“Holy S**t!” Free Solo Wins Oscar

Adventure Films

Jimmy Chin’s unscripted response when Free Solo won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature was one of the best moments of the 2019 Oscars. The film, which follows climber Alex Honnold’s quest to climb the 900-metre Freerider route on El Capitan, marks the first time a climbing film snagged such a mainstream award.

While Chin and his wife, co-director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, justifiably beamed at the recognition of their work, Honnold himself seemed amused by the whole Hollywood ride, which included a backstage chat with Taylor Swift and gadding about in the first tuxedo ever designed by The North Face. Below, a pre-ceremony interview neatly captures Honnold’s bemusement.

Honnold’s recently showed his sense of humour vis-a-vis Hollywood in his good-natured but incisive take on how big-budget films from Mission Impossible 2 (which he liked) to Cliffhanger (which he didn’t) portrayed climbing:

Asked about his next project, Honnold admitted that he’d been on the road promoting the film for the past six months and hadn’t had time to consider it. But he believes that he will never again do something as committing as El Cap.

About the Author

Jerry Kobalenko

Jerry Kobalenko

Jerry Kobalenko is the editor of ExplorersWeb. Canada's premier arctic traveler, he is the author of The Horizontal Everest and Arctic Eden, and is currently working on a book about adventures in Labrador. In 2018, he was awarded the Polar Medal by the Governor General of Canada.

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“The Man Skied Down Everest” was awarded for the best documentary in the 1975 Academy Awards, so “Free Solo” will not be the first climbing film to receive the honor — if you mean “climbing” to include the genre of mountain climbing as well.