Danny Boyle’s ‘Trance’ Gets a UK Release Date

What’s so great about Danny Boyle is how vastly different all of his films are. Sure, there might be thematic or stylistic threads throughout, but if asked to compare Trainspotting to The Beach or 127 Hours to Slumdog Millionaire, one might come up short. Regardless, his films are always a narratively exciting ride and visually rich—thanks in large part to the brilliant Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography. And it seems his latest feature, Trance, is sure to be no exception. The film has been in production and post for quite some time, but now, according to Pathe, a UK release date has been set for March 27, 2013. Fox Searchlight will be taking the helm as the US distributors but as of now it’s still unclear exactly as to when the film will land stateside. 

The synopsis of the film goes as follows: 

TRANCE, directed by Oscar®-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) and co-written by Oscar®-nominated long term collaborator John Hodge (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting) is a seductive and enigmatic thriller starring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson.

Fine art auctioneer Simon (McAvoy), in league with a gang led by underworld boss Franck (Cassel), plots the audacious theft of a masterpiece by Goya from a major public auction. When Simon double-crosses the gang during the robbery, Franck retaliates violently and knocks him unconscious.

In the aftermath of the heist, Simon sticks stubbornly – and perhaps shrewdly – to his claim that the violent trauma has left him with no memory of where he stashed the artwork.

Unable to coerce the painting’s location from Simon, Franck and his associates reluctantly join forces with a charismatic hypnotherapist (Dawson) in a bid to get him to talk. But as they journey deeper into Simon’s jumbled psyche the boundaries between reality and hypnotic suggestion begin to blur and the stakes rise faster and far more dangerously than any of the players could have anticipated.

Although it may be a while until we get a glimpse of the film for ourselves, you can enjoy some photos from on set.

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Five Out Of Five Bobby Jindals for ‘Dosa Hunt’

“This never could have happened ten years ago,” Amrit Singh, the affable Stereogum blogger and director of the short documentary Dosa Hunt, explained to an audience Monday at Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg. “If you had told fifteen-year-old me that one day there would be guys in these great bands that looked like me, I never would have forgiven myself for not making this project.” The guys that look like him—Ashok “Dapwell” Kondabolu and Hima Suri of Das Racist, Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer’s Anand Wilder (“the pretty one”), jazz pianist Vijay Iyer, and Alan Palomo of Neon Indian—filled a Dodge Sprinter for the one-day food excursion that had less to do with dosas and more to do with the sort of existential humor of being a first-generation American artist.           

Even with a cuisine as eclectic as dosa—an Indian crepe-like pancake stuffed with potatoes and chilis, served with chutney sauce—I still think of Lewis Lapham’s word on this stuff: “The pleasures of the table [are] those to be found in the company and the conversation rather than in whatever [is] the sun-dried specialty on the plate.” For however gastronomically educational the movie is, the interesting parts all center around the opinions and attitudes slung about in the van. Slumdog Millionaire sucked (“I’m biologically opposed to it,” quipped Kondabolu). The dosa rating system relies on “an alternate universe” wherein Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal doesn’t support bigoted, reactionary policies. Bollywood is embraced as camp. On every socio-political topic, the confident, progressive verdict is followed with a shrug of measured apathy. Bobby Jindal is just a guy. Slumdog is just a movie.

Singh contends, justifiably so, that “the film wasn’t just a vanity project,” but there’s certainly the mark of a fanboy filmmaker not yet jaded by the Merchants of Cool-hood of pop music. The scoring is fantastic—you could watch Yeasayer-laced footage of the Queensboro Bridge all day long. And the music itself, from the tribal beats of “Madder Red” to the Afro-pop tinge of V.W.’s “Giving Up The Gun”, is rife with the political multiculturalism/we-like-what-we-like kind of sentiment that informs most of today’s best popular art. Heritage and ethnicity are points of pride, but you can also say, write, wear, or play whatever you want.

In perhaps the best scene of the movie, Heems of Das Racist (“Well who’s that, brown, downtown like Julie / mixed-race British chicks let me in they coochie”) walks through the aisles of an Indian grocery store in Jackson Heights, knowingly name-checking Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Bisquick (ironic dosa ingredients) with his mug in the camera a la MTV’s Cribs. You sense that the emotional palate these guys have grown up with is part racial consciousness, part where-were-you-when-Kurt-Cobain-died (John Norris, a friend and mentor of Singh’s, moderated the post-screening Q&A). After the final meal, Heems hops in the van and wonders with cheek if the “dosa is a metaphor for the American dream.” Why not?

