Danny Boyle says Slumdog Millionaire gave him a kind of energy he hadn’t felt in years.
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE directed by Danny Boyle, written by Simon Beaufoy, with Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal and Irrfan Khan. A Fox Searchlight release. 120 minutes. Subtitled. Now playing. For venues and times, see Movies.
Danny Boyle is not the person you expect to see behind a movie like Slumdog Millionaire. And yet somehow, he's the only director who could have made it work.
Boyle's instinct for cinematic texture has transformed genre exercises like Shallow Grave (Hitchcockian thriller), 28 Days Later (zombies!) and Sunshine (sci-fi head trip) into idiosyncratic cult hits. And now he's brought his tool kit to the Bollywood epic, spinning Simon Beaufoy's populist screenplay about a Mumbai street kid who finds himself on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? into a splashy, energetic delight.
As Boyle explains it, sitting in a hotel room on the rainiest afternoon of the Toronto Film Festival, pretty much everything about Slumdog Millionaire was a long shot.
"It's a stupid film to make, really, because of the barriers that exist in crossing over to anybody," he says. "There's Hindi, there's subtitles - it's a very distant world from here, you know? But it felt like a really immediate film. It felt like it was about now, and it was everything I wanted to make a film about. I was completely mad about it, making it. I had a kind of energy that I hadn't had for years."
Most of that energy, Boyle figures, was supplied by Mumbai itself.
"The place is just constantly moving," he marvels. "Everything's just moving around you. You go to locations and fix them - it's a ridiculous word, ‘fix' - it's just pointless, like ‘control' and ‘organization' and ‘schedule.' They're just meaningless words. They're Western words. They don't take any account of what it's actually like, because you come back to the location and apparently you've come to the wrong place, because it's completely different the next day. And you have to accept that."
The film frames the romantic quest of its young hero (played as an adult by Dev Patel) against more than a decade of Mumbai street life, letting Boyle's cameras take in every aspect of the city's culture.
"It's like Titanic," Boyle says. "Somebody starts the film and you flash back over their life. But of course he's 18; he's got his whole life in front of him. He's not 80, on his deathbed. It's not a sentimental idea; it's a very active idea."
Boyle and his colleagues are enjoying the first evidence that Slumdog Millionaire is connecting to a larger audience. The TIFF press screening plays to applause - a rare event - and the public screenings are ecstatic. (In a few days, the film will win the fest's People's Choice Award.)
"You realize the importance of film festivals," Boyle says with a wide grin. "They pick up films and put them on their feet. They literally go, ‘There, there. Walk.'"
Danny Boyle on the allure of making a movie in Mumbai:
On the movie's complex flashback structure:
On what he's thinking of doing next: