Downhill Movie Poster Barely escaping an avalanche during a family ski vacation in the Alps, a married couple is thrown into disarray...

Downhill [Movie]

Downhill Movie Poster

Barely escaping an avalanche during a family ski vacation in the Alps, a married couple is thrown into disarray as they are forced to reevaluate their lives and how they feel about each other. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell star in this biting comedy.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Will Ferrell
 Zach Woods
Zoë Chao
  Miranda Otto

Screenplay by……………………………………………………Jesse Armstrong and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Produced by…………………………………………………………………………………..Anthony Bregman p.g.a
……………………………………………………………………………………………………Julia Louis-Dreyfus p.g.a ……………………………………………………………………………………………………Stefanie Azpiazu p.g.a Executive Producer………………………………………………………………………………Erik Hemmendorff
Direct of Photography……………………………………………………………………………………Danny Cohen
Production Executive………………………………………………………………………………………….Greg Zuk
Production Designer…………………………………………………………………………………….Dave Warren
Edited by……………………………………………………………………………………............Pamela Martin, ACE
.........................................................................................................................................................Dave Rennie, ACE
Music by………………………………………………………………………………………………Volker Bertelmann
Co-Producer……………………………………………………………………………………………….Jo Homewood
Costume Designer……………………………………………………………………………..Kathleen Felix-Hager
Casting by………………………………………………………………………………………..Jeanne McCarthy, CSA           
…………………………………………………………………………………………….Nicole Abellera Hallman, CSA

Inspired by the motion picture FORCE MAJEURE by Ruben Östlund

Barely escaping an avalanche during a family ski vacation in the Alps, a married couple is thrown into disarray as they are forced to reevaluate their lives and how they feel about each other. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell star in this biting comedy. 

Searchlight Pictures presents DOWNHILL, directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash from a screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, and Faxon & Rash; starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Zach Woods, Zoë Chao, Miranda Otto and Kristofer Hivju. Louis-Dreyfus also produces, along with Anthony Bregman and Stefanie Azpiazu. It is inspired by the acclaimed 2014 Swedish film FORCE MAJEURE.

The filmmaking team includes director of photography Danny Cohen, production designer David Warren, costume designer Kathleen Felix-Hager and music by Volker Bertelmann.

A Marriage Unwrapped in the Alps

It’s the ski vacation of a lifetime for Pete and Billie Stanton and their two boys: a week in the Austrian Alps. With both parents unplugged from their professional careers, the Stantons are – on the surface - ready for seven days of snowy family fun.
What was poised to be a delightful week of skiing and togetherness instead becomes a series of awkward and emotionally fraught moments in which Pete and Billie have to be honest with themselves and each other in ways they hadn’t expected.
Early in the trip, while having lunch at a mountainside restaurant, Pete and Billie have dramatically different responses to what is- unbeknownst to them- a controlled avalanche that appears frighteningly out of control. Pete’s reaction stuns the family and throws the rest of their vacation and the couple’s marriage into chaos, as Billie reevaluates their relationship and each is forced to wrestle with their own sense of self.
 “I was immediately interested in the premise,” Louis-Dreyfus says. “What appealed to me about the story was the idea that a person can be viewing their life through a certain lens, and what happens when that lens is taken off — what’s different? And is, in fact, anything different? So the idea of a reality being altered dramatically is what appealed to me.”
She was intrigued by the notion of how a subtle shift in perspective — if facing an avalanche can be subtle — can have such profound emotional effects.
“It’s a very big crisis, and it’s a big actual event that happens in the film,” Louis-Dreyfus says. “But the fallout from it is seemingly small at first. And then it, dare I say, snowballs.”
For Louis-Dreyfus, making DOWNHILL has been a dream realized. “I’ve been involved with this project for several years,” she says. “It was a great opportunity for me, not only as an actress, but also as a producer.

