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Hey Luvs, We were so thrilled to have a sit down with one of the most exciting innovative filmmakers of the last 15 years. Danny Boyle, the force behind Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Sunshine (- to name a few) was all full of chat about his latest bit of brilliance, the fantastic Slumdog Millionaire (Which we celebrated here).  He also brought along the adorable Dev Patel, the bright young star of the film for his inaugural US interview.

Dig it.

 

Dev Patel

 

Q:  How did you get the role of Jamal?

Dev Patel: I was doing a show called Skins and Gail Stevens, the casting director saw me from there.  As soon as I knew Danny Boyle was doing it, I said, “Yeah, wicked.’ They got me on tape cos Danny was promoting Sunshine at the time, and then I think he liked me from there. And then I’d done five or six auditions from there.  Most of them I’d done with a few other actors who were going for roles in London, but everyone else was cast in India, so I was cast then they sent me to India.  Then I’d done an audition with 15 or so beautiful girls, cos they were casting their Latika and then they found Freida {Pinto} there.

 

Q:  That audition had to be tough.

DP:  That was wicked! I felt like a kid in a candy shop, really, there were all these beautiful girls.  I was 17, actually, and Freida told me after our first audition that she felt like a bit of a paedophile cos we did this love scene and she was 24 and I was 17, so it was pretty weird for her.  I was really nervous, actually, cos that was the first big audition I’d ever done. 

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  You mentioned that the audition process almost brought you to tears by the end, what was it that was so tough?

DP:  It was really nerve-wracking, for one, cos Danny Boyle’s in the room and things like that. I really wanted it.  I mean it was the first time in my life that I’ve ever wanted something so bad. I was 17 years old, I was still in school and then this lands on your doorstep and you’ve got this massive opportunity.  I remember doing one audition and at the end of it Danny gave me this kind of talk, “Um, yeah, that was really good, em. Anyway, it was nice seeing you.”  So, it was one of those talks was just letting you down.  Then after that I went with my mum to have a pizza in Soho and it was the most sour tasting pizza in the world.  I was so sad, I felt like crying.  And then I got a call two weeks later from Gail Stevens, like “Yeah, they want you to come to India to join everyone on their locations.” I was like, “Okay…”

 

Q:  Had you ever been to India, or seen the slums there before?

DV:  No, not prior to that, but I went on location scouting to help me get into the character. So I went to nearly all the slums. I went to the biggest slum in India, in Mumbai, which is called Dharavi.  That was a real eye-opener, really, cos I remember the day I woke up and I knew I was going to the slums with my mum. I was like “Sheesh, it’s going to be a tough day. It’s going to be quite depressing.”  Cos I mean when you’re at home and you watch these health-aid adverts and you see these really malnourished children crying and you’re like, ‘Oh God, I’m going to see that today.’  And when I went there, I was so happy to be proved wrong.  The only thing I got was it was a big, overwhelming sense of community. Everyone knew everyone and they’re all happy.  Like Danny says, they’re proud of where they live.  Before they let us in they were like, “Don’t make us look like we’re poor, cos we’re happy,” and they were.

 

Q:  Had you seen a lot of Bollywood films?

DP:  I did, yeah.  My family is of Indian heritage, so yeah, whenever I’m at my grandmother’s house she’s always got one on TV.

 

LMD: Since you were aware of Bollywood films, what was it like for you to work with legendary Indian actors Anil Kapoor and Irfan Khan?

DP:  There was a point that I did go off it.  When I was a kid, I used to love those big fight sequences and then you hear all those crappy sound effects and then I kind of grew out of that love story cliché when I was older.  But I mean, it’s really changed since then.  I mean I did watch loads of Anil Kapoor films when I was a kid, and seeing him for the first time – we had to d a rehearsal in the hotel, and he just walked in and he had this big cap on so no one could see him, this big Kangol cap, all covered. And he walked up and said “Hi, I’m Anil,” and he’d shake my hand and I was like, *makes wide-eyed starstruck face and gasps.* It was crazy.

 

Q:  Will you tell us about the dance sequence?

