Shooting 'The Mountain Between Us' in sub-zero cold was tough, but beautiful

In 20th Century Fox's romantic drama "The Mountain Between Us," Kate Winslet and Idris Elba star as two strangers stranded together atop a remote snow-covered mountain after a plane crash. The Times caught up with cinematographer Mandy Walker to discuss the challenges behind filming on a frozen mountaintop for the film from director Hany Abu-Assad.

"Hany wanted everything to be as realistic as possible. And the actors were so amazing. We really went to those locations and went up to between 10,000 and 11,000 feet, we got up in a helicopter, and it got down to -40 [degrees Celsius] sometimes. The challenge for me was that Hany also said, 'I want this film to be elegant and I want to move with the actors as they're traveling on their journey.' ”

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In one scene, Walker says, “Idris gets to the peak of the mountain and the camera goes up with him and circles around him. That area that everyone was standing on was about 12 feet wide, and the camera went up — it was a Steadicam shot — and walked around him 360 degrees. Afterwards, the camera guy said to me, ‘That's the hardest shot I've ever done in my life.’ "

Beyond the amazing scenery, Walker says, the shots were about creating mood.

“So, for instance, sometimes we go a little colder and a little darker when we feel that the characters are maybe going to die, and we're always moving with them,” she says. “We want the audience to feel like they're on the journey. They're in a situation that's really dangerous and harsh, but beautiful. Like Hany said, the really important thing is that every so often it's breathtakingly beautiful, and that was really important to him. But you also have to feel their experience and their fear.”

This story is part of our Fall 2017 Movie Preview. Check out the complete coverage here.

sonaiya.kelley@latimes.com

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