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Freida Pinto Steps Into the Spotlight

In September 2008, Freida Pinto, along with a small coterie of Indian actors, arrived at the Toronto International Film Festival for the premiere of her new movie, Slumdog Millionaire. Its unveiling at Telluride the week before generated strong buzz, but not enough to ignite a storm of media interest in Canada. “There was a red carpet, one photographer, and one video camera. That’s it,” says Pinto, fondly recalling the simplicity of it all. “I thought, well, that was easy. Why was I so nervous?”

Slumdog Millionaire went on to win eight Academy Awards—including Best Picture—in 2009, becoming in the process an international phenomenon. The Dickensian fable of a Mumbai street kid who uses the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire to reconnect with his true love (played by Pinto) made household names of its director, Danny Boyle, and its leads, Pinto and Dev Patel, her current boyfriend. “We were these wide-eyed babies, lost in a wonderland scenario. Danny said, ‘Enjoy this moment, because you might never get it back.’”

Two years have passed, and Pinto is back in Toronto. Looking like she just returned from a Beverly Hills shopping spree, the 26-year-old actor is clad in a gray Acne blazer, a black top from BCBG, and ash-gray jeans from Armani Exchange. She reclines on a sofa in a penthouse suite at Sutton Place, the hotel’s complimentary cotton slippers keeping her feet warm.

Beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows that surround us, Toronto glitters with city lights, but also with movie stars who are here to sell their work—and themselves. Pinto was especially busy this week trying to launch herself as a legitimate, working actor, but the festival publicity grind has left her sapped. She’s reluctant to leave the room, and cancels our dinner reservation at celebrity clubhouse Bistro 990 across the street.

Pinto debuted two films at the festival, Julian Schnabel’s Miral, in which she plays the title character, and Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, in which she stars as the exotic object of Josh Brolin’s extramarital desire. What was once, for her, a paparazzi ghost town has become a blitzkrieg of flashbulbs and screaming fans. The thought of her long flight home to India tomorrow doesn’t make matters easier.

Along with Pinto’s overnight success came a hectic traveling schedule, which means that she no longer spends much time in her hometown of Mumbai, where she still technically lives with her parents. Instead, she’s been crisscrossing the globe, shooting films—like the upcoming Planet of the Apes prequel, Rise of the Apes, in Vancouver—and falling in love with the cities where they’re shot. She talks about one day owning homes in Mumbai, London, New York, and Montreal (where she just wrapped Tarsem Singh’s Immortals). It’s a network of crash pads fit for the global star Pinto is positioning herself to become.

Pinto is currently breaking ground on a career she once worried would expire prematurely. “When your first film happens to be such a big success, there’s going to be pressure and expectations, and people are going to dissect you in a way that’s almost uncomfortable,” she says. Her accent oscillates between British, Indian, and American inflections, a colonial mishmash that leaves her sounding strangely scholarly. “I was worried people might dismiss me as someone who had 20 minutes in a film and now considers herself a big star. But it’s like, my god, I never asked for this.”

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The reality is that, like all aspiring movie stars, this is precisely what she asked for. While the shock of instant fame was unexpected, Pinto has wanted a “life in the limelight” since she was young. With no formal training, the former model relied on her beauty and dedication to will herself through the casting rooms of an Indian film industry rife with nepotism and creaky depictions of women.

To help boost her confidence after the success of Slumdog, Pinto enrolled in a three-month acting boot camp in India. Her passion, she feared, was not enough. But her studies were nothing compared to the trial by fire she would undergo, courtesy of a gray-haired New York nebbish named Woody. “To have him directing you—it’s 30 years of learning, at least,” she says of her experience with Allen. “Okay, I wouldn’t say 30 years, because then I’d be comparing myself to Meryl Streep or Vanessa Redgrave. It’s more like three years, but you get the picture.” Although she was again cast as a mysterious love interest—this time as Dia, a woman who attracts the attention of a married Josh Brolin by plucking compositions on her guitar—the pressure of being in a Woody Allen film weighed on her. “I was doubtful I’d still be on the project after the second day,” she says. “But by the third day, it stopped affecting me. I was like, You know what? I’m an actor. I’m allowed to make mistakes. It’s all part of the process of learning the art.”

It was, however, Miral, a polarizing film about four Arab women and their harrowing experiences during the early decades of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which finally gave Pinto real confidence. “I don’t know where it came from, but it seeded itself within me and stayed in me the duration of the shoot,” she says. Schnabel, who has directed once-in-a-generation actors—Javier Bardem and Johnny Depp, among them—was amazed that Miral was only Pinto’s second film. “She worked as hard as anybody I’ve ever met,” he said from his home in Montauk, New York. “Johnny once said, ‘There’s nothing to it but to do it,’ and Freida is one of those actresses who does it.”

