Sydney Unleashed

Sydney's #1 Entertainment & Lifestyle Publication

Guy Cotter ‘Everest’ Interview

Guy Cotter ‘Everest’ Interview

Literally while getting ready for yet another trek to Nepal, I spoke with Guy Cotter – a man who has been to the apex of Mount Everest multiple times and was the chief climbing instructor to the all-star Hollywood cast for a breathtaking new drama based on a tragic true story, Everest.

Shane A. Bassett – Your thoughts on the completed film?

Guy Cotter – Powerful, very well cast, people will leave with a very deep impression. The filmmakers have done a very good job to portray people at very high altitude that are not at very high altitude. Visual effects were outstanding considering they just built everything from photos. All fly-over scenes were brilliant to establish positioning in every step on the summit.

SAB – How far in advance did the director (Baltasar Komakur) contact you to start working?

GC – Not long. I went to London December 2013 for two weeks of advising then finished five months later. It was apparent they needed lots of help with safety procedures. Baltasar and Australian star Jason Clarke came to New Zealand to meet all those who were involved in the actual incident, I helped with making things authentic in their eyes with every detail I possibly could.

SAB – Did you have a say in the casting of Sam Worthington playing yourself?

GC – No but he did a credible job (laughs) without my humour or good looks. It was a minor role as opposed to the major roles on the mountain, it was difficult to watch at times thinking he might not be showing the same emotions, but considering the script he did well.

SAB – Were you working one on one with all the cast or just the leads?

GC – All the climbing actors apart from Sam, he figured he had it sorted. Jason especially I worked with lots. Very easy to advise, keen to ensure he was in character, eager to do it right. Professional actors that worked hard as a bunch. Martin Henderson adapted the quickest.

SAB – Being a Kiwi, did you approve of Jason’s Kiwi accent?

GC – (laughs) He did a wonderful job, but the real Rob didn’t have a strong accent either so with these types of films, it’s probably more important the international audience can understand the person as opposed to sounding authentic.

SAB – It’s been 15 years since Vertical Limit, how have the filmmaking procedures for this type of movie changed since?

GC – Visually of course, but the process of making a film in a high mountain environment has not changed much. Vertical Limit was actually more intensive in the time spent up in the rock faces. A longer shoot, accessing the mountains by helicopter everyday. So Everest should have been much easier to film but out of the blue we were besotted by a horrendous storm in the locations we chose in Italy making progression and the state of the snow difficult.

SAB – Do you think the locations were authentic for Everest for the cinemagoer?

GC – Good enough, in reality we were shooting the foregrounds then the backgrounds were put in digitally afterwards. The backdrops look realistic and come across really well, the climbing sequences are as authentic as you’re going to get for actors who are not in high altitude.

SAB – I had vertigo throughout holding onto the cinema seat, especially in scenes climbing across the rickety ladders, does that happen?

GC – They are swaying around yes, it’s what we do to get across crevices.

SAB – Can weather be predicted better up there with technology or just by looking around?

GC – Good question, it can be kind of predicted by the best forecasters in the world and they can still be out by 100 knots when a jet-stream hits a peak. It’s our biggest issue but the nature of Everest is like that.

SAB – Have you ever experienced a near death experience yourself or had frost bite?

GC – No for either. One of the things being able to survive is to look after yourself and be prepared to turn back if things are not going well. Success is not always standing up on the summit hands up cheering, sometimes returning another day is smart.

SAB – Is there a science to mountaineering or just common sense or knowledge or fitness?

GC – Yes there is a science to it, in that you have to weigh up all of the factors very accurately, analyse strategies around that such as speed of the climbers, time of day, avalanche awareness and stay on alert. There is a science but it’s not static, a good climbing guide will anticipate everything before an incident occurs. Part of the joy is being in tune to be successful. Humans cannot conquer a mountain, just work with it.

SAB – Will Everest encourage people to try climbing or discourage viewers due to realism?

GC – If they don’t take their wife along they may be keen but if they do, I would think not. It’s very sad, not an uplifting movie. What I kept telling the director was we needed to sell the idea of why people would be there in the first place. The viewer knows it’s going to be a tragedy but somewhere along the way you think, I understand why those guys and girls go do that. If that is not achieved, people just look at it and think of course they go up high then die. Most movies only show disasters, not perspective. Our movie leaves the participants with integrity unlike the book source. It may be based on true events but we made our own assessment on the characters.

SAB – Everest is really part of your life, how did you cope with the enormity of this film being made about people you know?

GC – Well I can’t be entertained by it, those who passed away were personal friends, to have a balanced perspective on it is difficult. More interesting is what you or others have to say. We all worked hard on it so lets hope it’s not dismissed as a piece of junk (laughs). Josh Brolin played his character very well, we got the real essence of who that was. An ordinary person who did extraordinary things, they are all like that. There was not a dry eye in the house.

SAB – Other than your own, can you recommend a good mountaineering film?

GC – North Face; made by some Germans was very good. Just incredible but I don’t watch many.

Shane A. Bassett

Sydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.