Jason Clarke takes on yet another high-profile movie, Everest. Will he finally be recognised?
You have seen Jason Clarke in a number of high-profile Hollywood movies such as Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Gatsby and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, to name a few, but probably don't know his name.
That was supposed to change with his turn as John Connor in the recent Terminator Genisys, but the movie wasn't as successful as its makers had hoped and his inexplicable anonymity was prolonged.
Now he has another shot with Everest, the true story of two expeditions in 1996 to the most dangerous place on earth, where the mettle of the climbers are tested to their utmost in a desperate struggle to survive Mount Everest in Nepal.
Disaster struck when one of the fiercest blizzards in history hit the mountain with hurricane force, and a combination of human error and bad luck causes the climbers to be oxygen-starved, frost-bitten and utterly at the end of their resources.
The film opens here Sept 24.
The busy Australian actor meets us at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, newly blond for his upcoming role in historical thriller HHHH, in which he will star as German Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich, the mastermind of the "Final Solution"- the genocide of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Clarke just arrived from Budapest, Hungary, where the film is being shot and where he is learning fencing and the violin.
The son of a sheep shearer from rural Queensland, Clarke, 46, takes it as a compliment that people don't think he is Australian because of a very authentic American accent he puts on whenever required for his job.
In fact, he has a low-key presence Down Under as well.
"I don't do that many articles in Australia. I like to go home at Christmas and just go about my business. My family lives in the countryside and I don't even go to Sydney that much any more. I just fly to the farm and hang out with my mum and family and then come back (to Los Angeles)."
He reluctantly admits to being married for three years to a "beautiful French wife" when asked about the "secret wedding" stories on the Internet.
Why is so little known about that?
"Because I never talk about it," he says with a laugh. "Happily married, really happily married. And we have a little seven-month-old."
But we are here to talk about Everest, and the first question has to be why.
Why do people do this insane thing, and in particular, why did his character Rob Hall, the ill-fated leader of one expedition, leave his pregnant wife (played by Keira Knightley) to summit Everest?
Clarke tries to make sense of it by saying: "You are reaching for the stars. It's hard not to put it in cliche, but it's the highest mountain in the world and anyone that likes to walk, likes to climb; and anyone that likes to climb goes, you know, I want to get up that. It's either an itch you have or you don't have. These are the things that define you."
Since this is a Hollywood movie, the base camp was shot in Rome, and most scenes of mountain climbing were shot in the Dolomites in the Italian Alps.
But they did go on location to Kathmandu and Everest's actual base camp.
There were no five-star hotels, no heating (just electric blankets), the water was freezing cold, and there were no assistants to carry the actors' gear.
Moving the equipment up the mountains in the Alps was also a huge challenge for the crew.
Eleven Sherpas were cast in the movie, and it was the first time they ever left Nepal.
The heart of Everest is a gut-wrenching scene when Hall is stranded on the South Summit as the storm rages and rescue efforts are doomed.
The base camp crew connects Hall by satellite phone with his wife, Jan, in New Zealand.
The phone conversation is authentic as there was a tape recording of it.
Clarke listened to the recording when he went to New Zealand to meet Jan and the couple's daughter, Sarah, as part of his preparation.
"The recording is extraordinary and you hear Rob's voice for 10 minutes... I was struck by his togetherness and you realise where he was at and what was happening. It was really an extraordinary moment."
And how did he prepare to play the scene?
"It was always one of those big things where the scene is coming up and so my first take on, I started just bawling my eyes out, I was so upset.
"And then (director Baltasar Kormakur) walks in and I am up in this thing in this ice cave and he was like, 'no crying Jason, there's no crying'.
"And that was it... Just listening to this woman crying on the phone, it was really upsetting."
He even remembers the actual radio account of the situation some 20 years earlier.
"I was doing a play in Australia with Geoffrey Rush and Cate Blanchett, and we were doing a tech run. I went outside to listen to the radio and it came on...
"And you look up and you think, he is still dying up there and she is sitting in a room crying."
Jake Gyllenhaal goes to extremes for Everest
As part of his vow to take up only parts that interest and challenge him, Jake Gyllenhaal spent time in an altitude simulator, lived in a cabin without heat or hot water and subjected himself to 10-hour shooting days in wind chill temperatures of -30 deg Celsius for his latest film, Everest.
He plays Scott Fischer, the doomed leader of the other Mount Everest expedition.
We meet the 34-year-old US actor at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, where it seems we have a standing appointment every couple of months to discuss yet another of his new releases, the last one being boxing flick Southpaw in July.
"I know I am annoying you that there are a lot of my movies coming out," he says, tongue firmly in cheek.
The Everest beard is still in place, as is the Southpaw bod, evident even beneath the suit and tie.
DO YOU THINK THIS PASSION FOR CLIMBING IS SELFISH, LEAVING FAMILIES BEHIND?
"I think who we are as individuals and our goals and our needs will eat at us and take away from our life. In the world of extreme sports in particular, there's a sense where you have to know the person that you are with.
A lot of spouses know the most intimate parts of these people and do understand for most of the time why they are doing it, and having to let them do it. I think it's about being human and we all have things that we love and want to do. And when we are held back from them, how much do you compromise until you compromise yourself?"
HOW DID THE CAST GET ALONG?
"Shooting in the Dolomites with everybody, we were all a real team working together.
You would wake up at 4am, and no one knew who was going to be called to set and we would go down and all have breakfast together after having dinner together the night before.
We were all living in a little chalet and they would call and you would suit up and you would take a ski lift to a snowcap, to a helicopter, and you would be in the elements and just go, this is ideal, this is the way every movie should be made. All of those people in one space as actors and you being a part of it, to me, that feels like some sort of summit to me."
WHICH WAS HARDER TO DO, SOUTHPAW OR EVEREST?
"This movie doesn't really rest on my character's shoulders. It is Jason Clarke's film and he really carries the burden of that thing. So there was something nice about being a bit of a joker that danced around (laughs).
I just don't use the word 'hard' when I talk about making movies.
They both tried me and I just learnt about myself because of the other people who do it for real - the boxers and the guys who have actually climbed Everest - and I just actually bring it into my life."
WHAT IS YOUR LIFE LIKE RIGHT NOW?
"Nothing gets me more excited than thinking about being able to have a family and be a father and husband. There is no other purpose I can see in the world than really that.
Life recently, like maybe in the past six months, has been pretty much a lot of work. And then I have been here in Los Angeles which is nice, spending time with my dad, which I haven't been able to do the past few years. Life right now has been really mostly with my family. My sister (US actress Maggie Gyllenhaal) and I over the past year have become even closer than we have before."
Other disaster films
Don't mess with Mother Nature.
If she's angry, all kinds of natural disasters can happen, as envisioned by Hollywood.
San Andreas (2015)
The Impossible (2012)
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
The Perfect Storm (2000)
Earth stops spinning
The Core (2003)
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