Critics, many of whom believe Miral tells the one-sided story of a two-sided conflict, have been quick to attack. In the film, Pinto plays a young, impressionable girl raised in the Arab Children’s House, a real-life orphanage founded by Palestinian humanitarian Hind Husseini. After witnessing atrocities carried out by the Israeli army, Miral falls in love with a Palestinian activist during the first intifada, before joining him in the struggle. When she read the script, which was adapted from the memoir of Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal—who also happens to live with Schnabel—Pinto knew the film would prove challenging. But as the Slumdog glow began to fade, Miral, which Pinto describes as a “representation of hope,” appeared to be exactly the kind of movie that would give her the chance to establish herself as a serious actor.

To her credit, Pinto swats away the negative reviews Miral is receiving—some of which are lobbed at her performance—with nonchalance. “Here’s the thing,” she says. “I’m never going to be entirely happy with a performance. I need to push myself in order to get better. I look at the negative criticism as constructively as possible. People are opinionated. I am opinionated. It’s human nature.” Perhaps anticipating that Miral’s middling reception won’t likely add up to the career-maker for which she was hoping, Pinto seems to mean it.

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Shot directly after Slumdog, Miral marks the first time Pinto has made a film outside of India, and the experience of filming in the Middle East shattered some of the illusions she had carried over from a sheltered childhood in the suburbs of Mumbai. “I was brought up in a Catholic family and taught about Bethlehem. When I got to Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem, I expected to see beauty and mountains, exactly how it was described to me as a child,” she says, laughing at how her naïveté now sounds. “But when I got there, instead of seeing children born in mangers, I visited refugee camps and saw children born into poverty and sadness.” I tell Pinto about a pamphlet featuring her image and protesting Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which had been circulating outside the Toronto premiere. “Wow,” she says, pleasantly surprised. “That is exactly what we want the movie to do.”

Miral’s hot-button subject matter was not the only thing to which Pinto was drawn. As she puts it, one does not say no to Julian Schnabel. The Academy Award-nominated director and world-class painter invited Pinto to audition after seeing her in Slumdog. Schnabel was, he says, struck by her resemblance to Rula Jebreal. “When bad things happened to Freida in Slumdog Millionaire, I found myself getting very upset, like they were happening to Rula,” Schnabel says. He decided to schedule a screen test, with one caveat—it had to be shot by Danny Boyle. Despite being in the middle of his Slumdog victory lap, Boyle agreed. In a scene they shot, he played Miral’s dying father. “The way she looked at Danny told me that she loves her father very, very much,” Schnabel recalls. “The kindness that she showed was profound. I trust my intuition. I saw something in her, and I think I was right.” Boyle was equally impressed. “I could tell how much she had grown already as a performer,” he says, adding, “It obviously helps if you look like Freida.”

About those looks. Pinto has a face designed for close-ups, and although it’s without makeup for most of Miral, her beauty is still enough to make Helen of Troy look frumpy. “I needed somebody audiences would want to watch because her character was destined to make some questionable decisions. People had to care about her mistakes,” Schnabel says. But Pinto downplays her genetic luck, partly out of modesty, but most likely for fear of sounding ungrateful. When pressed, she’ll admit that she is not “unfortunate looking.”

Pinto is realistic about Hollywood’s superficial side, and the doors that were open to her because of it. She recently watched Salt simply to ogle Angelina Jolie, but also says she’d relish the chance to tackle a role like Charlize Theron’s Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Boyle insists that despite Pinto’s glamorous image, she is not consumed by her own looks. “I once worked with Cameron Diaz and she’s very similar,” he says. “You’re expecting women who look like that to be attached to the mirror the whole time. But Freida didn’t have any vanity at all.”

For all her symmetry, Pinto admits to a time when she felt unsure if she could find her niche in Hollywood, an industry known for overlooking minorities, especially Indians. “I guess I’ll take that as a compliment,” she says when I suggest that she’s the only current Indian actress who would be considered for a lead in a $90-million popcorn movie opposite James Franco. She tries to name others, but the best she can do is Archie Panjabi, the British actress who just won an Emmy for her supporting role on the CBS drama The Good Wife. “There are people who still focus on skin color, but most people don’t,” she says. In Rise of the Apes, she offers by way of example, the background of the primatologist she plays is as relevant as Franco’s hair color. “It didn’t really matter where she came from,” Pinto says. “She just needed to understand what she was meant to do.”

