Colin Farrell stars in Siberian escape epic, The Way Back


Written by Hannah Grantz
13 Monday 13th December 2010
It would certainly be remiss to suggest that UK travel networks could learn a thing or two about working in adverse weather conditions from Siberian prison workcamps. They're not very pleasant places, by all accounts. So it's understandable that you'd want to escape if you were held in one. However, escape where? Though security can be lax, the hundreds of miles of interminably harsh terrain and freezing temperatures deter or destroy most attempts. But Colin Farrell doesn't do things like 'most' people.
The Way Back, is an epic story inspired by the book The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom. In an attempt to escape a Soviet Gulag, seven prisoners, both rightfully and wrongfully accused under Stalin’s Reign of Terror, trek over 10,000 kilometres of unknown territory to reach freedom from Communism.
The cast was asked to film scenes for The Way Back in a different type of environment than they were used to, going from winter snow storms in Bulgaria to windy desert sand storms in Morcco and India. Playing the part of a starving escaped-con, Ed Harris says, “I got as lean as I could and still have the energy to do my job.” The natural environmental conditions made doing their job much more difficult at times, but Harris added on the topic of weather that, “We actually had a sandstorm on the day we were going to create the sandstorm,” and the entire cast was just “praying to here cut’” during the days of heat exhaustion. Jim Sturgess agreed in an interview that “filming in Morocco was twice as hard as being in the snow.”
Saoirse Ronan, star of The Lovely Bones, proudly announced that she did all of her own stunts in the film, including a rather nail-biting scene of her running across a cracking, partically frozen-over lake. The ice, Ronan says, “was actually made of wax. I threw in a few slips and falls for effect - it was good fun.” Ronan wasn’t an original member of the cast, ironically since her character was also united with the prisoners part way through their journey out of Siberia.
Suggestively the only man in the Gulag who deserved to be there, was a Russian murderer named Valka, played by Colin Farrell. Farrell looked the part, complete with a Stalin portrait tattooed across his chest, and an unmovable intimidating smirk-frown.   Farrell was weary of taking the part of the Russian at first because he “thought Valka was a weak character, but I’m a big fan of Peter Weir’s so I wanted to do the film.” Farrell noted that he had “no relationship to that time in history or that country” so filming and getting into character was all a sense of “discovery.” In the end, he believes Valka was one of his least favorite characters to play - because, he says he “found him very sad,” and if he had to guess the fate of his character, to go beyond what we see in the film, Farell imagines Valka died in the next town he came to by getting “stabbed in a tavern - he was only safe in Russia.”
The incredibly moving story of The Way Back will be released to cinemas across the UK and Ireland on 26 December 

Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at and we will respond asap.