This week marks the release of 6 Below – a compelling thriller starring Josh Hartnett, and so we had the pleasure of speaking to the director Scott Waugh – on this incredible true story…
How did you come across this story by Eric LeMarque? I know it’s a real story based on his life experiences that he wrote about in his book Crystal Clear. Did someone give you the book?
It’s a fascinating story. The book was sent to me by my assistant who said it’s an incredible story about a crystal meth addict who goes snowboarding and gets lost for eight days and eats his own skin to survive and I said that sounds crazy. I was involved with another movie at the time, once I finished the movie, I saw the name Eric LeMarque and I freaked out because I played hockey with him for six years when I was a kid. Even before I read the book I was like ‘Oh my God! I have to tell this story.’ I had known Eric when we had played hockey together and I always knew he was going to become a professional hockey play. But when I was about twelve, he vanished and I never knew what happened to him.
The film is really beautifully shot. I love the night time shots of the snowy mountains but in reality was it hard to shoot these scenes? Because I don’t think you’ve filmed before in these types of climates, was it quite challenging?
Yeah. I think everyone knows I’ve become obsessed with keeping everything as authentic as possible and I was adamant about not using any CG. We picked one of these ski resorts in Utah to film at. I was really hoping for weather that we needed, and sometimes I guess you’ve got to be careful what you wish for, because for the three weeks we had to shoot the mountain sequences, we were in a blizzard the whole time! It was great for me as a storyteller, but horrible for everyone making the movie. Although in a way, it helped because it gave me perspective for what Eric went through. And if we were out there for twelve hours at a time, in the best snow gear possible and we found it hard, it was an insight into Eric’s ordeal who was in wet springtime clothes for eight days.
What was it like working with Josh?
It was great to work with Josh. He really went the distance. He wanted everything to be as accurate as possible. We shot in sequence because we wanted it to be accurate as it could be. He was on a highly regimented diet and he lost 21 pounds over three weeks and I really appreciated that.
Do you think a message from this film in a warning about pushy parents? Because I had the impression that a lot of the problems Eric had were a result of the high expectations his father placed on him as a child.
One of the reasons why I wanted to do this movie is because you can’t educate any better than through entertainment. If I can show, what can happen to them if they become addicted to drugs, Eric ended up losing his legs, the two things he needed to do what he was known for.
Being a parent makes me realise how responsible we are for moulding and shaping our children. Significant events in our childhood can define who we are for the rest of our lives. It can be one moment that can define a child for the rest of his life.
Do you think you learned a lot from your last film Need for Speed that you used in this film?
I think the moment we stop learning is the moment we stop living. I learn so much on every single movie. What I loved about directing Six Below is that it is so out of my lane. I loved the challenge of it.
Was there any scene that was challenging?
When Eric rips his skin off on the mountain. I wanted to do it in a tasteful way that wasn’t gory and gruesome and I wanted to do it in one shot so the audience would really feel like they were really there.
Do you miss being a stunt performer?
No! I still pay the price physically. I still have spine and knee problems. I couldn’t do it again, I no longer have that fearless drive any more. Life has become too precious to me!
Do you have any particular favourite memories that stand out from when you were a stunt performer?
My fondest memory was when I was a kid on set and my father who was an actor on set, was pulled up the Empire State building. I learned a lot about filming because I spent twenty five years as a stunt performer on set with some of the best directors in the world. It was an incredible platform to be educated as a director.
I think 6 Below is such an inspirational story, and you can really look at your own life and think if he can overcome that obstacle, I can do whatever is in front of me. Also the importance of family, as if it wasn’t for his family Eric would never have survived.
It is very inspiring, although it wouldn’t inspire me to take up snowboarding!
(Laughs) That’s interesting, because they didn’t want me to shoot it where the incident happened despite the fact it’s based on a real life event.
6 Days is released on October 13th, be sure to check back on HeyUGuys later in the week for our review.