From award-winning documentary filmmaker E. Chai Vasarhelyi (“MERU”) and world-renowned photographer and mountaineer Jimmy Chin comes National Geographic Documentary Film’s FREE SOLO, a stunning, intimate and unflinching portrait of the free soloist climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world’s most famous rock ... the 3,000ft El Capitan in Yosemite National Park ... without a rope. Celebrated as one of the greatest athletic feats of any kind, Honnold’s climb set the ultimate standard: perfection or death. Succeeding in this challenge, Honnold enters his story in the annals of human achievement. FREE SOLO is both an edge-of-your seat thriller and an inspiring portrait of an athlete who exceeded our current understanding of human physical and mental potential. The result is a triumph of the human spirit.
Meet the Cast
Alex HonnoldPROFESSIONAL ROCK CLIMBER, FILM SUBJECT
Alex Honnold is a professional adventure rock climber whose audacious free solo ascents of America's biggest cliffs have made him one of the most recognized and followed climbers in the world. A gifted but hard-working athlete, he is known as much for his humble, self-effacing attitude as he is for the dizzyingly tall cliffs he has climbed without a rope to protect him if he falls. Honnold has been profiled by "60 Minutes" and The New York Times, been featured on the cover of National Geographic, appeared in international television commercials and starred in numerous adventure films, including the Emmy-nominated "Alone on the Wall."
Honnold is the founder of the Honnold Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes solar energy access worldwide. To this day, he maintains his simple "dirtbag-climber" existence, living out of his van, donating a significant portion of his income to the Honnold Foundation, and traveling the world in search of the next great vertical adventure. He is sponsored by The North Face, among others.
Meet the Filmmakers
Elizabeth Chai VasarhelyiDIRECTOR, PRODUCER
Award-winning filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi is the director and producer of FREE SOLO, from National Geographic Documentary Films. Co-directed with Jimmy Chin, the film offers an intimate, unflinching portrait of rock climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares for and then achieves his lifelong dream: to climb the face of the world's most famous rock ... without a rope.
Vasarhelyi's films as a director include "Meru" (Oscars Shortlist 2016; Sundance Audience Award 2015); "Incorruptible" (Truer Than Fiction Independent Spirit Award 2016); "Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love" (Oscilloscope, 2009), which premiered at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals; "A Normal Life" (Tribeca Film Festival, Best Documentary 2003); and "Touba" (SXSW, Special Jury Prize Best Cinematography 2013). Vasarhelyi has directed a New York Times Op Doc, an episode for Netflix's nonfiction design series "Abstract" and two episodes for ESPN's new nonfiction series "Enhanced." She has received grants from the Sundance Institute, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Bertha Britdoc, the William and Mary Greve Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. She is a member of the DGA as well as AMPAS. She holds a B.A. in comparative literature from Princeton University and lives in New York City.
Jimmy ChinDIRECTOR, PRODUCER, CINEMATOGRAPHER
Jimmy Chin is a professional climber, skier, mountaineer, 18-year member of The North Face Athlete Team and National Geographic Explorer. As the director, producer and cinematographer of the National Geographic Documentary Film FREE SOLO, which he co-directed with Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Chin captured rock climber Alex Honnold's nail-biting free solo ascent of Yosemite National Park's El Capitan.
Consistently over the past 20 years, he has led or participated in cutting-edge climbing and ski mountaineering expeditions to all seven continents and made the first and only American ski descent from the summit of Mount Everest. Chin is also a filmmaker and National Geographic photographer. He has worked with many of the greatest explorers, adventurers and athletes of our time, documenting their exploits in the most challenging conditions and locations in the world. He has garnered numerous awards shooting on assignment for publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair and Outside Magazine, and has directed commercial work for a wide range of clients, including Apple, Chase, Pirelli and The North Face. His 2015 documentary "Meru," which was also co-directed by Vasarhelyi, won the Audience Award at Sundance and was nominated for best documentary by the DGA and PGA. "Meru" was also shortlisted for an Oscar.