Approaching DOWNHILL

A distinctly American take on an original story by Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund, DOWNHILL was brought to the screen by producer and star Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
The multi-award-winning actress (VEEP, SEINFELD) had just finished showing off her dramatic chops in Fox Searchlight’s ENOUGH SAID when Searchlight’s production team asked if she’d consider developing an American version of Östlund’s FORCE MAJEURE.
Louis-Dreyfus invited Anthony Bregman and Stefanie Azpiazu of Likely Story, who also produced ENOUGH SAID, to join forces on the adaptation, which Bregman characterizes as more of a “riff” than a remake.
“There’s a long-standing tradition in every art form of taking a work of art that you admire and interpreting it in a different context. It’s the film version of a cover song,” says producer Bregman.
“We’re taking a movie that we all love, that has a very particular sensibility and showing how you can riff on it. Our intention was to take the ideas that the original movie had and explore them in a new context.”
Inspiring a remake has been both rewarding and surreal for Östlund and FORCE MAJEURE producer Erik Hemmendorf who is also an executive producer on DOWNHILL.
“My strongest experiences of movies have inspired me in my work, so for me this is the best proof that my films are having an impact,” Östlund says.
Seeing DOWNHILL for the first time also proved to be an emotional experience for the two.
“It was nerve-wracking and fun,” Hemmendorff says. “The most important thing for us was to make sure that everybody involved knew that they could be as free as they wanted in terms of (relating) to the original… I really liked that they put in new scenes and storylines.”
Adds Östlund: “As soon as I thought they had managed to solve a scene better than we did, I felt genuinely happy — and jealous at the same time. But I’ve decided for myself to embrace the differences and look at it like when they put on classic plays in the theater: it’s the differences in the reading that are a big part of what makes it interesting.”
To create the American version of the story, producers tapped writer Jesse Armstrong (SUCCESSION, VEEP) to pen the script, with finishing touches by Oscar winning writing-directing duo Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (THE DESCENDANTS, THE WAY WAY BACK).
The delicate balance between comedy and drama in Faxon and Rash’s previous films made the Oscar-winning pair an ideal choice for DOWNHILL, Louis-Dreyfus says.
“I think they certainly understood exactly what we were going for tonally in this picture. They’re so familiar with drama within comedy and how to thread that needle,” she says of Faxon and Rash. “I had never worked with a directing team before, but it was very refreshing to do so, and they really worked in tandem with one another brilliantly.”
The chance to work with Louis-Dreyfus was a major draw for the duo— “It’s cliché to say we’re fans,” Rash says. “The idea fit into what we react to the most, which is character-driven ballets between comedy and drama,” Rash continues. “It’s the thing we gravitate towards most in the storytelling department.”
Adds Faxon: “We are drawn to these types of mixed-genre projects because, to us, they feel the most relatable. They mimic life’s unpredictable nature where daily stress or even tragic circumstances can often be accompanied by comedic moments and/or relief.”
The filmmakers knew it would be a challenge to take on a movie as beloved and well-executed as FORCE MAJEURE, but they also recognized the universality of its central questions: How well can two people really know each other? And what happens when one of them does something totally unexpected?
“We wanted to balance this film with both the woman’s perspective as well as the man’s and examine how this random, yet incredibly significant, incident affects them both as individuals and as a couple,” Faxon says. “Inevitably, the characters are forced to reevaluate everything they thought to be true.”
Adds Producer Stefanie Azpiazu: “This version of the film uses the avalanche as a metaphor for the marriage. Billie and Pete can’t move on because they see the things that are happening differently.  The question is: can they sync up in their stories?”
Bringing American characters to Europe also adds a fish-out-of-water element to the challenges they’re facing — a feeling the filmmakers, cast and crew shared while shooting on location in the Alps.
“Billie and Pete are thrown off balance in a culture they don’t understand, frustrated by a language they don’t speak, and confused by customs and laws they’re not familiar with. They’re just these tiny, confused human beings,” Bregman says. “And then a massive, out-of-control avalanche rolls over them. The story shows us that it’s in moments of unexpected stress and imbalance that characters find their true selves and reveal the fissures in their relationships.”
Billie and Pete Stanton
Bringing Billie and Pete Stanton to life are comic superstars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell, in their first on-screen pairing. The two actors had never actually met before coming together on this film, despite having many colleagues in common and working at some of the same places over their long careers.
Upon meeting, though, Louis-Dreyfus felt like she’d known Ferrell forever.
“We immediately got along. We immediately were making each other howl laughing,” she says. “I felt like we must have known each other in another life. I don’t know how else to say it. It was totally bizarre, but it was a very happy reality.”
Ferrell (STRANGER THAN FICTION, ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY) agrees, saying getting to know Louis-Dreyfus has been among the best parts of the job.
“It’s just incredible to have gone on this journey with her and now I feel like I’ve known her for 20 years,” he says.
“She’s obviously brilliantly funny. She’s an incredible producer in terms of always having really great questions for our directors… and making sure we’re on the right track with our storytelling,” Ferrell continues. “She was incredible to get to act with, and at the same time, she could not have been more down to earth and self-deprecating in the best possible way.”
That off-screen connection served them well. As a long-married couple, Billie and Pete know each other inside and out — or so they thought before their trip to the Alps.
When disaster strikes, Pete reacts in a way Billie couldn’t have predicted or imagined.
“These characters, including the children, are digesting the reality of what just happened,” Louis-Dreyfus says. “As terrifying as the avalanche is, I think what Pete does is just as terrifying, if not even more so. And it happens so quickly and it’s such a disaster that I think it’s hard for Billie to actually fully understand what happened. She’s in shock.”
Pete is also in denial. Unable to accept or understand what he’s done, he tries hard to carry on with the family vacation they’d all hoped for.
“I liked how pathetic Pete is in his own way,” Ferrell says. “Yet I think when you watch the movie, you’re also kind of sympathetic to him at the same time. He’s made the most egregious error he could make, and he’s so sorry, but he’s just too childish to admit it.”
That’s why it was so critical to have someone as appealing as Ferrell in the role, Nat Faxon says. Otherwise, it could be easy to write off Pete’s actions — abandoning his family in a moment of danger — as wholly unredeemable.
“Will has such a wonderful vulnerability in the role, which proved to be an incredible asset. It helped us create this sense of empathy for Pete,” Faxon says. “And as a result, the audience is left at the end of the film debating whose side they are on.”
Beyond her ongoing duties as a producer, Louis-Dreyfus brings her characteristic warmth to Billie: a self-assured, accomplished attorney and devoted wife and mother who suddenly finds herself on unstable emotional ground.
“Julia traverses Billie’s emotional journey in such a nuanced and relatable way,” Faxon says. “Her grounded performance and emotional depth allow us to witness her myriad reactions — confusion, impatience and resentment — from such a close and personal perspective. She also has the enviable ability to communicate so much without really saying a lot. That’s fun for a director, because a reaction can say as much, if not more, than a verbal retort. It’s this restraint that elevates her phenomenal performance.”
It was a great gift during editing, when the directors needed a certain look or facial expression to convey the emotion of a scene.
“There were countless times where we were able to tell the story just because of her reactions,” says Faxon.
            In a way, the film is all about Pete and Billie’s reactions, both to the avalanche and the emotional challenges that ensue. For Louis-Dreyfus, it’s Pete’s regrettable response and resulting shame that make the story so relatable.
“There are no good guys or bad guys in this movie,” she says. “Maybe there are good people making bad decisions, but even then, they’re questionable decisions… Billie ultimately feels a great deal of sympathy for her husband because she understands the shame he feels for what he has done.”
“I hope the audience goes, ‘Oh this should be fun, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell, this should be funny,’” adds Ferrell. “And then you get to go on this journey, which is even kind of heartbreaking and a real dramedy.”
He characterizes the central quandary of the film as a classic “dinner party kind of question: What would you do if you were faced with this sort of event? How would you react?”
“I think we all kind of have the place in our minds where we think we would do the right thing,” Ferrell says. “But in that moment, you never really know.”

Zach and Rosie
and Pete and Billie

Providing a foible to both the established relationship and emotional tension between Billie and Pete are Zach and Rosie, a carefree young couple enjoying a free-wheeling exploration of Europe that they document online with the hashtag “NoAgenda.”
Played by Zach Woods (VEEP, SILICON VALLEY) and Zoë Chao (STRANGERS, LIVING WITH YOURSELF), the couple ends up in a pivotal role in Billie and Pete’s understanding of the avalanche and its aftermath.
 “They’re a couple in the euphoric phase of falling in love, where your brain is just marinating in all those love hormones,” Woods says. “You’re just so excited and sort of disinclined to pay attention to the limitations in yourself or the other person.”
            Zach works with Pete in real estate, though it’s debatable how close their friendship is. Pete has been following Zach and Rosie’s European adventures online — perhaps with a bit of jealousy and envy — and, unbeknownst to Billie, invites the couple to drop by their hotel for dinner.
“Pete kind of reels them into their predicament to give him cover,” Will Ferrell says.
“I think maybe he’s using Zach and Rosie as a smokescreen or a way of blocking the conversation from Billie about what happened during the avalanche,” Woods adds.
The two couples spend an incredibly squirm-worthy evening together, as Zach and Rosie bear witness to the unbearable tension between Billie and Pete.
Jim Rash explains the dynamic with both couples: “Having Rosie and Zach observe Billie and Pete’s meltdown is a great device; we can feel the cringing and the awkwardness. It also gives a small nod that these two people, in their own way, are also headed toward an avalanche if they’re not careful, and we get clues about what Rosie wants and what Zach wants as they have private time with Billie and Pete respectively. So, it was important to show, again, the theme of the individual within the whole.”
It was among the toughest scenes to shoot, Julia Louis-Dreyfus says.
“It was a 10 or 12-page scene, and we shot it without stopping. We just kept doing it over and over and over again, like a play,” she says. “So, it required a kind of stamina and concentration that was pretty demanding.”
Filming that sequence, incidentally, was a highlight for Rash, who describes it as “a nice little masterclass.”
 “In the scene, they’re just sort of coming apart as a couple, and watching those guys and show up with ever-greater vulnerability and intensity take to take, it was really exciting,” Woods adds.
Zach also has private conversations with Pete, as Rosie does with Billie, where the younger couple provides perspective for the agonized husband and wife.
“Pete and Zach have the relationship that so many men have,” Woods says, “where you go out expecting to have the time of your life and by the end of the night, you’re crying into your Jägermeister.”
Adds Ferrell: “Zach is a critical component to Pete’s journey.”
Rosie and Billie have a poignant exchange when the two women unexpectedly cross paths the day after their stressful dinner.
“She’s almost a stranger to Billie but when they unexpectedly meet on the same ski lift, Rosie says, ‘Hey, what your husband did was messed up and you have every right to be angry,’” Chao says of her character. “And maybe Julia’s character is able to hear and accept this feedback because Rosie is a stranger. Rosie is an outsider looking in at a situation and offering an honest, objective observation.”
Chao adds that she found Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus, whom she describes as “titans of comedy,” to be a dream to work with.
“It’s just really incredible to be in a room witnessing two people who are so good at what they do just bouncing off each other,” Chao says. “And then it’s astonishing that they’re as nice and real as they are talented.”
Woods, who worked with Louis-Dreyfus on VEEP, was similarly wowed.
“In addition to her incredible comedic and acting talent, I was also sort of blown away with how she balanced being a producer and being in the moment,” he says. “I think it’s really hard to go out and in and out and in, to keep an eye on the production and the story — all that stuff which the producer needs to do — and then also be playful and present and generous.”

Charlotte and Guglielmo
and Pete and Billie

Two other characters that help Billie gain perspective are Charlotte, a mysterious and outspoken woman who may or may not work at the hotel where the couple is staying, and Guglielmo, a handsome and passionate ski instructor with whom Billie spends an afternoon on the slopes.
“You have these characters that flow into the story of Pete and Billie in the right time in this moment in their lives where they’re figuring out if they can go down the hill together,” says co-director Jim Rash. “Charlotte and Guglielmo are characters who, especially for Billie, come in at the right time with a message for her.”
Australian actress Miranda Otto (THE LORD OF THE RINGS, HOMELAND) plays Charlotte, the story’s most enigmatic and outrageous character. She is among the first people Pete and Billie meet when they arrive in Austria, and within seconds, she’s sharing tales of her sexual exploits.
“I think she sees herself as a very charming person, like, ‘I am so fun and people love me, and if they don’t love me, I give them something to talk about,’” Otto says. “She feels she’s there to liven up the party and make people loosen up. She’s super confident about herself and doesn’t care about anyone else’s opinions at all.”
The character was so delicious that Otto gave up a planned work break to play her.
“I was going to take a few months off, and then when I read the script, I wanted to do it so much. I love how cleverly observed this character is,” Otto says, adding that she was particularly struck by the contrast between Charlotte and Billie.
“She has a very black and white kind of stance on things,” Otto says of Charlotte. “It’s just totally different than an American point of view.”
Rash says the role wasn’t easy to cast, but Otto proved perfect.
“It took a while to find the right Charlotte,” the co-director says. “She’s definitely a character that has a toe on the ground but is a little larger-than-life and lives her life differently from every other character that we meet in the story.”
Billie’s time with Guglielmo, played by Italian actor Giulio Berruti (MONTE CARLO, WALKING ON SUNSHINE), is no less impactful.
Berruti describes the character as “a guy that is very passionate about what he’s doing. He doesn’t think too much. He just feels a lot.”
Guglielmo’s passion contrasts with Pete’s avoidance, Berruti says, as he helps Billie understand that sometimes “we might need to feel rather than think.”
Adds Louis-Dreyfus, “I think that Billie's interaction with Guglielmo is a spontaneous, surprising relief and a tempting distraction from the anxiety and tension she is experiencing with her husband and her family.”

Finn and Emerson
and Billie and Pete

Portraying Billie and Pete’s twin sons, Finn and Emerson, are Julian Grey and Ammon Ford. The two 14-year-olds had never met before working together on DOWNHILL, but “it’s like we’re actually brothers at this point,” Grey says.
“In another life we were related,” Ford says.
“In our past lives for sure,” Grey adds.
The young actors even seemed like siblings off-camera, Julia Louis-Dreyfus says.
“They’re roughhousing, they’re cracking jokes or pushing each other around. It’s really like they’re brothers,” she says. “And I have two boys. I raised two boy children so it’s really familiar to me to have that kind of energy around.”
The characters the boys play have different feelings about skiing, but in real life, both love it. Grey was already a skier, but Ford learned just for the film.
“Skiing is like my passion now,” he says.
As with Billie and Pete, the avalanche changes the vibe of the boys’ vacation. Finn and Emerson experience the close call alongside their parents and are deeply shaken by Pete’s reaction.
“They’re not just frightened, but confused as to why he would do that,” Ford says. “We thought he was our idol, but then he shows a different side of himself. And in fact, their father becomes a child to them.”
Making the film was a thrill for the two young actors, who spent their days off skiing together and their time on set trying not to laugh at Will Ferrell’s and Louis-Dreyfus’s antics.
“They build off each other’s energy and it’s really fun to watch,” Grey says of the two stars. “Like halfway through the scenes we can’t keep it together and we’re dying in the middle.”
Still, Louis-Dreyfus was impressed — both with the boys’ performance and their skiing ability.
“Ammon is a better skier than he portrays his character, Emerson, to be. He had to sort of dial back his skiing skills by the time we got him on skis because he took to it really well, and Julian was a very good skier from the get-go,” she says. “They’ve been just wonderful. They bring a lot to the page and have a nice, real feel to them. They’re very natural actors.”

Billie and Pete in Austria
Bringing real authenticity — and its own set of challenges — to DOWNHILL was its breathtaking setting in the Austrian Alps, where the cast and crew relocated for the production.
“It was unbelievably exotic,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus says. “Short of filming in the White House, it was the most exotic thing I’ve ever done in my career. I moved to Austria for two months and was living in the Alps for the vast majority of that time. I loved every second of it.”
Adds producer Anthony Bregman: “The backdrops and the scenery and the landscape were so stunning that we worried that people would think that they’re fake.”
            By bringing the production to Austria — during one of the snowiest years on record — the cast and filmmakers had a similar fish-out-of-water feeling that Billie and Pete do in the film.
“It certainly brought a complete authenticity to these American characters being in a different country, because we were,” Louis-Dreyfus says. “Additionally, shooting on a mountain in snow certainly is different than being on a sound stage.”
A great many scenes were shot outside on the slopes, which meant the actors, directors, camera operators and other crew members got to set by snowcat (tractor-like vehicles that can scale steep, snowy surfaces).
And because they were filming at an active ski resort that was open for business, they could only use snowcats and snowmobiles outside of the resort’s operating hours, which made for many early mornings and long days outside in winter alpine weather.
“We didn’t have the luxury of having these really sweet trailers that we could park on the side of a ski slope, so they would basically just hunker down and get warm by this crappy little heater that somebody had brought up,” co-director Faxon says. “Everyone was really game to do what was needed and be good sports about it.”
The trickiest shots to get were those on the gondola and chair lift, since the resort was not about to shut down any lift lines for its paying customers.
“We’d have to get the actors on, then start the lift back up so they could get the resort guests up the mountain while we shot,” says co-director Jim Rash. “So, our actors would ride up and down the chairlift a couple of times. But we’d have to stop and change the camera angle. And our crew was amazing. They’d do it like a NASCAR pit stop.”
On a few days, the resort did reserve a run or two just for the film crew, much to the delight of the skiers on the production team, including Bregman and Faxon.
“It was definitely a thrill to shoot on a ski mountain,” Bregman says. “We’d ski to set and spend the entire day in ski boots.”
“It was one of the best perks of my working experience there,” Faxon says. “I loved having that last ski run at the end of the day.”
Skiing on camera was pretty memorable, too, for star Will Ferrell.
“One of the days that I’ll never forget filming is we were almost at the end of the day and our second-unit ski team said, ‘You know what, we’re just going to film you guys skiing all the way down the mountain,’” Ferrell recalls. “And we were just kind of joyously laughing at the fact that here we were in the middle of a movie being filmed skiing, which will never happen again, for me, unless I only make ski movies from this point on.”
Having the cast and crew together overseas also made for a unifying working experience, he adds.
“There’s something that’s really bonding about doing a movie where everyone’s all in the same location,” Ferrell says. “We’re all staying in the same hotel, we’d grab dinner at night — all those little intangibles that make you feel that much closer. That in combination with every day we’d be on the mountain going: Look at these views. What is going on? People are going to think we CGI’d the background here.”
Actor Zach Woods agrees, adding that he hadn’t considered himself much of a mountain guy before making DOWNHILL.
“It was so incredibly beautiful and impossibly exciting that, just like through sheer force of beauty and magnitude, it turned me into a mountain person,” he says.
Of course, making a movie outside in the Alps during winter means the production was constantly subject to the whims of the weather. A flexible filming schedule was essential, as the weather was ever-changing and could only be accurately predicted a few days out.
“Usually, within about a 72-hour period, you have a good idea of what’s to come,” Faxon says. “So, we could plan about two to three days out and make adjustments on the fly. That kind of malleable scheduling was all possible thanks to our adept and nimble crew, captained by our fearless line producer, Jo Homewood, and our first AD, Julie Bloom.”
Adds Louis-Dreyfus: “I think our line producer had on her phone every single weather app known to mankind… And we all owe a debt of gratitude to this crew, who was not only nimble, but enthusiastically so. I think everybody was kind of jazzed to be where we were, the circumstances of being surrounded by these beautiful, glorious Alps in this unusual country with incredible culture.”
Producing a feature film overseas — another first for Louis-Dreyfus — was a triumph.
“I’d never produced anything that was sort of joyfully arduous as this project,” she says. “It took a long time to bring it to fruition. And then once we were there, it was really challenging to get it done.

Setting the Scene for Disaster: Music, Design and Costumes
From the start of DOWNHILL, there’s a sense of foreboding, even before the Stantons come face to face with an avalanche.
That feeling of uncertainty comes from a combination of camerawork, the sight of avalanche-blast cannons on the mountainside and the film’s doom-heralding score.
“We knew the presence of music would be important,” says co-director Jim Rash. “So with our composer, we literally wanted to create the presence of Austria, and that came through yodeling. Yodeling is inherently funny, but he suggested there are modern ways that people are using it differently.”
Here, the refrain of yodels provides a kind of siren call of danger ahead.
“I thought it would be nice to have a local color in the film music without getting too cliché or too traditional,” says composer Volker Bertelmann, who has been skiing in the Alps since he was a young child. “I had the feeling that we could use traditional instruments, vocals and the tonality of the yodeling music, which has, by the way, a lot in common with blues.”
Bertelmann created an eerie effect by blending notes and looping yodeling-inspired vocals.
Traditional yodeling is usually faster,” he says. “I took elements like (blending pitches) and the way the vocals are sung to create a connection to the Alps and a kind of unique interpretation.”
The challenge was to combine humor, melancholy and a distinct regional feel in the music without muddling the composition, the composer says. “Such difficulties can be inspirational because you’re doing something you wouldn’t do instinctively.”
            Sonic warnings also come from avalanche cannons scattered throughout the peaks. Though they appear ominous, they’re designed to blast away accumulated snow, creating intentional slides on empty slopes to diminish the risk of spontaneous avalanches on active ski runs.
Creating the avalanche that changes the trajectory of Billie and Pete’s relationship took several days of shooting, snow cannons that pelted the cast with icy pellets and a touch of CGI.
“Anytime you see an actual avalanche on the mountain, that whole mountain range is changed and replaced from the one that was there,” Rash says.
But the “snow shrapnel” hitting the actors was real: performers were pummeled with snow and ice as they filmed the scene, which added to the drama, not to mention the cold.
“A ton of snow was being shot at us from some sort of cannon,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus says. “I didn’t quite see the contraption, but it was a huge, blowing thing of ice and snow and so on. So we were putting our heads down. It was pretty intense, actually. It was pretty demanding.”
Further compounding the intensity and sense of danger were real, uncontrolled snow slides happening throughout the alps. With record snowfall that year, avalanches were wreaking havoc across the area where the film was shooting.
“We saw videos of avalanches that happened while we were there,” Rash says. “We would be driving to scout a shoot and see these large swaths on the sides of mountains where the snow had slid off, so that makes it terrifying.”
Actor Zach Woods confesses feeling “acute anxiety” when hearing about the avalanches in nearby mountain ranges.
“There were avalanches happening all the time,” he says. “I had thought this was just, you know, a dramatic device. But then when we got there, we kept hearing about casualties due to avalanches.”
Louis-Dreyfus, too, found herself beset with real-life anxiety in the days after enduring snow cannons and a made-for-the-movie avalanche.
“I was actually skiing on a day off, and it was underneath where we had shot the avalanche scene. I looked up and saw that and said to myself, ‘I’ve got to get off this mountain,’” she says.
For Will Ferrell, though, being in avalanche country enhanced the drama of the story and the overall filmmaking experience.
“It added a whole other layer of, oh gosh, this scenario that kicks off the emotional journey for this family is actually something that is happening 30 miles down the road,” he says. “All of those elements added poignancy that you couldn’t help but feel. I think it added to the film immeasurably.”
The production team had professional help in securing the safest and most scenic areas in what Austrian locations manager Johannes Kock describes as “the wild West of Austria.”
“This is a pure alpine landscape,” he says. “I believe we found perfect locations for DOWNHILL. The advantage is that the locations way up in the mountains are very accessible and the infrastructure around it is just perfect. This was not built for film productions, but it was built for the development of tourism in our country, and now film and tourism get along very well together.”
He adds that, for locals, the sound of avalanche cannons is actually a reassuring one.
“It doesn’t make anybody afraid,” he says. “On the contrary, hearing the avalanches coming down gives us a good feeling, like, ‘OK, the slopes are ready to ski.’”
Even when Billie and Pete are safe from avalanche danger, they’re still surrounded by a cold and snowy landscape. The filmmakers relied on a palette of whites for many costumes and interior scenes.
For example, Charlotte dresses almost entirely in white, from her fur-trimmed ski suit to her glamorous casual wear. The color plays into other characters’ clothes, too, notes costume designer Kathleen Felix-Hager.
“There’s a scene with Billie and Pete, sort of a pivotal scene in the hallway, and Billie’s wearing this white scarf,” Felix-Hager says. “My intention there was to show this impending avalanche of feelings was sort of choking her, to put it bluntly.”
There were also unseen costume challenges, as Felix-Hager devised sneaky ways to warm up the actors while filming outside.
“I don’t think any of us really anticipated how cold it was going to be on the mountain,” she says. “The thing that seemed to bring the cast the most comfort and the most warmth was a good old-fashioned hot water bottle, which we had dozens of that we shoved in every place you could put inside a costume to keep the actors warm.”
Felix-Hager worked closely with production designer David Warren to create the crisp look of the film, as he carried the snowy theme into the Stantons’ indoor settings.
“Another little signature was putting the cast in a white environment even when they’re inside. We’ve done that with the apartment with the sofa, chair and carpet,” he says. “That was really to put Julia, playing the part of Billie, in the snow even though she’s actually in a physical interior. It’s this thing again of being trapped in a blind environment where you haven’t got depth perception and those kinds of things. It’s just white all around her, so even when she’s inside, she’s still in the snow.”
Beyond the starkness of white, Warren’s team leaned on a muted palette for Billie and Pete — both in their ski wear and the dark grays and blues that round out their apartment — as a way of expressing the mood of their trip. While the locals take to the slopes in bright, flashy outfits, the Stantons’ look is a little less lively.
“The point is that even within the sphere of wonderful enjoyment, the Stanton family seems to be this slightly neutral-toned whole,” Warren says, “because maybe they’re not enjoying the holiday as much as everybody else is, and that’s significant for us.”
The design concept aims to keep Billie and Pete in the eye of the storm, no matter where they are.
“The theme is that Billie and Pete are still trying to weather this large avalanche,” concludes Rash. “Multiple things happen along the way, but it really is about two people spiraling and trying to figure out how they can navigate their way back to each other.”

Nat Faxon is a talented actor, director, and Academy Award® winning writer with a longstanding presence across both comedic and dramatic films and notable television series.  Faxon is currently working with writing/directing partner Jim Rash on a several feature projects.
Recent acting credits in TV include FX's Married, Euphoria, Catastrophe, The Guest Book, and Ben and Kate. In film, he has appeared in Yes Day, Father of the Year, Life of the Party, Operator, and Sex Tape, among others.
James Rash is an American actor, comedian, producer, screenwriter, and director. He is known for his role as Dean Craig Pelton on the NBC/Yahoo! sitcom Community, for which he was nominated for a Critics' Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. That same year, he won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and received a Golden Globe nomination for the film The Descendants. Rash is currently working with writing/directing partner Nat Faxon on a several feature projects.
 Julia Louis-Dreyfus' comedic versatility and tremendous skill has made her one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors and producers, expertly shaping a career full of memorable roles. Louis-Dreyfus starred in and served as executive producer for HBO’s hit series Veep, which wrapped after seven critically-acclaimed seasons. She earned worldwide acclaim for her portrayal of Elaine Benes in the hit NBC series Seinfeld, and as Christine Campbell in the CBS hit comedy The New Adventures of Old Christine. 
 Between all shows combined, Louis-Dreyfus has received eleven Emmys with twenty-six nominations. In 2017, she broke records for the most Emmys won by a single performer, as well as the most consecutive wins for a single role through her performance in Veep. This career highlight marked her eighth total acting win, tying Cloris Leachman's record. Most recently, The Kennedy Center awarded Louis-Dreyfus with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in November, 2018. She has received a Golden Globe, a Television Critics Association award, five American Comedy Awards, a Peabody Award and the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy. Furthermore, Louis-Dreyfus has won nine Screen Actors Guild awards, making her the most decorated actor in SAG history. In 2010, Louis-Dreyfus received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was welcomed into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2014. Additionally, in 2016, she was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world on Time Magazine’s annual Time 100 list.
 Most recently, Louis-Dreyfus wrapped production on Searchlight’s Downhill, where she stars alongside Will Ferrell. The comedy drama, for which she also served as an executive producer, is directed by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, and is a remake of the 2014 Swedish film Force Majeure. She will next be seen in Disney's Onward opposite Chris Pratt, Tom Holland and Octavia Spencer which is set to release March 6, 2020.
 Louis-Dreyfus received critical acclaim in 2013 for her leading role in Fox Searchlight's Enough Said, written and directed by Nicole Holofcener and also starring the late James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener and Toni Collette. She earned a Golden Globe nomination for her powerful performance, making her one of the few actors to be nominated for a film and television role in the same year. Additional film credits include Disney’s Planes, Pixar’s animated hit A Bug’s Life, Woody Allen’s award-winning Hannah and Her Sisters, Allen's Deconstructing Harry, Rob Reiner's North, as well as Ivan Reitman's Fathers' Day and Jack the Bear.
 Her television credits include multiple appearances on Curb Your Enthusiasm, as well as recurring roles on The Simpsons and Arrested Development, among many others. She first made her mark on television during a three-year stint (1982-1985) on Saturday Night Live, opposite the likes of Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest and Eddie Murphy. She subsequently hosted the show twice, becoming the first female former cast member to return as host. Most recently, she was a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers.
 As a steadfast defender of the environment, Louis-Dreyfus serves on the leadership council for the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), the Board of Directors of Heal the Bay, and the Honorary Board of Heal the Ocean. In September 2017, she announced her support to make universal healthcare a reality and has continuously been a strong advocate ever since.

Louis-Dreyfus studied theater at Northwestern University where she was a member of The Practical Theater Company, and Chicago's famed Second-City comedy troupe. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Brad Hall, and their two sons, Charlie and Henry.
Will Ferrell has come a long way since his days on Saturday Night Live, crossing over from television icon to motion picture star, producer and internet pioneer.
On February 14th, Will stars in the film DOWNHILL alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus. In the film, Will plays Pete Staunton, a man who abandons his family right before they dodge an avalanche. Afterwards, they're forced to reevaluate their marriage during the rest of their ski vacation.
As a producer, Ferrell, along with partner Jessica Elbaum, launched Gloria Sanchez Productions. Elbaum originally launched the company in 2014 with a focus on female voices in comedy, and from that point the company has expanded into multiple genres and platforms in both film and television. Gloria Sanchez Productions has a two multi-year first-look deals, one in television with Netflix, as well as a film deal at Paramount Pictures.

Ferrell will be seen starring in the Gloria Sanchez-produced film Eurovision, along with Rachel McAdams. Written by Ferrell and Andrew Steele, Eurovision premieres on Netflix this May. Gloria Sanchez’s recent film credits include Hustlers and Booksmart, two major awards contenders this year. Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu, garnered awards recognition and grossed over 150 million dollars worldwide.
Recently, Ferrell starred in the comedy DADDY’S HOME 2, the sequel to the Christmas 2015 film Daddy’s Home directed by Sean Anders and John Morris and produced by Gary Sanchez Productions. It had an opening weekend gross of more than 38 million and has since made over $240 million.
 In the spring of 2015 Ferrell starred in and produced GET HARD. Since its release, GET HARD has grossed more than 100 million globally.
The year prior, Ferrell lent his voice to the character of “Lord Business” in the Warner Bros. animated film, The Lego Movie, which has gone on to earn over $441 million in the worldwide box office.
In 2013 Ferrell reprised his role as Ron Burgundy, the character he made famous in Paramount Pictures’ 2004 comedy, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. In Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Ron and the Channel 4 news team headed to New York City to help start the world’s first 24 hour news station. Ferrell co-wrote both films with director Adam McKay under their previous Gary Sanchez production shingle and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues has earned over $172 million worldwide to date.
 Prior to Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and The Lego Movie, Ferrell starred opposite Zach Galifianakis in Warner Brother’s The Campaign, which became the highest grossing political comedy of all time. He also starred and produced the ambitious Casa de mi Padre, a comedy spoof in the Latin American telenovela style, filmed entirely in Spanish.
Ferrell’s many previous film credits also include Elf, Old School, and the screen adaptation of The Producers, which earned him his first Golden Globe nomination in 2006 for Best Supporting Actor. In 2007, Ferrell earned his second Golden Globe nomination (Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical) for his portrayal of IRS agent Harold Crick in Stranger Than Fiction.

In 2006 Ferrell starred in the hit comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby with co-stars John C. Reilly and Sacha Baron Cohen.  Earning nearly $150 million at the U.S. box office, the film became the season’s #1 comedy (non-animated) and continues to set records on DVD.
Ferrell earned a 2009 Tony Award nomination for his Broadway debut, headlining the sold-out, Tony Award-nominated one-man comedy show Will Ferrell: You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush, in which he perfected his infamous Saturday Night Live characterization of President Bush.  At the end of its Broadway run, Ferrell performed the show, live, in its entirety on HBO, earning a pair of Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Comedy Special and Outstanding Writing.
 In 2007, Ferrell helped found the overwhelmingly popular and award-winning video website With hundreds of exclusive celebrity videos and a steady stream of huge viral hits, Funny Or Die has become the “place to be seen” for comedic celebrities, and the obvious destination for a daily comedy fix.  The site's first video, “The Landlord,” has received over 81 million views and features Ferrell confronted by a swearing, beer-drinking two-year-old landlord. The site averages over 20 million unique visitors per month and over 60 million-page views per month.
 Soon thereafter, Ferrell and Adam McKay joined forces to open their own production company, Gary Sanchez Productions. During its thirteen-year run, Gary Sanchez supported the 2006 Sundance hit The Foot Fist Way starring Danny McBride (Tropic Thunder), who also co-wrote with director Hill, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard starring Jeremy Piven, and Step Brothers which earned over $100 million domestically. Gary Sanchez also produced the HBO series Eastbound & Down starring McBride.
 Ferrell starred for seven seasons on NBC’s seminal late-night hit Saturday Night Live, after taking the nation by storm during the show’s Indecision 2000, with his portrayal of President George W. Bush.  Some of his most memorable “SNL” characters include Craig the Spartan Spirit Cheerleader, musical middle school teacher Marty Culp, and Bush. Among his many impressions were Janet Reno, Alex Trebek, Neil Diamond and the late, great Chicago Cubs sportscaster Harry Caray.  His work on SNL earned two Emmy nominations in 2001 (Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program, and Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program).
 A testament to his impact on the American comedic landscape, Ferrell was named the recipient of the 2011 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The award recognizes people who have had an impact on American society in the same vein as social commentator, satirist, and creator of memorable characters, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). Previous recipients of the prize include comedy greats such as the late Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin, and Tina Fey.
 Raised in Irvine, California, Ferrell graduated USC with a degree in sports information.  He worked as a sportscaster on a local weekly cable show before enrolling in acting classes and stand-up comedy workshops and was eventually asked to join the esteemed comedy/improv group The Groundlings. It was at The Groundlings that Ferrell was discovered for “Saturday Night Live.”