DP:  God, I thought it was a metaphor. I remember reading the script and it was like, “Jamal and Latika meet in the station and the whole station breaks out into a song of happiness.”  And I was like, “Oh right, that’s cool,” and then one day I was on set and then Danny says, “Oh, by the way, tomorrow we’ve got a choreographer coming in for you.” I was like, “What?”  He was like, “No, no, we are getting you to dance.” I was like,  “You are not making me dance.” I mean, Freida was all into it. She was like, “Yeah, I can do this!” She knows how to move her hips and the smiles, cos they’ve grown up watching all the starlets and stuff like that.  But I’m like the guy in the club that stands in the background just sipping a drink and nowhere near the dance floor.  And then after that process, I never knew I could move my hips like that.

 

LMD:  Well, that flip side of that would be the torture scenes. You’re going through a lot of stuff in this movie.

DP:  Man, yeah! That was scary stuff. I remember we’d done the dance sequence in VT for 3 nights and I was dancing for 3 nights in the mot crowded station in India. Victoria Terminus, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. 

 

LMD:  Smooth pronunciation!

DP:  Yeah, it took me ages to learn.  I was walking around on set every day doing it, getting everybody annoyed.

But there’s one scene right at the end when I run across the platform when I finally see her {Latika} and we hold hand and I kiss her scar. And running across the platform, I stepped on a massive stone and twisted my ankle and it turned into an elephant foot after dancing on it for 3 days at VT.  It got so bad that they had to cut my shoe open so my foot would fit in.  And when you’re dancing, Danny was like, “Sell it, sell it,” cos you’ve really gotta sell it with your mouth when you’re dancing with all the smiles and stuff.

Then the torture scene was after that.  I was up there hanging and all the blood started to pool in this one leg and it started to get bigger and bigger, so they had trouble filming my feet, cos it was too graphic to film my face getting electrocuted, so they decided to have my feet shaking. But I really got into it; we had to tone a lot of it down.  I mean, I know it sounds weird, but there’s a fine line between making getting electrocuted funny and making it serious. I mean I was practicing it all day in the hotel like “Zzzz-zzz-zzzz-zzz.”  It kept on turning out funny, but then when I was with Irfan and Saurabh {Shukla} in this sweaty environment  and they take their job deadly seriously, I felt it, you know? 

I did have to hang for a bit of the time. I thought I would be macho and try some chin-ups before it and Danny’s like, “This is gonna really hurt. Your arms could pull out of your socket.” And I was like, “No problem, I’m a Taekwando champion.” And then I tred to do a chin-up and I was like “God, this is really hard.”

 

Q:  Tell us about working with Danny Boyle?

DP:  Man, he’s great. Coming from Skins, I wasn’t really that confident, I was still finding my feet as an actor.  He {Anwar} wasn’t the most in-depth role.  Working with Danny was really a godsend. I mean if he was here, he’d probably cringe because I’m saying this, but he was.  He’s a director that you can really put all your confidence into and not feel worried.  Like if he told you to do something totally outrageous, like something really stupid in front of this whole audience in the game show and I felt really silly doing some tins sometimes, you just learnt to trust him because he’s always thinking of that bigger picture.  We were looking at these scenes day on end and he’d just turn up on set with a totally different angle of looking at it.  And he would just throw it to you on set, but it will keep it fresh.  It’s inspiring to work with him.

 

LMD:  Can you tell us about some of the research you did for the role? Did you read Q&A, the novel the story is based on?  As a Londoner, what did you do to get the accent and other things down?

DP:  I read the novel, Danny gave it to me, but we didn’t want to concentrate too much on the novel, cos really, the only thing we do use is that skeleton of the game how. This film is really the love story, and with the novel I think you could make a film out of each chapter cos they’re separate stories in themselves.  He gave me this great book called Maximum City, I was so engrossed. It paints such a great picture of Mumbai, The title itself, Maximum City, and when you read it, it tells you all these interesting fact. It touches on gang life and everything you wanna know.  All the things that were covered in the film, I could read that book and reference it to that.

The accent was really tough. I didn’t get a vocal coach, which I wanted at the start. I was like, “Danny, please give me a vocal coach.”   And he didn’t want me concentrate on it too much cos it would put away the emotion on my performance cos I was always thinking of the accent. But my co-actors and Loveleen Tandan, who’s the co-director really helped me on that, we sat together reading the script, and I went to Mumbai a week earlier because I really wanted to pick it up and be immersed in this thing. But it was really hard, because you’ve got Freida, who’s got this totally different lingo to the way my brother {played by Madhur Mittal} speaks, so I’d be picking up my accent from her and he’d come along and he’ll be like, “ No, no, no, you say it like this.” Cos there’s so many different parts of India, where everyone comes from and there’s so many different classes and the way they speak, so I was in a muddle by the end of that.  So, I just thought, “That’s it, I’m making up my own version of the Hindi accent!”