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Pinto identifies herself with the global cinema, and isn’t terribly inclined to become a product of the movie factory on the West Coast. “My next film will be directed by a French man,” she says, referring to Jean-Jacques Annaud, who is scheduled to helm Black Thirst, a film set in the Arab states during the 1930s oil boom. Given India’s titanic film industry, does Pinto have any desire—or perhaps feel the need—to make a Bollywood movie? It’s a question that Indian reporters have fixated on since Pinto first became famous. “People in India wonder why I’m staying clear of Bollywood films,” she says. “I’m not staying clear of them, but there are some amazing films in India, made on a much smaller scale, that don’t get the same appreciation as the big Bollywood films, and I’ve never understood why. Those are the films that I want to be a part of, so I’m just waiting for something like that to come my way, and I’m telling you, I’m going to grab it with both hands.”

When I mention tabloids, a particularly unpleasant media niche, Pinto’s mouth tightens. “I don’t know how I could ever get a good night’s sleep after stripping someone of their dignity and writing things about them that are probably untrue,” she says, before jumping into a venomous rant that only seconds earlier seemed unlikely. Back when she was promoting Slumdog, Pinto was coerced by a reporter into revealing the end of her engagement to then-fiancé Rohan Antao. “I was new and an easy target, and they said it was going to be a quote about Slumdog Millionaire for the next day’s paper. I felt very betrayed.”

She understands why the public latched on to news of her romantic relationship with co-star Dev Patel, but the speculation—mostly surrounding their rumored engagement—was difficult. “Dev had such a problem trying to tell people that was not true,” she says, before deploying a stock answer: “I’ve decided not to answer stupidity with more stupidity.”

Despite the trappings of celebrity and the pressures associated with her still-nascent stardom, Pinto admits that there are perks that numb the trials and tribulations of being an in-demand princess of the cinema. “People work very hard their whole lives to get to this particular stage, so I’m not going to shy away from it. I’m going to enjoy it. It’s very difficult handling the pressure of being so recognized and being in the limelight, and at the same time having to deliver and perform.” She goes on, with a trace of childlike delight: “I used to look at the beautiful dresses in fashion magazines, put my finger on them and say, I’m going to have them one day. Now I’m like, it’s kind of easy to get those things.”

Photography by Richard Bernardin. Styling by Christopher Campbell. For a behind the scenes look at Freida in Toronto, head here.

Ed. Note: Miral‘s release date has been pushed back from November of 2010 to March 25, 2011.

Danny Boyle on ‘127 Hours’ & What Drew Him to James Franco

After Slumdog Millionaire nearly swept the 2009 Oscars with eight wins, its director, Danny Boyle, became an event filmmaker. Some of his previous films, most notably Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, were cult classics, but Slumdog introduced the 54-year-old Scot to a worldwide audience. Suddenly, he was a marquee name in Hollywood. Now, Boyle has used that caché to bring to life one of the most harrowing tales of survival ever told. 127 Hours, starring James Franco, is the true story of Aron Ralston, a mountain climber who in 2003 (spoiler alert!) was forced to amputate his arm after being trapped under a boulder in Utah. And while Franco gives an unforgettable performance as Ralston, Boyle’s unmissable stamp is all over the movie, bringing electric momentum to a story about a guy trapped under a rock. We recently spoke to Boyle at the Crosby hotel in Soho about his new movie, his post-Oscar career, and that time James Franco cut his own arm off.

Naturally, the expectations for your next film after Slumdog were huge. Why was 127 Hours the right movie to follow it up with? It was a couple of things, really. I’ve been talking about the story since 2003, and I tried to make it in 2006. But it would be foolish to chase that kind of success, but it allowed us to exploit the Slumdog success, but in a good way rather than a cheap way, by trying to cash in. The film is not financeable without the sense of something in the bank that you can use, so that’s what we did, basically. That makes you feel good about yourself, because you’re like, Yeah, that’s the way to use that kind of success. It’s only temporary—you’ll only get one chance to use that kind of success. People will talk about it but it’s only meaningful once, so use it for a really good reason, and this story was it for us really. I’ve always thought it was a really important story to tell, so that’s what we tried to do.

Was it much easier to finance with those Oscars in your pocket? Yeah, but it was still tough because there is such a nervousness about a story like this. Even though it’s going quite well at the moment, reaction-wise, I still think people are quite nervous about it. I still wonder if Joe Public will see it. You can read about this stuff and go, Oh wow, but will you turn up to it on a Friday night, rather than a nice comedy?

