10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The 1993 Film Alive

Films with extreme plotlines become even more shocking when you discover they’re actually based on real-life events, as is the case with the brilliant but horrific 1993 film Alive. Telling the story of a Uruguayan rugby team’s fateful journey on Flight 571, and their desperately resorting to cannibalism to avoid starvation in the Andes, Alive is one film we’ll never be able to shake. Here are 10 things you never knew about it.


10. It’s based on a true story

10 36 10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The 1993 Film Alive

Alive is based on the 1974 book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, by historian and biographer Piers Paul Read. It recounts the true story of a Uruguayan rugby team’s horrific ordeal when their plane crashed into the Andes mountains on 13 October 1972. Of the 45 people on Flight 571, only 16 were rescued. They managed to survive 72 days on a freezing cold mountain by eating the flesh of their dead friends and relatives.

9. It was filmed in Canada rather than South America

9 32 10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The 1993 Film Alive

Rather than shooting on the extremely treacherous Andes mountain range in South America, Alive was instead filmed in the Purcell Mountains in British Columbia, Canada, which still required an impressive fleet of five helicopters.

The film was directed by Frank Marshall, who usually served as a film producer and who only ever directed four films, the other three being Eight Below, Congo and Arachnophobia.

8. One of the real-life survivors worked on the film as an advisor

8 35 10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The 1993 Film Alive

Alive features a large cast that included Ethan Hawke, Bruce Ramsay, Josh Hamilton, Vincent Span, Danny Nucci, John Newton and Illeana Douglas.

Nando Parrado, one of the real life survivors who is played by Ethan Hawke in the film, was hired as a technical advisor to ensure maximum authenticity during the shoot.

7. The film was shot in chronological order

7 38 10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The 1993 Film Alive

Unusually for a major Hollywood film, Alive was filmed entirely in chronological order.

Unsurprisingly, the crash sequence was the most difficult scene to film, taking nine days and requiring many of the cast to take motion sickness pills.

6. John Malkovich’s voiceover was written by one of the survivors

6 36 10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The 1993 Film Alive

You may remember that Alive features a brief voiceover, both at the beginning and at the end of the film.

These monologues were narrated by John Malkovich playing an older Carlitos Paez, and they were written by the real-life Paez.

5. The actors fasted for two days before shooting the crucial first cannibalism scene

5 39 10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The 1993 Film Alive

The most shocking part of the true story, and one of the most important moments in the film, is when the starving survivors decide, after much discussion, to eat the flesh of their dead friends and relatives.

The cast fasted for two days before filming the discussion scene, to enable them to experience at least something of what it must have been like to be so hungry, but thankfully the meat they were asked to eat was only turkey.

4. Critics didn’t think much of the film

4 37 10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The 1993 Film Alive

Alive received mixed reviews upon its release in 1993, with many critics comparing it unfavourably to Piers Paul Read’s book.

Reviewer David Ansen said that whilst “Piers Paul Read’s acclaimed book paid special attention to the social structure that evolved among the group, Marshall downplays the fascinating sociological details and ambiguities of character in favour of action, heroism and a vague religiosity that’s sprinkled over the story like powdered sugar.”

3. A documentary about the real-life disaster was released at the same time

Screen Shot 2021 03 24 at 15.25.46 e1616599585697 10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The 1993 Film Alive

If Alive isn’t your cup of tea, then you may be interested in watching the documentary that was released at around the same time.

Alive: 20 Years Later is included as an extra on the Alive DVD, and it includes interviews with survivors as well as documentary footage of their rescue.

2. The survivors eventually played their postponed rugby game in 2012

In 2012, the surviving members of the team finally played the rugby game that had to be postponed four decades earlier after their plane went down.

The Old Christians team played in Santiago, Chile against Old Grangonian, with crash survivor Pedro Algorta, now 61 years of age, saying “at about this time we were falling in the Andes. Today, we’re here to win a game.”

1. One of the survivors has now written a book of his own

1 38 10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The 1993 Film Alive

Roberto Canessa, who was only 19 years old when the plane went down, is now one of Uruguay’s best known pediatric cardiologists.

Casnessa has also now written a book of his own about the disaster, called I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in The Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives.