Directors of movies with modest budgets often have to pull double duty as both filmmaker and P.R. machine. If the movie can’t afford to bombard the airwaves with advertisements, pounding the pavement like a politician to attend screenings and interact with moviegoers can be an effective alternative.
Enter Danny Boyle.
The British director responsible for Trainspotting, Millions, 28 Days Later and other top-notch fare came to Dallas last night to promote Slumdog Millionaire — possibly his best work to date. A full house packed the biggest auditorium at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas to see a sneak preview of the film, which opens Friday at the Angelika in Plano and at the Magnolia Theatre in Dallas.
Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of Jamal, a young man who goes on an epic run on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? But before he can answer the final question, he finds himself being interrogated, Guantanamo style, to find out how an uneducated kid from the slums can possibly know all these answers. As the movie progresses through flashbacks, we slowly learn the truth.
Last night was my second time to see the film, and each time I’m fairly certain the audience (and critics in the house) went home happy. All that was left was for Boyle to seal the deal. When one gushing admirer told him that the film would definitely make her publication’s top 10 list, he deftly advised her with a wink to not see anything else this year.
After the screening, Boyle participated in a question-and-answer session hosted by yours truly. During it, he entertained the crowd with tales of the phone call he placed to Warner Bros. early in the shoot to inform the studio that a third of the movie would now be in Hindi instead of the agreed-upon English (WB wasn’t amused); he talked about not wanting to leave the vibrant Mumbai once the shoot was over; and he discussed the common thread that runs through his films.
I had asked him what he looks for in a film since to me his films didn’t seem to have anything in common other than the fact that he directed them. Previous subject matter has included drug addiction, astronauts, brothers who lost their mother and enraged zombies. But his answer proved elightening — the key for him is having characters up against steep odds.
When you look back at Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, last year’s Sunshine and now Slumdog Millionaire, that pattern is definitely present. There’s still no way to predict the storyline or setting for Boyle’s next film — his range and interests are too broad for pigeonholing. But at least now we’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect thematically.