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Danny Boyle on Slumdog Millionaire

Published November 12, 2008 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Slumdog MillionaireSlumdog Millionaire
For press screenings of Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle insisted that the film be projected at a certain sound level. He may not be able to regulate that in multiplexes across the country, but at least he could ensure that the press experienced his artistic intention.

Directing Slumdog Millionaire


"Everybody raves on about cinematographers and all that kind of stuff, but seventy percent of a movie is sound," said Boyle. "You watch any movie without sound and you’re finished, virtually none of them survive. That’s what’s extraordinary about Wall-E, the first half of Wall-E which is virtually a silent movie. They are the geniuses and they can get away with it. In this case, music in Indian films, I love the way the music is much more upfront, it’s much more passionate and declared, whereas we tend to hide music. It kind of creeps in, you’re not aware of it at the beginning and it’s floating around, and then it jumps on it. Indian music is like, 'Here’s the music everyone! Da-da-da-da…' It’s there and I love that. I said to [A.R.] Rahman, the guy who did the music for us, I said, ‘The one thing I promise you is I’ll mix it upfront, whatever you produce for us, I promise it will be upfront like that.’"

If your local cinema turns the sound down to accommodate fussy patrons, rest assured that you'll get Boyle's vision on DVD. "You won’t be able to on the DVD. I can preset levels on that."

The film portrays the lives of three young characters at different ages, as one wins a TV game show and reflects on his tumultuous childhood with friends who got him there. Boyle sympathized with the multiple actors required to play each role.



"They tend to be in the worst position, the middle kids. Everybody loves the little kids because they’re so cute, and they’re in incredible jeopardy, and you think, 'Oh God, don’t hurt the kids, don’t hurt them.' And then the older ones, Freida looks pretty sexy, he’s okay looking, and it’s the middle boys that get the rough deal because they’re 12,13, which as we all know is the worst possible age to be anyway ever. Personally, I think that’s more acceptable. What they normally do in movies is they cast a 29-year-old and she plays the 11-year-old, the 17-year-old, the 29 year, the 54-year-old, and you can see all the make up and all the CG making them look young, and stuff like that. I just think you think about things like that rather than the film. So I just think audiences are really great. Audiences do accept it if you do it with enough confidence I think, and obviously if they’re good actors and there are some similarity in between them."

While the film portrays hardships in the poorest parts of India, Boyle remains optimistic, as he always does with his dramatic material. "I’m a very positive person, and when I run the crew I run it in a very positive way. I feel very optimistic about stuff, so I’m a bit of a dreamer like that in a way. Although you choose subjects where you have to be brutal sometimes, and certainly if you go to India there are, certainly Mumbai some of the things you see are very shocking, and it wouldn’t be a faithful portrait of the city if you didn’t represent those things, but also what I did love about India as well is that despite that it’s the most amazing spirit in the place. It’s a very open, positive country. It’s very forward looking in many ways, ironically given the history and given the problems there’s an incredible future ahead of it, you can feel that, there’s a kind of optimism there as well, which I liked a lot, the spirit."

The film is generating early awards buzz, but Boyle keeps that in perspective. "Anybody who tells they don’t dream about things like that is lying, I’ll tell you that. But the thing that’s really wonderful about it, is that in India all the people who helped us make the film, they’re all on Google alert, they are fanatical about Google alert, so I do interviews with someone and like minutes later I get this phone call from India saying, ‘We’ve read the interview you’ve given four minutes ago.’ So any mention of it they’ll be delighted, because although they have huge industry, they do keep an eye on Hollywood. There are certain actors in Hollywood they really admire, and they look at it like that, watching them, so they’ll all be watching. It’s also important to remember, this is very much from the point of view of the film, what we’re lucky about is that you get into this season, because a film like this, this is the season when you’ve got a chance, because the campaign if you like, if you call it that, is the raft that takes you out to people who would normally never hear of a film like this. You think of an area America beyond these cities on the east coast and west coast, they’re never going to hear of this film unless you have a raft like that that’s going to take you out there."

Slumdog Millionaire opens to theaters on November 14th.

For the poster, trailer and more movie info, go to the Slumdog Millionaire Movie Page.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Fox Searchlight Pictures
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