Interview with Alex Honnold and Pete Mortimer from the REEL ROCK Film Tour
Outside Magazine just posted a pretty casual interview with both Alex Honnold and Pete Mortimer from the REEL ROCK Film Tour. Also, don’t forget, we’re hosting the latest Radical Reels right here in New Haven, CT, September 19!. Grab your tickets now!
Check out the banter below and stay tuned for our own interview with Alex later this month!
Pete, you’ve given your film about Alex the preliminary title Honnold 3.0. It’s true, you’ve filmed with Alex a lot over the years. Why do you keep coming back to him as a subject, and how is this film different from the ones you’ve done before?
Peter: The last time we did a big film with Honnold was Alone on the Wall, which was sort of the precursor to all this fame and celebrity, 60 Minutes and the cover of National Geographic and Japanese Playboy. So we kind of went into this film with the question, here’s this guy who is basically living in his world with his own wild, out-there vision of what he wanted to do, and then he got famous. How does that affect Alex? How does someone who’s so reclusive, so quiet, get when the whole world is watching him and wondering if he’s going to die? [Sender Films partner Nick Rosen] came up with the idea of Honnold 3.0, since the culmination of this film is the Triple inYosemite.
It sounded like a lot of suffering.
Alex: Well, you don’t have to be completely focused the whole time. There’s tons of hiking time in between where you just kind of zone out. And even on half of the routes, you can kind of relax. When you’re just swimming up 5.9, 5.10 hand cracks, that’s when you turn yourself off. Then when you get to the hard parts, you really focus for a little bit.
Alex: About as badass as you’d think. Being up there by yourself during the day feels kind of hardcore, but in the dark it just feels even lonelier. You feel like you’re really all by yourself. Halfway up I ran into my friend who was filming and he stayed with me for the second half, so that kind of helped.
Peter: It was amazingly simple. Alex had mentioned it probably last September, so we called a bunch of theYosemite climbers who are shooting now. We just kind of had a production meeting the day before, and every cameraman nailed it. They’re really good at getting into position, and then it’s just a matter of being there, capturing what’s happening.In the past, most of the solos Alex has done for your films have been reenactments. Was most of the film shot in the moment, or was it reenacted?
Alex: It was all basically done in the moment. The close-ups were shot later, but all the actual climbs were shot for real. The thing with the Triple, though, is it’s not the same level of intensity as free-soloing those things would be, which made it a lot more conducive to a film project. Had I been trying to free-solo all three of those, I don’t think I would have wanted a whole bunch of people swinging around.
Alex: Well, there’s a big hole at the bottom. We put probably 13 pads into this one hole to make it an even landing zone. That took probably 10 feet off the height. With the hole there, I think it’s 50 feet tall. Without the hole, it was probably 40. It was taller than some gyms.Peter: It’s kind of like soloing a 5.13+. The tiniest holds. I mean, the footholds are dimples.Alex: The thing is, it’s not quite soloing, because if you fell off the hardest moves you’d be fine, because there are a bunch of pads there. But there’s a second crux, just past the point where it’s too high to fall off. So you might be OK, or you might break both your legs. It would be hard to know unless you did it.Were you ever able to get it to a point where you felt totally solid, or did it feel sketchy when you did it?
Alex: It felt pretty solid. I mean, the holds are kind of positive, so you can just claw your way up. It’s hard, but it’s reasonable.
Peter: It’s really not. I don’t think anyone will repeat it.
Alex: I think people will repeat it. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple undercover brother dudes just rap in, do all the moves, and do it. I could totally see some punk kid doing it with four pads.
Peter: I can’t see that. No way. Punk kids don’t do stuff that’s 35 feet off the deck.
Pete, you’ve said you wanted to answer a question with this film: how would fame and celebrity affect Alex as a free-soloist and as a climber? What have you learned on that topic?
Pete: I would say it definitely has affected him in the short term. I think at different stages where we’ve been filming, he’s been just in different headspaces. But I think in the long term, it doesn’t really affect him. In some ways it’s just noise and clutter and confusion that he has to figure out how to deal with. When we posted the foot slip, of course everyone was like “He’s going to die!” and “The cameramen are going to kill him, he’s doing it for the wrong reasons.” That’s going to throw you off for a little while. But he’s really centered. He’s got a strong compass for where he wants to go.
Alex: All this has happened really fast, you know? I’ve had to adjust to all sorts of weird stuff really quick. But I don’t think it’s fundamentally changed anything. As I move forward, I think I’m getting better at dealing with everything
Peter: Hey, as soon as we hang up with you, we’re going to shoot a little skit for the PGA tour. Alex is the guest speaker at the PGA’s marketing conference.
Alex: I’m just doing a Q&A. [Pete hands him a telescoping golf club]. Dude, I’ve never used a golf club! I didn’t know they had collapsible golf clubs.
I guess normal golfers weren’t exciting enough for them, huh?
Alex: They just want somebody who’s, like, interesting.
Peter: He really has lost his way.