Do you feel your films are being reevaluated now that you’re an Oscar winner? I don’t know.

127 Hours is very much a Danny Boyle film. Even though it’s about a man stuck under a rock, it pulsates with energy. Can you talk about your approach? We really wanted it to be pulsating because one of the ironies of the whole film is that you expect it to be absolutely static, but we all thought of it as an action movie even though it can’t move. So that’s doubly emphasized. Also, I thought there was a life spirit that’s built into the story that makes the pulsating approach more organic. There are two organic ways you can go about it: One is intolerable and slow, like watching paint dry. But there’s another way to go which is this life force that pulses through it and helps him get through it. And it’s not just his; it belongs to a lot of people and they communally help him through it in a direct way, because it’s the memory of friends and family, but also an indirect way, because it’s people who are featured in the film that he doesn’t know and will never meet.

What can you tell me about the amputation scene that people don’t know? Obviously there was a danger it would be controversial, which in this kind of film is not a good thing. It’s not a horror movie, where a bit of controversy is good for it. But we wanted to make it very accurate to his experience, so we followed the book very carefully. The other danger with it is that I refused studio pressure. Because when you read the book, it’s not easy to get through. In movies, you risk trivializing it as a cheap thrill, but it’s a very profound euphoria you feel when he’s released, because it’s a passage that takes him over 40 minutes. For a man, it’s a pain that most of us will never get near, and these are extraordinary machines we live in. They are amazing things and you can’t treat them like they’re a bit of trivia you can get rid of. They’re meant to be there and to lose part of it is a massive, massive stab. And the euphoria comes in by showing it is a stepping stone to something else greater. It’s the gift of life again.

What was Aron’s reaction like when he watched that scene? Well, we’ve had him in tears a few times. I don’t know what it’s like to watch that scene for him. He’s the only guy who’s been there so what it’s like to see it recreated as faithfully as we could, I don’t know.

What parts of the film did you try and remain as faithful to reality as possible? Yeah, we had some freedom and we compressed things, as you do in movies. We accentuated true images. Like for instance, he does meet the two girls at the beginning and he did go climbing with them, but we put water in it because we wanted to water everywhere before he loses all his water. We wanted to make it sensual and erotic, something he can watch on a screen later, his final contact with those girls, and what he would give for a woman’s voice and comfort.

Does the pool they swam in actually exist? It does, in a separate place. They’re in two separate places. If somebody drops in the pool like that, they’d be killed doing it because it’s really reckless. That is his reckless personality, but in the book you can see he’s been in scrapes before, where he’s been very close to—

Hurting himself? And killing friends. So, there’s that side of his personality as well, but in a delicious way, because you want to seduce people with the film. It’s not a moralistic film. You want it to be a journey for him as he discovers all these things in himself.

What makes James Franco different from any other actor you’ve worked with? I was delighted about discovering Pineapple Express. I mean, we weren’t making the film then so it was a delayed significance, but I knew when I saw it that he was the guy who I liked as an actor a lot. When you see him do broad comedy, you think, that’s a proper actor who can do anything. I remember thinking, and this is a long time ago and I’m not comparing, but I remember seeing De Niro do the early, intense Scorsese stuff, and then you see him do King of Comedy, and it’s just like, Wow, that is a major actor. There’s a goofball element to him that you want to capture. And it’s true that the human spirit faced with the greatest adversity will respond with wit.

Did Aron use the video camera in real life the way James uses it in the film? He didn’t do the talk show, but he did try to make jokes, he did try to cheer people up, tried to cheer himself up, so that is all based on that. Also, when you’ve been a couple of days without water you start to hallucinate quite quickly and you’re never quite sure of what’s going on at all. It’s very serious, water loss.

Was him doing a fake talk show with himself a technique used to get his thoughts out to the audience? Yeah, it’s also a way of trying to populate the canyon with little hidden messages. He’s trying different voices and literally manically populating the canyon because of course, the thing that matters to him the most is people he no longer has—people he hasn’t taken enough care with. It’s a wonderful way of changing the mood and surprising people, because the danger with a film like this is that you know what’s coming, so you want to keep it surprising.

Celebrity Real Estate Update: Slumdogs, Heated Floors, & Nicole Kidman

While us unworthy regular people do such silly things as scrape together cash for our monthly rents (or trick their friends into doing so) and otherwise teeter towards homelessness, even the most unfortunate celebrities don’t have to consider such a cruel fate. This isn’t to say that when the housing market went tits-up, the sun continued shining over celebrity enclaves. Because, as we learn after the break — for every posh manse, there’s a senseless eviction. And of course, heated floors.

