclaimed Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, the
Oscar-nominated filmmaker known for his foreign-language dramas Omar and
Paradise Now, both political dramas dealing with themes of occupation and
"The thing about Hany is that he leads with his heart, and he's not afraid of
all the colors and the emotional scale," Topping says. "He wants to explore the
outer limits of the emotional range that humans are capable of, whether that's
love or fear or danger or sorrow. And he communicates that so effectively. Once
we realized that not only would he bring the quality that he brings to all his
work, but that he also wanted to reach for a bigger, more muscular palette, we
felt totally comfortable."
In THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US, Abu-Assad saw the chance to direct an expansive,
inherently cinematic story of a man and woman struggling against the elements
that also functions as an intimate, moving two-hander. "The script was about the
good nature of human beings and their spirt to allow them to become better human
beings, to survive, to be able to love, to be able to sacrifice," Abu-Assad
says. "That felt to me like an interesting theme to dig into. This is indeed my
biggest movie ever. There are a lot of differences from my small projects, but
also a lot of similarities, and the principle is the same. In the end, whether
it's a small or big movie, it's about storytelling."
Winslet was familiar with the boundary-pushing director's earlier films and was
eager to collaborate with him. "I had seen Hany's previous work and loved his
storytelling," she says. "It's very, very simple and yet deals with extremely
complex emotions that are often quite difficult to portray on film. They're
often bound up in conflict and tragedy and yet somehow, he is able to convey
those things on film in a gentle way that is captivating and also humorous at
times. It's perfectly possible to find moments of great random humor in extreme
situations or moments of great tragedy and sadness. And I really admire the way
that he handles that in his filmmaking."
The story of THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US is set dramatically into motion once the
pilot of the plane Alex and Ben have charted suffers a stroke mid-flight, and
the craft crashes-respected actor Beau Bridges appears in a brief but memorable
term as the doomed man. When Ben first emerges from the wreckage, he takes in
the full isolation and desperation of their predicament. Making matters worse,
Alex is severely injured-she's unconscious for nearly two days. Ben uses his
medical training to tend to her wounds, and after she finally wakes, he suggests
that they settle in and remain calm, that help surely will arrive shortly. It's
Alex who realizes that the pilot never filed a flight plan, meaning if they are
to survive, they must take action-and quickly.
"Ben's character is always erring much more on the side of caution than Alex,"
Winslet says. "So, whereas he would have much preferred to stay put in that
plane and wait in hopes of a rescue, Alex says, 'We might just have to get
ourselves out of this awful situation and either you're with me or you're not.'
Her courage to go out and start trying to make that journey to safety and back
to civilization is the thing that actually does drive the story forward."
To make it out of the mountains alive, Alex and Ben will have to cover miles and
miles of punishing terrain. With meager supplies, they set out, accompanied by
the pilot's faithful dog. The going is slow, and along the way, the survivors
become increasingly dependent on one another as they face a series of perilous
situations. Her mental and his physical wherewithal are both needed to overcome
the imminent danger they are in.
"They definitely clash over their strategic maneuvers throughout the story, but
those are the things that bring them together," Winslet says. "They have to work
together. They have to get through those differences. And then it does take them
to the point where they can't be without one another."
They also begin to learn intimate details about each other's lives-though the
expressive Alex is initially more forthcoming than the reserved Ben. She reveals
that she's only recently committed to marrying Mark, played by Dermot Mulroney,
while introverted Ben, on the other hand, secretly and sparingly listens to
classical music on his cell phone, a reminder of his loving wife who passed away
from cancer years before. They selflessly begin to care for one another. No
matter the threat, neither is willing to leave the other behind.
"This film is about falling in love," says producer David Ready. "At the outset
of their relationship, it's very much yin and yang. As they face the same
jeopardy and challenges, their characters learn from one another and grow. Alex
gets softer, Ben gets louder, braver, and they start to come together in order
"This is a total romance," adds Topping. "It's such an incredibly beautiful part
of the movie actually-when you go through something so extreme with someone,
there is nobody else in the world who knows you like as intimately. If somebody
loves you after that, after going through that and seeing it all, there will
never be another human who you can connect in the same way."
Much like Alex and Ben, Winslet and Elba approached their roles differently but
with the same intense commitment to character. "I'm quite a lot about dialogue
and making sure that we've got the lines down and that we know what we're
doing," Winslet says. "Idris would be very much like, 'Don't worry about that
stuff. It's all about the energy. It's all about the atmosphere.' We had to kind
of adapt to each other's way of working because both ways of working were
completely relevant and we needed both of those qualities to be able to get
through [the experience of filming]. We did learn a lot from each other."
"Kate brought a level of deepness and honesty about the emotions that Alex goes
through," Elba adds. "She's very analytical about the words and the script, and
we spent a lot of time breaking it down to the finest detail to make it ring
true. When you've got two actors playing characters that go through something
that is very real-survival, love-it's important that you really look for the
truth in that because the audience can see through it. Kate was very vigilant
and very honest. She gave away stuff about herself to play this role. We both
did. We had to."
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