Boyle's survival tale "127 Hours," starring James Franco in the real-life story of a wilderness adventurer trapped by a fallen boulder, earned an explosive standing ovation Sunday night at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The premiere marked Boyle's return to the Toronto festival, where "Slumdog Millionaire" won the audience award as favorite film two years ago on its way to box-office success and best-picture triumph at the Academy Awards.
Boyle thanked the audience for the lift the festival gave "Slumdog Millionaire" and said he and his crew scrambled to make the deadline for a return trip to Toronto with "127 Hours," which finished shooting just last May.
"A lot of people went nuts to get it here," Boyle said.
Due in theaters Nov. 5, "127 Hours" stars Franco in practically a one-man show as Aron Ralston, a climber trapped in a Utah canyon after his arm was pinned under a boulder in 2003. On the fifth day of his ordeal, Ralston hacked off his arm to free himself.
Ralston attended the premiere with his wife and sister and joined Boyle, Franco and co-stars Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara and Clemence Poesy to answer audience questions after the screening.
The film was based on Ralston's best-selling book, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place." When he first met with Boyle about a film version, Ralston said he preferred telling the story as a documentary, but he thanked Boyle for convincing him that a dramatic adaptation would serve the story better.
"As a documentary, it would not have been anywhere near as powerful as that was," said Ralston, who choked back tears after the screening.
Though the story is grave and the audience squirmed and gasped as Franco recreated Ralston's gruesome self-amputation, "127 Hours" maintains Boyle's trademark blend of the humorous and horrifying. Franco's Ralston wisecracks incessantly to keep his spirits up, and the film cleverly weaves in a barrage of psychedelic flashbacks and hallucinations as he struggles to survive.
"We desperately wanted a bit of `Pineapple Express' in it," Boyle said, referring to the 2008 stoner comedy in which Franco starred as an irrepressible marijuana dealer.
Toronto International Film Festival: http://tiff.net