 

 

Danny Boyle

 

Danny Boyle:  You’ve met Dev?

The Lady Miz Diva:  Yep.

DB:  And how did he do?

 

LMD: Admirably, admirably.

DB:  It’s amazing to look at him. I tell you its funny, like, meeting him at the hotel; he’s so handsome now! They dressed him up. I mean, he was a kid. Did he tell you about his mum?  Because his mum was at all the auditions and I thought, ‘How are we gonna get rid of his mum?’  I seriously need a romantic lead and he’s got his mum attached to him.

 

LMD:  So what was it about Dev that was Jamal?

DB:  Well I met all these guys in Mumbai, cos all the casting was done in Mumbai.  I met some very talented young guys in Mumbai, but if you wanna get in the movies in Bollywood and you’re 18 or 20, you’ve gotta be able to get the shirt off.  I mean like, they stand under waterfalls in Switzerland and do the song and dance bit, but they’ve gotta be ripped!  So, they come in and they’re all beefcake. You know when guys can’t put they’re arms down cos they’ve got too much muscle mass under here like this, so they walk around? Cos they’re 18, they’re only just beyond kids; their heads are really small cos they haven’t kind of put any weight on on their heads.  So, you’ve got these tiny little heads and arms that are like this! - And that was just wrong for the film. I just thought he’s an underdog; he’s meant to be like a guy who apparently had nothing. So, my daughter said, “You should see this guy in Skins,” which is this racy programme we have in the UK about sex, basically.  And I watched it and he has this fairly small kind of comic part in it, but he was very good, I thought. And I met him – and his mum {Laughs} - he was great. He was very serious about it, the craft, you know?  And when we started doing it, we didn’t always agree about stuff, you know?  We fought about stuff a couple times, which is good.  Because, obviously, I have a bit of reputation and he’s 17, but he was prepared to say, “No, I don’t think that’s right.  I think I shouldn’t do it like that.”  And when you get that it’s good, cos if they just do what you tell ‘em, it’s kind of one-dimensional. They’ve gotta take it over themselves, that’s a lead actor, and he’s got that where he thinks, “No.”  And he’s stubborn; and I go “Look, you’ve gotta smile now. You’ve gotta fucking smile in this section of the script!”  And he’s like this {Grimaces}.  And that’s good, and that’s what he had.  Jamal’s like that, he like nothing’s gonna stop him, whatever it is.  That scene when he jumps in the shit, that’s his character completely in that scene.  His dream is about Bachchan and that autograph, nothing’s gonna stand in his way!  He’s a bit like that.

 

Q:  What were some of the challenges of telling this Indian story?

DB:  You feel obviously a lot of responsibility. You worry about yourself as a Westerner. I didn’t want to make a film where Westerners go around India or anything like that. But still, you are a Westerner yourself.  I wanted to make it as instinctively and subjectively as possible so it felt like you were looking at it from the inside. One of the dangers of India is that it is that Wow Factor, where you go, ‘Wow, look at that.’  And it feels very like you’re using it as some kind of thing to just stare at and they hate that, actually. And they said that to us actually, “Don’t make it out like that.”  So did these film tests at the beginning and they were a bit like that, cos there’s a danger with cameramen. Because for cameramen to shoot in India is a dream come true, cos it is obviously the photographically the place for the coffee table book. So, there is a danger with cinematographers to go, “Wow!” “Wow, the colours!” “Wow!”  And I didn’t want that, I wanted you to just be hurtled into it. And I love action, movement; I love action movies, even really, really bad ones. I love them because I think there is about why they’re called “motion pictures,” it’s where it all began, when our ancestors sat there and saw motion, moving, and I really believe that about films. There’s a kineticism about them that’s wonderful. They shouldn’t always be a reflective medium, it doesn’t suit being reflective.

I remember meeting Tim Robbins, and I was trying to get him to play this part in a film, this really good part.  But he said “I won’t do it,” and I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t do it, and he sids, “Cos he dies before the end,” and I said “What?” And he said, “Listen, nobody in films remembers anybody that’s died.” And it’s true, it’s not vanity, it’s absolutely true. What’s amazing about films is that, all right, you’ll have a sad moment, but then you’ll just move forward.  It’s all about forward motion; it’s all about moving forward like that. So I tired to bring that to it, really, cos the society itself feels like that. Bombay feels like it’s living in fast forward anyway.

 

Q:  How did you even come to direct Slumdog Millionaire in the first place?

DB:  They sent the script and the agent rather lazily said it’s a film about Who Wants to be a Millionaire. My agent said that, cos he wants me to do American films, so he’s really like, “Aw, who wants to make a film about Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.  You won’t want to do this, but I’m sending it anyway.” He’s always trying to get me to make a film here and I never do…

Then I saw Simon {Beaufoy}’s name on it and I knew him obviously from The Full Monty and I’d never met him, but I thought I’d better read it. And I was lost as soon as I read it, 10 pages in, I was like... It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes you just know and you shouldn’t wait until you get to the end, cos when you get the end all the realities of filmmaking kick in about “’How can we cast it,’ ‘Will we ever be able to raise enough money?’

 

Q: This is the first film where you credit a co-director. What exactly does that mean?

DB:  She was the casting director, Loveleen Tandan, did an amazing job obviously cos it was quite a big cast and I didn’t know anybody or virtually no one.  I realised when I was working with her that I needed her on the set every day, so got her on the set every day. And she wants to be a director as well, she can do it, you can tell, like if she gets the breaks, it’ll work for her. And that wasn’t just for the kids, who only spoke Hindi, it was for everything, really, and I could test things against her, you know, culturally.  And when I knew I wanted to make a mistake, do something incorrectly, cos you do do that cos films have their own justice and logic which isn’t applicable to the country, necessarily, so I sent her off to do the 2nd unit. The 2nd unit had been shooting very badly and then I just realised, I thought if I send her over there. And as soon as I sent her over, the stuff that came back was fantastic. So we called her co-director, cos she deserves it, really. And without her and the 1st assistant director who’s this guy called Raj Acharya, and the guy who did the light sound, Resul Pookutty, without those 3 people, it would have been a quarter of the film it is, I think. So they were very special for the film.

 

Q:  Can you talk about using the M.I.A. song Paper Planes in the film? That song was everywhere this summer.

DB:  I know, I know, I was so depressed! I came back from work one day, I’d been editing and my daughter said, “Oh, you should see this trailer, it’s great! It’s a really good use of Paper Planes,” and I was watching it and I said, “Oh, no!”  And we got a lovely remix and I met her cos she’s London/Sri Lankan and she lives here now, and I called her in to see the film, cos I like the musicians, if we’re gonna use their song I like them to see the film.  And she liked the film a lot, I think, and she’s a very smart girl, she gave me a couple of very good notes, which you don’t get off people.  It pointed out a couple of things, it was really very good notes.  And then I told her I was doing this guy, Rahman to do the rest of the music and she’s a big fan of Rahman’s, because when she was a kid she worshiped him and his music in films.

 

Q:  Did you use any of her notes?

DB:  Yes I did, actually.  She only watched it once with me in the editing room and we finished and we were chatting and she said, “Do you want me to say a couple of things?” cos she was very complimentary, and I said, “I’d love to.” And she said “Well I think that…” “You don’t really know how he knows how he got on the show. How did he get on the actual show?”  And I hadn’t really answered that question, so we answered that question, and I can’t remember what the other note was, but it was very good, as well.  Cos a lot of the time you get very bad notes off people and you sit there patiently and politely and it’s absolutely no good to you at all. Then suddenly somebody just sits there, who feels like she’s from another world completely, you know, this kind of hip-hop, this really cool New Yorker that she is now. She went ‘bang-bang’ on story points. She’s really smart.

 

Q:  Did Renoir’s The River or the films of Satyajit Ray influence Slumdog Millionaire?

DB:  Not so much on this film, I don’t know why, and usually I’ll mention the kind of films, but not so much on this film. 

 

Q:  Was there other research you did for this project?

