The following questions and answers are excerpted from a conversation that followed the NBR screening of The Mountain Between Us.
What attracted you to this project?
Kate Winslet: When I first read the script, I was really taken by the physical demands. There’s something very satisfying about being in my early forties and being able to go on these kinds of adventures and take on these kinds of roles. For the first time ever, I was drawn by that aspect. But I also found the story to be unique in that that two complete strangers share a truly seismic experience and develop a relationship.
Hany Abu-Assad: I realized this was an original idea, and the idea of a survival story turning into a love story was intriguing to me. I thought through this topic of survival through love and it gave me an opportunity to explore interesting questions such as what’s important to people. To these two people was it survival, communication, serving, or understanding that was most important when objects and things are removed. It was a good struggle and I felt that I could do something special with this theme. Also, because there are just two actors, I knew I was going to be able to work with two great talents that will bring something essential to the table. Once I realized those two talents were Kate and Idris, there was no doubt about signing onto the project.
Lee Percy: I was attracted to it because of Kate Winslet and Hany Abu-Assad. While many people see my job as just cutting out the bad parts, I look at performance and structure. When Hany and I first Skyped, it was very clear that we were on the same page and have the same approach to the subject. In that first conversation, we got into the weeds of the story and talked about the ending and exploring those relationships, so I knew it was going to be an exciting creative experience.
“I knew the way it was written would get it cut since it just wasn’t landing properly.”
Are there any examples of you having a scene and then showing up on the day and everything is completely different?
Winslet: There was one seen that had been through various different versions as it had been handed from one writer to another and the integrity was lost. It was the scene where Ben asks Alex take his photograph and she tells the story about working with the Guerrilla Fighters. This scene felt fundamentally important to their relationship and I knew the way it was written would get it cut since it just wasn’t landing properly. I was in such a panic that I stayed up all night and wrote something from my heart. I phoned Hany in the middle of the night with my idea and we talked through it. He was on board and we changed it hours before shooting it.
Abu-Assad: We also had to change the location. Originally it was where she found in the water which didn’t feel like the right location. After getting a call from Kate at four in the morning, I went and found the place where this would work.
What were some changes in the editing room that changed the story from the way it was shot?
Percy: We spent months looking at the film and structure. Working with Hany was unique in that he was ahead of me and already making changes. He was careful about the things that are important in the they story, but wasn’t precious about anything.
Abu-Assad: It’s painful looking at some of the scenes where they’re good scenes and there’s nothing wrong with them. We were watching one of the deleted scenes and it’s difficult watching because they it’s a good scene, but we always need to service the story.