Local climbers participate in Warner Bros. flick | SummitDaily.com

Local climbers participate in Warner Bros. flick

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Kristin Anderson

ARAPAHOE BASIN ” The first assignment given to Colorado locations manager Ann Lukacs for the Warner Bros. film, “The Bucket List,” was to find the top of Mount Everest that you can drive to.

The longtime Summit County local knew just the spot ” Arapahoe Basin. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman star in this comedy/drama, directed by Rob Reiner and set to be released in November, about two cancer ward patients who embark on a road trip to fulfill a list of goals before they themselves, kick the bucket.

One of the those goals is to climb the highest mountain on earth, yet when that climactic event happens on the big screen, we’ll know it’s not really the celebrity bigwigs, and it’s not really Everest.

In fact it’s local attorney Mark Thompson and former owner of Mountain Outfitters Ket McSparin donning the 8,000-meter one-piece parkas and oxygen masks climbing at the top of Arapahoe Basin. Lukacs contacted the two climbers to be the photo doubles in sequences which will be made into the opening and closing scenes of the Hollywood film.

Thompson and wife Jody have climbed in the Himalayas, as well as Alaska and all over the western United States and Canada. He said of the four days of filming a pretend ascent to Everest: “It’s nothing like climbing. The real thing is vastly more committing and intense.” But that the film did present him with a new challenge.

“In a strange way this was kind of an intimidating experience only because you’re at the other end of a camera and someone is expecting you to do something and do it right,” he said.

And while McSparin (who also has an impressive climbing resume) said he was basically told where to stand while they shot, Thompson felt he was in one part consultant.

“They didn’t really have an idea of what to do and how to make simulated high altitude climbing look realistic,” he said of the crew. “I was kind of doing two things at once; one being a photo double and the other consulting with them.”

According to Lukacs, who owns Blue River Productions in Breckenridge, 26 locals were employed through Summit’s part in the film, what with rentals of snow equipment like snowcats and snowmobiles as well as money spent to house, feed and transport the crew.

Director Rob Reiner was planning to come up to the high country, but a scheduling conflict kept him away, and an assistant director filled in to call the shots.

The first-time actors both said the experience was fun, and the only frustrations during shooting were the weather. Last Friday’s storm brought 75 mph winds along with low visibility beginning Thursday and not letting up until Saturday. But Lukacs said they were able to get all the shots they were scheduled to get.

“It’s pretty neat the way they do their stuff,” Thompson said. “They laid in background from the Himalayas and you can’t even tell a difference. But you can’t duplicate the light and the frost and the shadows. The only way to shoot those is outside on a mountain somewhere.”

And although the climbing community may not be impressed with the film’s pseudo-ascent, Thompson said that wasn’t the point.

“If I wasn’t a climber, I wouldn’t have gotten to do it,” he said.

“It was a really cool job for four days,” McSparin said. “And there’s the inside pleasure of knowing some small measure of fame.”

Leslie Brefeld can be reached at (970) 668-4626 or lbrefeld@summitdaily.com.

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