The sometimes-too-intense-to-watch film tells the true story of hiker Aron Ruston (played by James Franco), who trapped by a boulder, suffers for five excruciating days until he takes extreme measures to free himself by cutting off his own arm. Yet, Boyle took what could have been a gratuitous shockfest and makes it a life-affirming journey of self-discovery. "It involved a series of plateaus of pain that he had to live through, but most importantly it was a passage way to something else, a delivery to life again," says Boyle.
Letting Franco's riveting performance unfold naturally was the key factor, he notes. "You have to give control over to the actor," explains Boyle. "You cannot have this kind of microscopic focus on someone, then manipulate him. This journey had to come organically from James."
While the movie might make its audience squirm and cringe and get a little lightheaded, Boyle thinks moviegoers will find it's worth the chills. "You often get used to the expression 'a feel good movie' and it seems very funny to apply that to this movie, since 'feel good' often represents a cheap thrill," he says. "But this is a much more profound feeling of euphoria because you've been through a great deal to get there. You've participated in it."
Boyle may be known for his film work, but he's finally returning to the arena where he first made his mark: the London stage. On November 14, he will direct a star-studded benefit entitled The Children's Monologues at the Old Vic, and in 2011, he will helm a stage version of Frankenstein for London's National Theatre, which marks his first play in 15 years.
"This story has been done multiple times, but we found that it had never been told from the creature's point of view," says Boyle, who has cast noted British actors Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch to alternate in playing the role of the monster and its creator, Victor Frankenstein.
And if that wasn't enough for Boyle to think about, he's also been named Artistic Director for London's opening ceremonies of the 2012 summer Olympics. "I'm a sports lunatic," says Boyle. "'l'll watch any kind of sports -- even American baseball which I find very hard to understand the rules of!"
But it's not just his love of the games that appeals to him about this special assignment. "There are events or occasions where we all come together as people around the world, and participate together and celebrate together," he says. "It's a privilege to help celebrate that occasion."