Crooked former Illinois governor-turned-reality TV desperado Rob Blagojevich and his wife are selling off their capitol condo in Washington DC. Hey! It’s pretty cheap too! $570,000 for the 2 bedroom-2 bathroom unit. [Chicago Tribune]

Around Memorial Day, while you were out getting sunburned and drunk on wine coolers, Kirsten Dunst put her three-bedroom Hollywood Hills palace on the market for $1.7 million. She’d been living there for the last 5+ years. Bonus amenities: Heated floors, for those days you want to practice walking across hot coals. [The Real Estalker]

Also on that national holiday, Nicole Kidman finally unloaded her Sydney-based manse to a Monaco-based former stockbroker. Bidding started at AUS$20 million, but closed at US$10 million. Do your currency conversions here. [news.com.au]

One place that wouldn’t sell, housing crash or no: Michael Vick’s. Especially not while he’s stuck inside it on house arrest. [Examiner]

If you laugh at the poors (and how could you not! Us, with our wacky uses of flannel!) and like to collect houses where we opt to amass bottle caps, then consider owning the glass-walled tree house featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. For $2.3 million, it’s a steal. Or maybe it’s highway robbery, because it’s located in suburban Chicago. Which in layman’s terms means “middle of nowhere.” But, take a look for yourself. [Newsday]

The tragic post-Oscar plight of Slumdog Millionaire‘s cast has been unfortunate. And after one such star suddenly found himself and family without home, Danny Boyle, patron saint to Mumbaikers apparently, bought a nice old place for them to play house in. That is, until Indian authorities bungle things up again — at which point, it’ll be Danny Boyle to the rescue! [USA Today]

Danny Boyle On His Oscar-Nominated ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and the Smell of India

When Little Miss Sunshine rode festival buzz and strong word-of-mouth all the way to surprising box-office and a Best Picture nomination, it became “The Little Movie That Could,” a charming feel-good tale with enough heart and originality enter the national zeitgeist. Last year, that movie was Juno, and this year, the honor undoubtedly goes to Slumdog Millionaire.

Since premiering at the Toronto Film Festival this past September, it has improbably become the biggest success story of the year not starring Christian Bale. I use the word improbable because it is shot in India using actors unknown to American audiences, and because half of it is spoken in Hindi. But the film, which last week received a whopping ten Oscar nominations, is contagious in its hope and astonishing in its beauty. Perhaps most unlikely about the film’s success story is that its director is Danny Boyle, a Brit who until now was known for the heroin opus Trainspotting, and the zombie redux 28 Days Later. Now he is a Golden Globe winner and an Oscar nominee (and favorite) for Best Director. What Boyle does most magnificently is he introduces us to an India breathless in its beauty and devastating in its poverty.

What was the most shocking thing that you saw while there? Whoa, I think it’s pretty much the same for everybody — when you see a beggar nearing your car and they knock on the window, and you can clearly see that their hands have been deliberately cut off. You have to get your head around it really, I mean you’re overwhelmed by it, but that kind of action is just pointless because it’s not about you, it has something to do with what it’s like for him, really. And you have to get into the mindset there, like that guy, the way he deals with it is that he regards that as his destiny. That’s the way that destiny has dealt to him. And it’s a very profound feeling out there. Destiny is quite a casual concept with us. It’s a very different concept there, and it helps them deal with stuff like that and that.

What’s the smell like? The smell of India is unique, and of course that’s the one thing you definitely can’t do on film. It’s a mixture of humanity, which is our excrement, and saffron, and then excrement again. It’s the most extraordinary smell … you can’t get it anywhere else. I think one of the reasons is the extremes of life. Actually, you realize what we do in the West, is that the extremes, we tend to kind of section off, to give ourselves some comfort zones. There are always extremes everywhere, but we tend to section them off, and there they just co-exist the whole time at their most extreme, and the smell is an example of it — it’s so sweet and so awful, all at the same time.

What about the food over there, what do people eat, what did you eat. Is it safe? Oh God yeah, you’ve got to be a bit careful, but it’s amazing food. If you’re a vegetarian, you could not go to a better place in the world. I’m not a vegetarian, but it is wonderful, and there’s more choice there than anywhere, because it’s a vegetarian nation, although they do eat meats. That food is extraordinary.

When you first got there, were you kind of overwhelmed with the scenery and how much there was to shoot? Yeah, you just kind of can’t stop. I had to be dragged away in the end. In fact, the producer and all my crew went home, and I kept shooting with the Indian crew, and then the producer just basically got on a plane and shut all the bank accounts and that was it. And you only get a bit of it, but if you’re lucky, you did it well.

