Sounds like my kind of movie...
Danny Boyle's new film about rock climber Aron Ralston, the fellow who had to amputate his own arm after being trapped by a boulder, seems to be causing people some ah, issues, shall we say.
The official word from Fox Searchlight is “No” — the epidemic of fainting, seizures and other visceral physical reactions to the amputation scene in 127 Hours is not a studio-engineered publicity stunt. Nor does the studio intend to capitalize on it, according to co-president Stephen Gilula: “I would prefer that people not pass out; it’s not a plus. […] We don’t see a particular publicity value in it.” Noble? Sure. Tasteful? Always. Honest? Let’s check the medical history.
Sept. 4 — Telluride Film Festival
Two separate reports had one person fainting at the film’s world premiere, while the official accounting from Searchlight counted “an older gentleman [who] was light-headed at the first screening” and, at the second screening, a ” young woman (maybe 19 or 20) who had a panic attack. Paramedics attended to both people.” Anne Thompson’s fest correspondent Meredith Brody said she was reminded “of the old days when people were vomiting in the lobby during The Exorcist.”
Sept. 13 — Toronto Film Festival
“The first public screening of Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours had three faintings and one seizure,” wrote Wrap contributor John Foote. According to a fest volunteer, the audience at the Sept. 14 screening “was made of sterner stuff than those from yesterday” — this despite Foote noting, “I cannot remember a reaction to a film like this in a very long time, perhaps not since The Exorcist sent audiences scurrying for the doors (though much of that was later said to be a publicity stunt).” You don’t say.
Oct. 15 — Private screening, Pixar Theater
Nikki Finke reported that two people passed out during a screening hosted by Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich. Both were “declared fine” by paramedics. One of Finke’s commenters put the fainting tally at four — “and these are people who work on movies!”
Oct. 16 — Mill Valley Film Festival
According to a report last weekend by John Horn in the LAT, one viewer fainted during 127 Hours’ MVFF premiere. (No individual reports from the scene corroborate this.) “Such fainting spells aren’t unprecedented in Hollywood, though they’ve been much more commonly caused by horror movies like The Exorcist and Alien,” Horn added.
Oct. 19 — Special screening, Museum of Modern Art
Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter hosted director Danny Boyle, actor James Franco and climber Aron Ralston for a Q&A, prior to which one viewer reportedly fainted.
Oct. 23 — Private Producers Guild screening, Hollywood
Also cited by Horn, who spoke with a woman who was treated by paramedics who’d originally been called to tend to a viewer’s seizure. “I have never had, even remotely, an experience like this,” the woman told Horn. “I’m a television producer. I know this stuff is not real.” Another flummoxed Hollywood pro! Just like the people at Pixar! Sounds like someone’s bulking up for Academy consideration. Meanwhile, a Page Six commenter put the total tally of affected viewers at the screening as high as three.
Unknown date — Research screening, Huntington Beach
One fainting, according to Horn, although “the studio and test screening company Screen Engine said that the […] casualty returned to the theater to give the movie a grade of ‘excellent’”
Oct. 28 — London Film Festival
A report in The Sun claimed that “[h]orrified film fans threw up and fainted at the premiere of Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle’s shocking new movie,” which closed the London Film Festival last week. The bad news: As you might expect from The Sun, the specific number and nature of the cases was not determined. There is this, though: “Boyle looked on as paramedics treated fans struggling to cope with gruesome scenes.” And the person sitting near Daily Mail reviewer Chris Tookey “left just after the most gruesome bit and never came back,” apparently rebuking “the most harrowing bone-breaking and amputation scene in the history of cinema.”
Nov. 3 — Los Angeles premiere
A female filmgoer suffered a seizure relatively early during the film — well before Franco’s character amputates his arm with a dull penknife. Paramedics arrived and, in fact, the movie continued screening through the event. Per the LAT’s Steven Zeitchik:
At the screening’s conclusion, director Danny Boyle rose and said the incident was the result of a diabetic condition, and that it was the first time the woman, who appeared to be in her 20s, had had such an episode since she was 5 years old. Boyle assured the audience that she had been taken to Cedars-Sinai medical center and was doing well, adding that “she said it had nothing to do with the movie.” A Fox Searchlight executive later echoed that account.