Scott Waugh is a former stuntman who delved into filmmaking as a director, earning acclaim for his 2012 film Act of Valor, which featured real-life active Marines in the film. He would go on to direct the film adaptation of the video game series Need for Speed. His latest film, 6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain, comes to select theaters on October 13 from Momentum Pictures.
World Film Geek got to speak with Waugh about the film, in which he gave a bit of a revelation as to why he chose to direct this film.
Thank you, Scott, for talking about 6 Below. I saw the film and it was quite good, giving me the sense of being there as part of the journey.
That was the hope! (Laughs) That’s the hope, man! For people to see what it would be like to be stuck on a mountain for days in below zero temperature.
You were a stuntman before becoming a director and you directed two action films. This was quite a departure as this was an inspirational drama. What inspired you to take the helm on this film?
They sent me the book [Crystal Clear by Eric LeMarque and Devin Seay] to turn the book into a movie as a producer and the pitch was that it was about a crystal meth addict who was a snowboarder and he got lost in the mountains in 2004. And it’s about the survival after eight days on the mountains, falling into water, trying to dry in below zero temperature. Losing both of his legs and eating his own skin to get out and I thought, ‘Wow! That sounds pretty intense’.
When I got the book, I saw the bottom of the title and it said “The true story of Eric LeMarque” and I was like, ‘Eric LeMarque’? I went to my assistant and I asked, ‘Did Eric LeMarque play ice hockey?’ He said, yeah he played for the Boston Bruins. I was like ‘Oh my God, send me a picture’. And when I saw the picture, I said ‘I played hockey with this guy when I was a kid for six years and his dad was my coach!’ I said I have to tell this story and I have to direct it because how many opportunities get thrown at you about a childhood friend about something so crazy like this?
I just wanted to take it and I felt like I really wanted to take the challenge of having one man on the mountains. We got lucky and were able to cast Josh Hartnett.
One of the fascinating things about the film aside from the core story was in fact the snowboarding sequences. I have to ask how that was done, because the angles they were shot at, they look like they could come right off a documentary.
People who know my work, I like to immerse the viewer into the action, giving them a sense of feeling what it is like. I worked with a really great friend of mine from college who has done a lot of snowboarding films. I told him what I was looking for and I’ve always been an avid skier. So I got to have a lot of fun and operate the camera while skiing too. I just wanted to give the audience an authentic view of snowboarding.
What was Josh Hartnett like on the set because he truly gave a wonderful performance in the role of Eric LeMarque?
Man, he was great! He really went the distance on this one. I personally think this was his best work. His acting is just superb and he showed up every day just ready to go for it. We shot the film in chronological order on the mountain and he wanted to experience it. He even showed the weight loss that Eric went through. He lost 25 pounds in three weeks and while it was really hard to show it on screen, he said he really wanted to do it for his own sake. I think it led to an incredible performance.
I agree with you on this being Josh Hartnett’s best acting role to date. One of the scenes that shocked me is when he is drying his clothes and he is sitting there naked in these freezing temperatures and I wonder how anyone could go through that because I surely wouldn’t be able to.
Yeah! (Laughs) And you know what’s funny? I told Josh about that scene and I said to him, ‘Umm, so what do you wanna do here?” (Laughs) And he looked at me and said, ‘What do you mean?’ and I said, ‘Well, you’re gonna get naked so are you cool with that?’ And Josh then says, ‘Yeah man, I’m good!’ So I said, “All right, let’s do it!’ (Laughs)
That’s a brave move and that just shows his dedication to the role.
Oh yeah! He was fearless, he really was. And those scenes where he’s ripping off his skin, I would be looking at the monitor and ask whether he really did rip his skin! His expressions were so real!
Yeah, that made me cringe because I thought that was really disturbing. My mouth was dropping!
(Laughs) Yeah. I mean, just the thought behind it was really disturbing. But, it was true so I didn’t want to shy away from it. I thought it was accurate and authentic to Eric’s real life story. I just wanted to portray that.
The film featured an appearance by the real Eric LeMarque. My question is that since the story was based on his life and book, did he have any creative input during the making of the film?
Eric was great. He definitely trusted me and he is a fan of my work. I would always reach out to him and ask him so many questions. How did you do this? How did you get here? Even though I read the book, I wanted to bring more information and I also really wanted to dive into his past. The book doesn’t really dive into his past that much.
And I found the flashback sequences interesting because they showed Eric as someone who was raised to have a “no-quit” attitude, but at the same time, he was broken and going on a road to redemption.
Yeah, I mean we are all defined by our past and Eric really had a hard childhood the way his dad was. I knew his dad and his dad was a really tough guy. He not only perpetuated Eric’s type of personality, but also helped Eric survive the mountain. I think it led him to the mountain and got him off the mountain with an unfortunate chain of events.
It felt like a “double-edged sword”.
Finally, what projects are coming up that you could talk about?
There is one I’m on, with Jackie Chan, it’s an action film called Ex-Baghdad. We’re still trying to find the second lead. It was supposed to be with Stallone, but he backed out. So, it’s a bit of a holding pattern, but I am going to be signing onto something but can’t reveal it yet.
6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain comes to theaters on October 13. Any fan of biopics and inspirational films will truly find themselves on a journey with this film. Thank you again Scott for talking about the film.
Thank you so much!
A special Thank You goes to Katrina Wan PR and Scott Waugh for making this interview possible.