When you’re walking the city streets, do you get a sense of the sheer density of the population? There are people everywhere. And the traffic’s chaotic, and the infrastructure is not there, but despite that, it works. That’s what’s interesting. You can spend your life trying to work that out, or you can just accept that there is somehow a pattern that works. And you get little glimpses of it occasionally, but most of the time, it’s completely indecipherable. You can’t see it, I can’t see it, but you trust it, and it will benefit you.

Is there a lot of crime? No, not particularly. There is a lot of gangsterism, the gangsters run the city in many ways; but in terms of casual crime, it feels like a very safe place in many ways.

Has there ever been anywhere you’ve been that’s comparable to this? No, you can’t compare. All those kind of things like, “What do you compare it to?” or “Can you control it?” or understand it even, they’re all slightly irrelevant, really. You have to just experience it I think. If you enjoy it, it’s immeasurable what it does to you. It is a bit hippie, and I was never a hippie — I was always a punk — but you do go there to learn. You learn about yourself, and obviously about those of us who occupy this planet. They always recycled in India, and we recycle now, because we’re desperately trying to catch up with the fact that we’re destroying the planet. But they’ve recycled forever in India. It’s part of the whole way the nation is built. People throw things away, but as they do it, there’s a whole other class of people who pick those things up.

There’s a scene in the film where one of the characters jumps into a pool of feces, and is covered in it for the rest of the scene. So was it actually shit? It’s the same thing we used in Trainspotting. It’s peanut butter and chocolate.

Was the child actor happy to be covered in that? Yeah, he was great. Although, it’s not all that pleasant to be covered in peanut butter and chocolate. He was just keen to get the scene over with.

What’s the fundamental difference between life over there and life over here? I think there isn’t any separation of anything. They don’t separate things like we do. It’s all one. And that goes from the most extreme horror and poverty, to the most outrageous wealth and affluence. And they’re aware that destiny links them, and makes them inseparable. I think what we’ve done, we’ve built these comfort zones for ourselves, where we tend to separate ourselves from people, and it’s not a question of crowding, it’s a question of attitude and mentality. They believe they’re all in together really, for good and bad, and some people get really bad hands, but they don’t think of it like it’s a bad hand. They don’t regard it like that.

You asked M.I.A. to do a song for the film? We asked her if we could use “Paper Planes”, and she watched the movie and she was very generous, gave me very smart notes. I said we were going to do the music with A.R. Rahman, and when she was growing up, he was one of her heroes, so she sang on one of his tracks.

Freida Pinto: Modest Mumbaiker to Movie Star

Looking like a mutt among prissy Oscar-groomed purebreds, Slumdog Millionaire has been a breath of fresh air for those who’ve already tired of predicable epic award-baiting pastiches (I’m looking at you, Seven Pounds). And while helmer Danny Boyle and his razor-sharp direction is mostly responsible for the flick’s widespread appeal, similarly winsome are the newcomers whose understated performances keep the storyline brisk and smart. Freida Pinto’s performance as damsel-in-distress has helped the former model make that tenuous leap into acting. Here she sounds off on Slumdog‘s success, the fickle nature of destiny and a yen to star opposite Johnny Depp someday.

Congratulations on an excellent performance in Slumdog Millionaire. How are you doing? Thank you! I’m doing really well. I feel thrilled and so grateful to all the forces at work that have led me to where I am right now. This whole experience has been simply magical. Every now and then I have to pinch myself to check if it’s real. [This film] has been such an enriching experience. Right now, I’m just enjoying the reactions it is receiving and traveling to so many wonderful places, promoting the film.

How have you been handling the surprise success of the film? Does it meet the expectations the cast and director Danny Boyle seemed to have? Slumdog Millionaire is my first step into the film world, and it was a debut beyond anything I’d ever hoped for. The experience has been absolutely surreal. While shooting for the film, I was just so busy soaking in everything I possibly could from the experience that I didn’t spend a moment thinking about how the film would do. Personally I’d rather spend my time thinking about how I can best contribute to a project since I have control over that. What happens later is beyond my control. I’d rather just wait and watch. But like everything else about [the film], I think the reviews have also gone way beyond my imagination — or that of the rest of the cast and crew — and it feels amazing to see audiences appreciating our efforts.

