When did you first hear that a movie about Sir Edmund Hillary was going to be made?
There was an article in the news that announced the film and a nationwide search was on for an Edmund Hillary lookalike. It was a long shot but I got in touch with the production and got my first audition.
Did you have much of a background in mountaineering before you got cast?
I actually didn’t. I’ve done a fair amount of tramping over the years and also a fair amount of rock climbing but not really any mountaineering. Until the shoot! Sonam and I had some great instructors take us through the basics, especially using crampons and rope.
What was it like working with Leanne Pooley?
It was great. From the first time I met her I was very impressed. She is very easy to work with, and at the same time very clear about what she wants. She had done a huge amount of research for this film and that really came through in her depth of knowledge on the subject. She was also able to use that to help Sonam and I with our performances.
How old were you when you first heard about Sir Ed’s ascent of Mt. Everest?
I can’t actually remember. I think like for a lot of us New Zealanders, it’s just a part of our culture that we’re brought up with. Edmund Hillary always just seemed to be there, whether it’s on TV, or on our money.
People say that you look a lot like Sir Ed in the film. Have you ever been mistaken for being him?
No not usually. I think the age difference gave me a little buffer there.
Did you go to Everest itself for filming?
I didn’t go, although a small camera crew did go to Nepal, to Everest and right to the summit of Everest for footage of the mountain and the surrounding area. I think that makes the film even more special because we have current day footage of the actual mountain.
How did you prepare for the role?
Before my first audition I wasn’t sure whether the film was going to be drama, documentary, or even what parts of Hillary’s life the film would cover. So I did a lot of reading of books about the ascent, both authored by Hillary and by others (notably John Hunt, the expedition leader). I also spent a bunch of time at the New Zealand film archive looking at footage of Ed, and how he walked, held himself and spoke.
Does the 3D add to the film?
I think definitely. I am usually not particularly into 3d movies, but this movie is the perfect application of 3d, it really adds to the sense of scale and you feel like you’re right in the mountains.
Are you an actor that stays in character even when the camera stops rolling?
Not usually, I think it’s more important to be friendly and professional on set, and be someone that’s easy to work with. The Director and crew need a person that they can talk to normally. That being said I’ve been told that I have quite a few similar traits to Ed.
What was it like being in a title role without any dialogue?
In some ways it was harder than a role with dialogue because you have nothing to hide behind. It would have been easier for the crew because that’s one element that wasn’t required ; sound recordist, mixer etc.
Was it your childhood dream to be an actor?
I didn’t even think of it, I wasn’t comfortable doing drama or anything like that when I was young.
Has your view of Sir Edmund Hillary changed?
Yeah It’s been really interesting to get to know more about him through my research and also everything that Leanne and Matthew Metcalfe taught me. One thing in particular really stuck with me from an interview I saw. Ed was asked about his greatest achievement in life, and he said that it was the humanitarian things he was able to help with in Nepal (schools, hospitals etc). That really impressed me.
Chad Moffitt thank you very much for your time.
You are welcome!