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Director Danny Boyle talks Bollywood and industrial cities

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Published 12/3/2008

Whether he's filming Scottish junkies (Trainspotting) or the zombie apocalypse (28 Days Later), Danny Boyle is an unabashed stylist. His films overflow with arresting images, and no two are alike. Slumdog Millionaire, his latest, is a crowd-pleasing multilingual kaleidoscope of genres that offers both gritty thrills and heartfelt romance. It also revolves around an impoverished young Muslim who ends up winning the grand prize on India's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

METRO TIMES: I'm amazed that you actually found someone as smarmy as Regis Philbin in India.

DANNY BOYLE: He's a wonderful actor, Anil Kapoor. He's very famous there. ... He was very nervous in the beginning [of filming] because it's his first role ever in English, although he speaks perfect English. [Indian actors] keep their eye on the big Hollywood actors, and they're very nervous about dipping their toe in the English-speaking world.

MT: I think Slumdog is the first romance you've done since A Life Less Ordinary, right?

BOYLE: There is a love story [in Slumdog Millionaire] as its spine, for sure, and ... it's not in the book. That's [screenwriter Simon Beaufoy's] invention and it's a very good invention because the city is very passionate. The film deserves a spine like that. ...

MT: It's also a very Bollywood.

BOYLE: Exactly. India is a very romantic place in many ways. It's a weird love story because at each age she keeps getting taken away from him. Still, [the lovers'] center remains for each other because they are soulmates and they know that they will ultimately find each other. And [Beaufoy] does this through the device of the most popular and most obscene game show in the world. I mean, it's the biggest cash prize in the world in terms of standard of living. Twenty million rupees dangled in front of one of the poorest countries in the world. It's an unbelievable obscenity.

MT: Bollywood has led a parallel existence with Hollywood, but it's mostly been invisible to American audiences. Do you see India's influence catching on and having a ripple effect the way Hong Kong cinema did 20 years ago?

BOYLE: It has a ripple effect for sure. You can feel it when you're there. You can feel Hollywood is looking there more and vice versa. And they will find some kind of union at some point. ... There'll be some star that comes along and unites both or some property like Twilight or Harry Potter.

MT: Michigan now has the most ambitious film incentive package in the country. What advice do you have for it with regard to helping its film industry grow?

BOYLE: You can't give any ideas really, other than I think it's a great idea. I think for industrial cities, especially as they go through crisis, it's a great thing to do. It's a great immediate step while the society reorganizes itself. (Although I hope they keep the auto industry going.) I was saying to the driver on the way here that if you don't support those industries what you'll get is what we had in Britain in the '80s, which is Thatcher shut those industries down. ... And she put the country through terrible pain, terrible division, and she's never been forgiven because there's a more humane way of doing it, of embracing change. And hopefully films can play a part in it.

I'd love to come here and make a film. It's a great city. It's more my city than L.A. I like an industrial city; I'm from one myself. I love the music here. Industrial cities produce great fucking music. And you look at Detroit's history and it's amazing.

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