As someone who grew up in India, what do you think about Slumdog’s portrayal of life in the slums? Mumbai is home to me. I can honestly say that Danny Boyle has successfully managed to translate the pulse of this vibrant city through his storytelling. I love Mumbai, and the fact that this city does not try to hide its highs or its lows is a vital part of its character. The poor and rich live among each other, and its slums are as much part of it as the beautiful structures that adorn it. I really believe that the film has captured the essence of this special city in a very realistic way.

How do you manage to stay grounded in spite of the success? After this success, I still consider myself to be a regular Mumbai girl. I’m just one that has been extremely blessed. Yes, I was struggling to make it in this industry, and I did work really hard, but there are so many talented and hardworking actors out there who never get a platform to show the world their capabilities. Not often do you see a middle-class girl from the suburbs of Mumbai, who is just one film old, at international film festivals. I believe that destiny and luck had a big part to play. I do enjoy a some perks due to the success. But I know I have a great support system in terms of family and friends who will make it their business to give me a reality check if I ever let all this get the better of me.

Now that you’re on the road doing promotional campaigns for the film, what do you miss the most about home? I do sometimes miss having more time to spend with my family, but all this is a dream come true. I love it. It would be silly to complain about having to do lots of traveling. Opportunities like this don’t come by every day.

Before auditioning for the part of Latika, were you familiar with Danny Boyle’s previous work — 28 Days Later or Trainspotting? How did you meet Boyle and become a part of the cast? Absolutely! Danny’s films are unique, and being a big movie buff, I’d watched them all. I got a call from Loveleen Tandon, who is the co-director of the film, asking me to come audition. A six-month-long grueling audition process followed, which Danny Boyle personally oversaw. With each audition, I learned and grew, and slowly the feeling that “Hey! This actually might happen” began to grow.

Were there any Bollywood or Hollywood actresses whose performances you drew inspiration from? If there is one thing I learned during the auditioning process of this film, it’s that as an actor I need to draw from within myself. Internalization is key, like being able to feel rather than trying to duplicate someone else’s performance.

In past interviews, you’ve said that more experienced actresses were considered for the role that you won. I had not had any formal training in acting when I was auditioning for Slumdog Millionaire, so what I meant was that there many girls who had been trained and did have far more experience than me since I was absolutely fresh.

You’ve also got a few years of modeling under your belt. Was modeling always your ultimate goal — or was it always a means to get into acting? Or did you have your heart set on something else? Honestly, I remember harboring dreams of being an actor since I was five years old. For someone like me with no godfather in the film industry, it was easier to break into modeling. I did use modeling as a means to get into the film world. I enjoyed modeling. It taught me a lot in terms of being confident and definitely helped me prepare for what was to come next.

And finally, which Hollywood icon would you love to star opposite of if given the chance? I would love to work with seasoned actors like Leonardo Di Caprio and Johnny Depp. I think they are simply fantastic and so versatile. I would love to do a dark romantic film with Johnny Depp.

Having had this initial bit of success, are you eyeing bigger roles and perhaps even an Oscar further down your career? Can we expect to see you in anything else soon? With each film I want to grow as an actor. I want to do performance-driven roles. Slumdog Millionaire is a film about destiny. And destiny itself had a major part to play in me getting this role. I believe that things like a middle class girl debuting in a Danny Boyle film cannot be planned. Neither can winning an Oscar. If it’s meant to be, it will. I’ve realized that the beauty of life is that it takes turns that are sometimes bigger than your wildest dreams.

Danny Boyle Disappointed by ‘Slumdog Millionaire”s R Rating

Those who’ve had a chance to see Slumdog Millionaire must have been wtf’ing all over the place after it was just inexplicably slapped with an R rating by the MPAA. The movie, which won the audience award at TIFF, is a whimiscal, if at times disturbing, modern fairy tale set mostly in the tidal wave of humanity that is the slums of Mumbai, India. To be sure, there’s some disturbing imagery spattered throughout the movie, but at heart it’s a fairly innocent fable of love and destiny, propelled forward by it’s protagonist appearing on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? And yet, the Joker slamming someone’s neck into a pencil warrants a PG-13. I spoke to the director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 days Later), and he’s more disappointed I am.

“It’s disappointing. I don’t know, they said it’s too intense. When you take care like we did, not to be obscene with violence, you expect for that to be responded to, but they just dealt with it, like they did with 28 Days Later. This is a very generous film, and it should be regarded like that,” Boyle said. But what about fighting the MPAA demagogues, a la Kevin Smith? “We appealed, but they basically said there’s nothing we can do. It’s the intensity of the whole journey. And then the guy at Fox, Peter Rice, to his credit, said put the film out the way you want people to see it.” The film opens this Friday. See it, if you’re old enough.