Dubai: British actor Jim Sturgess and director Peter Weir held the fort at a press conference on Thursday for their latest film The Way Back.
Scheduled to be joined by co-actors Colin Farrell and Ed Harris, who did not attend, Sturgess had no problem taking the reins and kept an audience at Dubai International Film Festival HQ entertained.
"There was always a hot bath or a cold shower at the end of day," he joked when asked about the harsh conditions filming on location in Bulgaria, Morocco and India.
"It was all part of an extremely rich experience," he told reporters from across the region. "It was quite an experience. To go on a journey like this and tell a story like this under the direction of Peter was incredible."
Farrell, who walked the red carpet for the gala screening of the film, which will be released in the UAE January 20, was nursing "a very high temperature" according to Director of International Programming Sheila Whitaker, while Harris flew home for a family emergency.
However Sturgess and Weir proved they were more than capable of talking about the movie. The press conference even ran over time.
Sturgess said: "It was a freeze in the mountains of Bulgaria and a swelter in the heat in the Sahara".
"After we escaped the camp we were the only actors on screen," he said. "To be able to have that experience with actors like Colin and Ed was very special for me."
About shooting on location, Weir, famous for his long and successful career behind the camera, with movies including Dead Poets Society and The Truman Show, said they didn't take any risks.
"It was a highly professional project," he said. "One thing which will always stick in my mind is that a man would go and collect scorpions in the desert to scare the snakes away before we could go and film. That will always stay with me."
The Way Back, a story of hope, survival and love, cost $29 million (Dh106 million) to make. It's based on a Second World War memoir of Polish soldiers escaping the Soviet Gulag (government agency that administered the main Soviet penal labour camp).
When asked about the film's message, Weir passed the question to actor Sturgess, saying: "Nobody tells it like he does".
"It's about the will to survive and the great human spirit when we're under duress," Sturgess said.
"A man is stripped of humanity, as they all were in the camp, but found this story of love deep below everything else. It is a story of forgiveness. Sad, tender and beautiful."
"I told you," added Weir.