| George Mallory
Darjeeling, Oct. 10: George Mallory has famously been quoted as saying he kept trying to climb Mount Everest “because it is there”.
The story of the Briton’s magnificent missions to the world’s peak has been “there” for over 80 years but no one has yet tried to scale it down to Hollywood proportions.
Paul Heller— of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon fame — and his associates have now dared to produce a movie on Everest’s greatest mystery, to be called In High Places.
The mystery of George Leigh Mallory and Andrew Irvine’s 1924 expedition is etched in mountaineering history but inhospitable shooting locales in one of the most difficult terrains in the world, coupled with the financial risk, had kept Hollywood away.
In High Places, to be directed by James McEachen, who was assistant photographer on Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon (a 3D film), will be on Mallory’s three expeditions in 1921, 1922 and the tragic 1924 attempt with the then 22-year-old Irvine.
On June 6, 1924, Mallory and Irvine set off from North Col (the north side) at 23,100 ft, hoping to reach the summit three days later. Geologist Noel Odell saw them last “going strongly for the top”. What happened after is shrouded in mystery. Many believe they were the first to summit Everest before being caught in an avalanche on the way down but this has never been proved beyond doubt.
Mallory’s body was found in 1999. But the team could not trace the camera he was carrying, which would have settled the debate once and for all since the conditions on the mountain would have preserved the film.
The body also did not have Mallory’s wife’s picture, leading to further speculation that he had climbed the peak. His family had said Mallory had intended to leave his wife’s picture at the top and would have been on his way down after summiting since the photograph wasn’t found on his body.
| Mount Everest
McEachen, who is here, said: “This will be the first feature film on the expedition. I personally know of three scripts on the expedition but producers have not come forward as the stakes are really high. The director would want a $80-million investment and producers are wary about investing in such films.”
Jamling Tenzing Sherpa, son of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, who conquered Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, is helping him with the project.
McEachen has found the producers with a $7-million budget and, though the investment is low by Hollywood standards, he vowed to do justice to one of the world’s most talked about expeditions and one of mountaineering’s everlasting heroes who died at the age of 38.
The film will be extensively shot in Darjeeling — where all Everest expeditions started before Nepal opened its route in the fifties — and Tibet but with the director unlikely to take the principal cast beyond 25,000 feet, a portion will be made in the Alps and in New York and in Britain.
Although the film will primarily be based on Mallory’s expeditions, it is also expected to narrate the untold story of the sherpas.
“Had the sherpas not been there the expedition would not have taken shape. Mallory was pushed by these people to reach higher heights. In fact, Mallory seemed to have carried a survivor’s guilt after seven sherpas died during the 1922 expedition which might have given shape to the 1924 expedition,” McEachen said.