The surprising reason Kate Winslet and Idris Elba were cast together in 'Mountain Between Us'

Kevin Polowy
Senior Correspondent
Yahoo Movies
(Photo: BAFTA)

Chemistry is key in The Mountain Between Us, a two-hander (plus dog) that teams Kate Winslet and Idris Elba as travelers who find themselves stranded in frigid, high-altitude terrain after the private plane they’ve chartered crashes.

Both Winslet and Elba are in-demand British thespians, so it’s no wonder director Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now), who adapted Charles Martin’s book for the big screen, wanted them as a team. But what is surprising is how Abu-Assad discovered they’d work so well together.

“We saw a picture of them presenting at the BAFTA [Awards]; they were presenting Best Actor in [2016],” the Israeli filmmaker told Yahoo Entertainment. “And when you see Idris and Kate together in that picture, immediately you want to see them in a movie. Any movie! Doesn’t matter.

“These two actors together, it’s magic. Immediately, [everyone] from the studio [Fox] to me to the producers thought, ‘Wow, this combination is amazing. We should try to cast them for The Mountain Between Us.'”

Elba had just been attached to the film when he and Winslet doled out BAFTA’s Best Actor trophy to her Titanic costar Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant in February 2016 (Winslet was also a winner that night, taking home Best Supporting Actress for Steve Jobs). By June, Winslet was cast alongside Elba.

It’s probably the first time a photo from an awards ceremony has led to a multimillion-dollar screen pairing, and Abu-Assad said he won’t make a habit out of that approach.

“The process of casting is very, very difficult,” he said. “You have to get all the parties to agree on these choices, and the actors have to agree on the script… It’s very complicated. It’s not just seeing a picture.”

The Mountain Between Us is now in theaters.

Watch Kate Winslet liken the film’s story to meeting her own husband during  a house fire:

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