The Massie Twins recently got a chance to sit down and discuss “Slumdog Millionaire” with none other than Danny Boyle himself. But Danny got to interview us for a little bit beforehand.
Danny Boyle: So how old are you guys?
Massie Twins: We’re 24 now.
DB: So how’s it been growing up being twins?
MT: It’s interesting. (laughs) Being identical we had certain advantages, and of course we did the things identical twins are obligated to do, like switching classes.
DB: Brilliant! Are you guys empathetic?
MT: Sadly, no. It would be fun to let on like we were.
DB: So do you guys work as a team when doing reviews?
MT: Yes, it’s our only bit of originality. (laughs) So have you seen Slumdog Millionaire with an audience?
DB: I’ve done a lot of Q & A’s and in Toronto I did get to watch it with an audience and that was really interesting. You kind of have to stop after a while though because you’re just too familiar with it. It’s a bit of a drug, especially when it’s successful. It’s addictive when it works because it’s a lovely feeling, but you have to stop because it’s seductive and misleading. And you have to give it up and get on with something else, which in my case is publicizing the film.
MT: So what’s your relationship with your older films? Do you stop and watch them on TV?
DB: Yeah. You kind of get those odd moments where you bump into it by accident. I was watching Sunshine – my daughter was watching it with her friends at my house and I was in the kitchen and I kind of watched it over their shoulders for about forty minutes. And it was weird – I thought, “oh that’s quite good, some of that.” (laughs)
MT: Slumdog was shot completely on location in India. How’d you go about getting those locations?
DB: Yes, it was shot in Mumbai. You have to have a local production company. There’s a lot of bureaucracy in India, partly the fault of the British, partly the Soviets. It can take years to get permission for something. So the film is on one track and they run the permissions on a completely parallel universe, and yet somehow you can shoot wherever you want – partly because it’s a cash society of course – cash makes things happen. We’d be there and there’d be court cases regularly in the papers for things that happened in the 1980’s. So everybody knows that if you want to get anything done you’ve got to obey the rules, but in a parallel universe, not in this one.
MT: I read that there is an actual “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” show in India. Did you get to use that actual set or did you build your own?
DB: I went to see the show there. It’s huge there, and they had the same set there exactly like it is here and in the U.K. The production company said we can’t use that set and that it would be cheaper for us to build you a completely new one – so they built a completely new one. And I now know where that set is, because next month in Afghanistan the show begins there, and I’ll bet the guy who built it had in mind to get them to pay for it as well.
MT: How did they feel about the way the show was portrayed in your film, especially because of the corruption aspects?
DB: They were okay with it, because the guy who originally came up with the show kept the rights to make a feature film about it. So we didn’t have to pay royalties on anything – the music, the look, the brand name. And it’s a brand name that will help you anywhere in the world. Because when the film opens in Korea or Argentina, they all have their own version of the show, so even if they don’t want to watch a film about India, there’s that common ground you can use in the publicity of the film.
MT: What was the casting process like for this film?
DB: The film was initially written completely in English. And when we first got there, the seven-year-olds couldn’t really speak English and the casting director said to me that if you really want this to work, you’ll have to do the beginning in Hindi. Because kids from the slums will not speak English at that age and we wanted to use real slum kids. So I had this terrible conversation where I had to ring Warner Bros. and tell them that now the film is going to be in Hindi with English subtitles. The middle parts were tricky too because they have the worst job of all. Everybody loves the kids at seven. Everybody likes her (Freida Pinto) because she’s beautiful and everybody likes him (Dev Patel) because he does it. It’s the middle kids that appear about 40 minutes into the film where the first wave of delight has passed and they have the toughest job of all because they have to convince you that they were them (the seven-year-olds) and they are going to be them (Patel and Pinto).
MT: On the IMDB message boards they say you should direct the next James Bond movie. Any thoughts on that?
DB: (laughs) When I was a kid growing up that is what I read. I’ve read all of them at least three times each because the sex, danger, and glamour of it is everything you want, so I’m very close to them. But the way they make them I couldn’t do it. They make them like a machine – there’s units and they work on different blocks of the film and then put them together at the end. I’d want so much control over it and they wouldn’t be prepared to give it, so that’s not going to happen really.
MT: So how do you choose your next project?
DB: It’s partly difference. Especially when you do something like Sunshine which is very controlled, meticulous and slow and it’s such a kind of narrow world in serious sci-fi, and I did want the chance to do something in a chaotic city like Mumbai. I didn’t quite realize how different it would be, but I was up for that. And you do try and look for something different, but what you really respond to is an idea that you have, or a book or script.
MT: We were kind of shocked to see the film get an R Rating. Was there any pressure to get a PG-13?
DB: Well, it wasn’t pressure. We signed the contract and it was a PG-13. When you sign a contract there’s two things you have to stipulate: the runtime will be below a certain length and the certificate. And they wanted a PG-13 and I agreed and signed it. And I shot everything to get a PG-13. There’s nothing in it explicit. So I did all the right things but they said the overall intensity of the journey means it’s an R. And they said there’s no point in appealing because it’s not about shaving minutes or little images out of there. I was shocked at that and disappointed because I thought I had done a good job to make it as intense as possible but stay within the PG-13 realm.
MT: The story is so universal that it’s really a shame to slap an R rating on it.
DB: Listen, if I was doing an R film, I would be at the maximum. It would be borderline NC-17. (laughs)