Gavin O’Connor clearly likes a challenge. Having taken the helm of the troubled western, Jane Got A Gun – just 25 hours after original director Lynne Ramsay left, on the first day of production – he hit the ground running and steered it to completion. With that job done and dusted, he has now signed on to a new project – Massacre In The Himalayas.
Inspired by an article by Freddie Wilkinson, that appeared in Men’s Journal in 2013, the story centres on real-life events that befell an international team of elite mountaineers as they attempted to climb Pakistan’s K2. While resting in their tents at the base camp below the Diamir face of Nanga Parbat, the group were attacked by armed men identifying themselves as Taliban. The assault left one solitary survivor from the group of 12 – a Chinese mountaineer named Zhang Jingchuan. In addition to being a seasoned climber, he was also a veteran of the Chinese army, and managed to escape, survive on the mountain, and get help.
The film will be produced by O’Connor and Gianni Nunnari (Immortals) – whose Hollywood Gang Productions has the rights to the Men’s Journal story. Detailing the reasoning behind their choice of director to Variety, Nunnari said:
“Massacre In The Himalayas is a Hollywood Gang kind of movie. It’s hard-hitting and it’s about extreme men in extreme circumstance. And Gavin is our perfect filmmaker; no one else brings his level of intensity, or creates his kind of nuanced characters.”
With descriptions such as hard-hitting, intense and nuanced, producer Nunnari paints picture of a potentially fascinating rendering of this true and harrowing story which, while recounting one man’s epic quest for survival, also recounts the terrible deaths of 11 others. O’Connor’s description of the project sounds slightly different, however:
“I love the idea of using the colossal backdrop of K2 – the second highest peak on earth – to explore a man’s battle for survival against the Taliban, nature, and himself. Our hero becomes a one-man army on a quest to avenge the deaths of his mountaineering team. His experience becomes a living nightmare, a lifetime journey, and a re-definition of the man.”
“A man’s battle for survival” sounds about right. On the other hand, “our hero becomes a one-man army on a quest to avenge the deaths” sounds like Rambo. While this is clearly going to be a testosterone-drenched re-telling of Zhang Jingchuan’s real experience, it will hopefully be a respectful yet gripping exploration, rather than a sensationalist action movie.
It all hinges on the writing, and Hollywood Gang Productions are apparently seeking a screenwriter now. This also means that casting decisions for Massacre In The Himalayas will not be made for some time. With the real-life team of climbers having been made up of a range of nationalities – Ukranian, Slovakian, Chinese-American, Lithuanian, Chinese, Nepali and Pakistani – this will hopefully be one of the most diverse film casts we’ve seen in a long time. As ever, we will keep our ear to the ground and bring you more news on this interesting project, as and when we have it.