Aron Ralston filmed a daily video diary while he was stuck in the canyon; parts of the video diary were shown on a televised special about his entrapment, however most of the footage has only been shown to close friends and family and is kept in a bank vault for safety. Before shooting began both James Franco and director Danny Boyle were allowed to view the footage in order to accurately portray the events in the movie.
For the moment when Aron falls down the canyon and gets his arms stuck under the rock, Danny Boyle filmed James Franco for 20 minutes straight going through all kinds of emotions. He then cut the material the way it ended up in the movie.
Aron Ralston broke into tears during a Q&A session at the Toronto International Film Festival, after an audience member asked his opinion on his portrayal on screen. Ralston said it was challenging after he was comforted by the actors beside him.
The cave paintings shown in the opening credits sequence are taken from The Great Gallery, a large rock panel of such paintings, at least 1500 years old, in Horseshoe Canyon, Utah. Blue John Canyon where Aron was trapped is a tributary to Horseshoe Canyon.
Aron Ralston became a motivational speaker. He was busy in November of 2011. Some of his activities included: On November 16, 2011, he was the final keynote speaker for the 2011 Financial & Insurance Conference Planners Annual Conference, in San Antonio, Texas. On November 28, he spoke at the Fayetteville Town Center at the University of Arkansas.
The amputation scene reportedly caused some audience members to receive medical assistance. Special effects designer Tony Gardner heavily worked on the scene with medical professionals in order to re-create Aron Ralston's perspective. The scene was done on one take.
Multiple arms and arm interiors were created for the surgery sequence, with a day and a half scheduled at the end of the film's shoot to document the intricacies of the scene. After the first long "take" of the surgery scene, done in real time and lasting twenty minutes, Danny Boyle canceled the last day and a half of the shoot. He felt he had captured everything needed in that first take.