Evan Hayes is the Head of Production & Development at the Emmy award-wining production company ACE Content, where he is also a Partner. Hayes developed and produced FREE SOLO alongside co-directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. During the production of FREE SOLO, he served as President of Production at Parkes+MacDonald/Image Nation where he supervised all aspects of production, finance and creative development in both film & television. Hayes also oversaw Parkes+MacDonald's discretionary development fund as well as strategic partnerships with Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Universal Television and Studio Canal, among others. During his tenure at Parkes+MacDonald the company produced and/or financed such films as James Ponsoldt's "The Circle" starring Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, and John Boyega; Davis Guggenheim's "He Named Me Malala" for Fox Searchlight; and "Rings" for Paramount Pictures.
Prior to joining Parkes+MacDonald, Hayes served as President of Production at Story Mining & Supply Co. where he oversaw the Starz original series "Outlander" created by Ron Moore; the upcoming Fox Searchlight film "The Fence," written by Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos and to be directed by Peter Nicks; and "The Yellow Birds" directed by Alexandre Moors and starring Alden Ehrenreich and Tye Sheridan. Hayes also spent eleven years at Working Title Films, where he first met Chin, as a producer on "Everest."
Shannon Dill is currently Head of Production at Concordia Studio. Founded in 2017 by Laurene Powell Jobs and Davis Guggenheim, the company develops, produces and finances nonfiction stories about important issues of our time. Dill executive produced Concordia's first feature, "Kailash," which won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Filmmaking at 2018's Sundance Film Festival. Dill's creative partnership with Guggenheim dates back to 2012, when she produced films, "The Dream Is Now," "Teach," and "He Named Me Malala."
It was "He Named Me Malala" that caught the eye of directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, who reached out to Dill to produce FREE SOLO. A non-climber with a well-known fear of heights, Dill decidedly came quickly on board. She was on the ground from day one overseeing every aspect of production for over two years of often logistically and emotionally challenging filmmaking.
Dill began her nearly 20-year career working alongside director James Moll, producing films such as the Grammy winning "Foo Fighters: Back and Forth," Emmy winning "Inheritance," "Running the Sahara," and "Price for Peace," with executive producer Steven Spielberg.
Her journey continues at Concordia Studio where Dill hopes to produce films that will inform, challenge, and entertain a global audience–which includes her most important audience, her young daughter.
"****! A MASTERPIECE"
EVAN BUSH, THE SEATTLE TIMES
"SEE IT ON THE BIGGEST SCREEN POSSIBLE"
RICHARD LAWSON, VANITY FAIR
"GUARANTEED TO TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY"
KENNETH TURAN, LOS ANGELES TIMES
"BELIEVE THE HYPE! A breathtaking adventure"
ANN HORNADAY, WASHINGTON POST
"FREE SOLO is less about climbing than it is about living. An extraordinary gift to everyone who believes that the limit of human achievement is far from being reached."
BRET STEPHENS, THE NEW YORK TIMES
"You’ll be glued to the screen. The camera work in Free Solo will blow your mind. Pumped by Marco Beltrami’s score and your own adrenaline, you feel every spectacular moment."
PETER TRAVERS, ROLLING STONE
"**** Thrilling. One of the greatest physical achievements ever by a human being."
G. ALLEN JOHNSON, THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
"NYT Critics Pick. Invigorating."
JEANETTE CATSOULIS THE NEW YORK TIMES
"FREE SOLO is the best climbing movie ever made. Expertly filmed."
PETER VIGNERON OUTSIDE MAGAZINE
"The way that Vasarhelyi and Chin capture the scale of Honnold’s climb is stunning. A gripping and rewarding documentary to watch."
DAVID SIMS, THE ATLANTIC
"GRIPPING. MAGNIFICENT. Chin and Vasarhelyi have done such a good job laying out some of El Capitan’s specific challenges for the viewer that they become resonant beats in a mini-story arc. It’s scary and exhilarating stuff."
GLEN KENNY, ROGEREBERT.COM
"Breathtaking. An awesome and inspiring doc. Will have viewers holding their breath and biting their nails during the spectacular climax."
GARY M. KRAMER, FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL
"A visually stunning adventure with a compelling character at the center."
RAPHAELA NEIHAUSEN AND THOM POWERS, WNYC
"The most thrilling...gorgeous...and scariest climbing movie ever made"
JOSEPH HOOPER, MEN’S JOURNAL
"BEAUTIFUL. A thoughtful look at what drives people like Honnold to attempt feats like this."