BASE Is The New Film That Mashes Up Exhilarating Wingsuit Footage With Fiction – Star Julie Dray Reveals How It Was Made

When one of the world’s best BASE jumpers and pioneering wingsuit flyers, Alexander Polli, teamed up with film-makers, no one knew that the movie would become part of his legacy – he was killed in a wingsuit crash last year. Co-star Julie Dray tells RISING how she became immersed in that world...

RISING In BASE you play Ash, who is totally a part of that world – had you had experience with extreme sports before? JULIE DRAY, ACTOR ‘None – I was child actor so throughout my life I was forbidden to do anything dangerous! I am this Parisian girl who has been totally pampered. When my agent showed me this project and said it was an amazing part, I read the title BASE and I didn’t even know what that meant!’

RISING So, how did you go from that to embodying the badass character of Ash? JD ‘We filmed for a year all over the world [with BASE jumpers] and it’s a very small community, even though there are people everywhere. They are amazing people, driven, not judgemental, passionate – they really welcomed me. I had half my head shaved and felt so confident as Ash, but after a while I felt like a fraud and so I went to pass my freefall course and in my free time I started jumping – skydiving. I was shooting something else in LA and went to the jump zone, and that jump ended up in the film. I started as this Parisian actress with nothing to do with this world, and by the time I finished the movie I didn’t want to leave the community.’

You need to be humble about your skills and your level, and you have to commit 100%

RISING We’ve seen the film and the characters of the jumpers are a lot more nuanced than just gung ho ‘GoPro warriors’ – is that reflected in the real-life community? JD ‘None of the jumpers had any illusions about the reality of the sport and will tell you that if you jump thinking that you are going to be safe, then you are truly naive. You need to be humble about your skills and your level, and you have to commit 100% – once you jump you have to be serious about it, even though you do it a lot. Even though they do it non-stop it’s so much fun, they’re with their friends, it’s fucked up, it’s crazy, it’s exciting, sometimes it’s legal, sometimes it’s illegal – but none of them think: “It’s OK, I can just do it like that.” No, they are always aware that there is a huge risk to live this life and do this sport. The risk is real and they lose many, many friends every year. From the moment I entered the community to now the numbers are appalling.’

RISING Yes, the darker side of the sport is definitely shown in BASE… JD ’That’s why I am really proud of the film, because we are not trying to glorify anything even though it’s truly fascinating and so pretty how they fly. Alexander Polli who unfortunately had an accident a year ago and passed away, doing what he loved, which was flying – it wasn’t on the set but one of his own jumps. When you see how Alexander was flying, the beauty of his jumps – flying upside down, spiralling, holding hands with friends – so much poetry. It’s truly beautiful and humbling but the reality, as well, that we do see in the film, is that it’s not just this beauty– it comes with a real price.’

RISING Working with real-life BASE jumpers you must have got an insight into their mindsets and motivations? JD ‘Ash at some points in the film is really challenging the jumpers: “Why? Why would you do that?” We had very strong arguments with the jumpers as we were acting but they were real arguments. We were really trying to get the bottom to the mentality of the reason. Even for me it was disturbing. I am very close to some of the people who are the best BASE jumpers, like Alex was, and it’s hard sometimes to let them go. The beauty of it is that they love what they do. They don’t do it because they want to die or are tortured. No, they do it because they love it – they love to fly.’

RISING So, they don’t just dismiss all risk then? JD ‘When we were filming with Alex we had several scenes where I was supposed to drive, and even though Alex is this badass, flying through caves – you know he was one of the most hardcore proximity flyers that ever existed – when I was driving in Brazil he would freak out, you know losing his mind! I would ask: “Are you seriously worried about a car accident?” He said: “You don’t understand, there are way more people dying in car accidents than people on BASE jumps!”

They live in the moment – there is a real celebration of life and being in the present

RISING Do you think it’s hard for people to understand taking on the level of risk in BASE jumping, given our lives are so safe, most of the time? JD ‘I was an amazing gift to play Ash and to be in this community, and see how these people think, it was really refreshing – it’s a whole different mentality about life and death, what matters – they don’t have time to lie, don’t have time for bullshit, they never know if they are going to make it to tomorrow. They live in the moment – there is a real celebration of life and being in the present.’

‘This city, modern life where we become so concerned and anxious and stressed out about what’s going to happen: will I be able to pay my rent? We are beaten by it – they have this capacity of being in the present and being grateful for every moment that they have. And at the same time being loving enough of other people to let them make their own choice, and live their lives.’

RISING Yes, the film explores some pretty deep themes? JD ‘That’s why the project was something exciting for Alexander Polli – it could have just have been an action flick but the movie has real sense about being alive, the time we have, all that really matters. All those big questions as much as the excitement, the living in the moment, living on the edge, the rock ‘n’ roll aspect to it, we do have these depths as well. It was extraordinary, being on the edge with the community and the lessons I learned, about myself as well – the confidence you can get from pushing yourself and being bold, and daring to do something that might seem scary.’

RISING The movie is interesting in that it merges real-life BASE footage with acted scenes, but even these scenes were highly improvised and some were even self-shot? JD ‘It was a very experimental process, and Alex and Carlos were amazingly gifted and instinctive actors. The shape of the shoot really gave us the opportunity to dive into the characters. This film captures really well this generation and how we see our lives. We discussed each scene and then we left with the cameras. We were totally free to do what we wanted, to follow every impulse. It was loyal to how we are now, filming ourselves constantly and describing every moment of our lives.’

‘There’s something truly touching about that – to be reassured about who you are, what you do and I think Alex’s character, JC, is a person trying to look at the moments of his life, to be sure he was present in his life. This is something we’re really going through, this generation of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook Live.’

RISING The sport of BASE jumping is so tied into self-filming – did you get a sense this shaped the sport? JD ‘For me when we filmed I wasn’t that much into social media – all the jumpers are because that’s the DNA – if you want to be able to live your own dream as a jumper you need to be sponsored, and to be sponsored you need to film yourself and share your images. For a long time the trend was to ‘push hardcore, push hardcore!’ that was the way you would get interest from the sponsors, and be the flyer you want, but of course how can you balance between that and staying safe?’

RISING Yes, the film seems to touch on that tension? JD ‘I think Alex was really concerned for the future of the sport. He was a true legend. By the end, after we finished the movie, which is an amazing legacy to his talent and the way he lived his life, when he was training in Germany where he had his accident it was really touching because he stopped filming the last few days of his life. He was like, these jumps are for me. I want to feel them not look at them. It wasn’t to get something, it was just for himself, which is a real level of freedom I think, where the real beauty happens.’

RISING So Alexander Polli was pioneering to the end? JD ‘He really was concerned about taking the sport into a beautiful direction, which would be more about being technical to create beautiful jumps, technical jumps that require training – he was training really hard and it wasn’t just about flying close to the rocks, which I think is really important to get the message out to the younger generation, watching those jumps and thinking ‘this is amazing, wow’. They need to know these are real athletes with hours of training behind it. That’s where the excitement should be – in the skill of literally flying and not just putting your life at risk, and I know that’s the message Alex wanted to get out. Hopefully the film can help with that.’

WHAT NEXT? The movie BASE is out on demand on iTunes and a limited release in cinemas – if you want to get a sense of what a BASE jump feels like then RISING recommends watching on the big screen – it left us gripped. In the meantime watch the trailer for BASE, featuring Alexander Polli’s flying.

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