By Kathy Cano-Murillo
November 21, 2008
This week’s interview is with director Danny Boyle. Yes, that Danny Boyle – the Brit gent who made us squirm in our seats with films like Trainspotting and 28 Days Later. When I heard his new pic, Slumdog Millonaire, was an Indian love story, my first thought was “What?” I knew I had to see it. Not only did I catch an advance screening and love it, I also chatted with Boyle, 52, while he was in town on a promo tour.
Why he inspires me: Often the easiest route is to go with what you know best. After 20 years in the business, Boyle ditched that idea – and his comfort zone of England – to travel to India and make this movie. At one point while he was there, his distribution fell through. He stayed focused. The risk paid off. The gritty-yet-glittery tale about a lovestruck orphan who lands center stage on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire has already picked up several high-profile awards and has garnered Boyle some of the best reviews of his career.
How did you come to direct it?
Danny Boyle: They they sent the script and my agent lazily described it to me as a kid who gets on India’s version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. I immediately thought, ‘How could I do that?’ But then I saw the writer’s name on it and it was the same guy who wrote The Full Monty, which I loved. I thought I at least better read 10 pages. I fell in love with it. I knew I had to do it. The simplicity of the story alone. The spine of the movie is the game show and it allows you to go anywhere. And the city it is set in is bursting with energy. It was irresistible. Naivety took over. I never thought, ‘Oh my gosh how will I make this appeal to America?’ or ‘How will I raise money? I just got lost in the story. I made it happen.
What were the biggest cultural differences?
There is a strong sense of Bollywood style, did you plan it that way?
Did you learn any Bollywood moves?
I did. I can do the double basketball. Imagine you have a basketball in each hand and you are bouncing them simultaneously. As you do that, you move from side to side and pretend you are walking toward someone. Try it! That is a key Bollywood move. But make sure you get the head bobble right. It means yes and it means no, and everything in between as well. It’s fantastic.
How do you stay inspired between projects?
I tend to do one thing at a time. I don’t have anything lined up at the moment. I think that’s why India suited me. Most directors have three or four projects bubbling away, but I don’t do that. I get lost in one project for a long time and then all of a sudden one day I find myself on the other side of it and say, Oh no, I better get to work!
What are your favorite characters?
I like him or her to be against pretty big odds in an extreme situation. I like to give them a big task. I like them to be an underdog and to be determined. They follow their own path, they don’t follow the crowd. I relate to that and those are the scripts and characters I respond to.
What is something new you learned about yourself?
There is extreme poverty and wealth in Mumbai. There is no real separation like we have in the west. So there is this extraordinary balance. There are lots of contradictions that can’t be resolved. They think it is very western to want to resolve contradiction. It doesn’t work like that there. They just accept things as they are. I used to think that acceptance as your destiny made you passive. But in fact, it is liberating, it makes you calm when bad things happen.
(Laughs) I have a theory – it is controversial and provocative, really – that your first film is always your best. Even though you become more skilled as a director, it doesn’t make your storytelling any fresher. So I would vote for my first film, Shallow Grave.
What is a Danny Boyle signature element in every film?
Oh. Hmmm. Well… pretty much in every one of my films there is a bag of money. Not in every film, but almost. (Laughs). Yah, a bag of money!
Are you crafty at all?
Photography. Is that crafty? That is my love. We used a digital still camera, a Canon Ion 3, which has an 11 frame per second shooting rate. We used that imagery in the film. It creates a beautiful and intense effect. Oh, I know! I collect photography books. Here is a crafty vice of mine, I spend far too much money on those big photography books.
Do you mean photo albums?
Yes! All that stuff. My house is groaning under the weight of all those books!
I love the soundtrack, did you choose all those great songs?
Slumdog Millionaire opens today in Arizona, and is also playing in other markets around the country. Go see it! This Crafty Chica gives it four-out-of-five shiny sequins of approval!