DB:  The main book I read, the only book you need to read is Maximum City, the Suketu Mehta book.  It’s just a drop dead book.  I read that all the time and half the time I thought I was adapting that, not Q&A, the book we were meant to be adapting.  I’m a bit worried about Suketu Mehta seeing it actually, he’s seeing it next week.  I’m worried about him a) not liking it, and b) suing us. {Laughs}  So that was my main research. There were three films that I watched that I’d never heard of and they do influence the film in some way. One was called Satya and it’s as good a film as I’ve seen and it’s written by and stars our fat police constable, he’s called Saurabh Shukla. He’s an amazing writer and terrific character actor. So there was that film and there was another film called Company which is a very good film about gangsters, and there was another film called Black Friday, which is about bombings in Mumbai, made by a young guy called Anurag Kashyap, which is a fantastic film, made with very little money, but a really good film. They were like inspirations while we were making it.  It’s good to know it’s not all Bollywood musicals, it’s not all the kind of standard stuff that they do.

 

LMD:  Can you talk about the children in the film who are so incredible? I understand that some of them were actually from the Mumbai slum. How did you find them and get those performances out of them?

DB:  The performances are not difficult, cos they’re really good actors.  I mean, the kids there really love acting. Sometimes they tend to do a bit of the… they say, “Do want the look from Amitabh Bachchan in this film?” and they go *does over-the-top hero pose*. “Or do you want the look from this other guy in this film?” and you go “No, I don’t want any of that.” {Laughs} And once you get them to understand the world that they’re in, you just want a kind of realism, they’re terrific.  They don’t feel a separation between themselves and film. It’s like here, it’s so natural, film, to be part of life and it is in India, a well. It just feels apart of life. Everybody been to the films all the time, even 7-year olds have seen lots of stuff and can talk to you about stuff.  So that’s the easy, in a way. Finding them was really down to Loveleen. Initially, the film was written completely in English and when we got there and we started seeing 7-year old who could speak a bit of English, it didn’t work really, because they’re not that deft with English at 7, 8, they get better when they get into their teens, and it wasn’t really working.  So she said, “Listen, you should really do it in Hindi, you know.” And, of course I thought, “Oh my God, what are Warner Brothers gonna say if I ring them up and say, ‘We’re gonna do it in Hindi, instead?’” {Laughs}  But she adapted it and as soon as we did it the kids, it was like, oh my God, it live. It just suddenly came alive. It felt so real suddenly.  So I did ring Warner Brothers and say we’re gonna do the first third in Hindi with English subtitles.  And there was just silence, silence, but it wasn’t because of the Hindi! {Laughs} {Original distributor Warner Independent Features closed down before Slumdog’s completion}

 

LMD:  Was it important for you to have a sense of connection between the three different sets of actors all playing the same characters?

DB:  Yeah, it was tricky because if you found one person you had to be wary cos you might not be able to find someone else who looked like them at all, and we wanted them to look a bit like each other.  But most of it, you just hoped that the audience would go with it; if you did it with enough confidence they’d just accept. It’s not the same person, its three actors but it’s great, there’s some kind of a feeling of a connection between them.

We had them all together in rehearsal. We tried to rehearse together with them so they got to look at each other. I tried to get them to copy each other’s mannerisms, if they spotted anything to copy it, you know, to make it feel coherent the whole thing.

 

Q:  Was the dance number ending inspired by Bollywood?

DB:  No, no, the dance is basically, I mean, I lived and worked there for 8 months. If you’ve lived and worked in Bombay, you cannot leave without a dance, you know? You can’t!  It would be like making a film about America without a motorcar, you just can’t do it. It would be wrong; it would be so fake not to do it. The key thing was whether we should put it inside the film, like as one of the questions, linked to a question, or at the end of the film as it is like now. So we decided to put it at the end of the film and celebrate their love, really.  People say, ‘Oh, I love the little send-up of Bollywood,’ it’s not, actually, it’s genuine, it’s absolutely genuine. Their love of movies and their love of dancing and their love of song is something that is to be absolutely celebrated, even though we may not be able to watch some of the films.

 

LMD:  Will we ever see Alien Love Triangle?

DB:  Well, it’s sort of beginning to become a bit more visible because there was this little cinema in Wales and it was the smallest cinema in the United Kingdom, it had 12 seats. It was an old railway carriage and this guy converted 30 years ago into a cinema.  Complete nutter, this guy.  And he was retiring and he was closing and he asked if he could show it as the final film to be shown there and they did! And Ken Branagh, who’s in it, went along to present the film, I was in India, but he went along.  So, I think that’s a sign that hopefully, it’ll appear somewhere soon.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

October 24th, 2008

 

 

 

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