Slumdog Millionaire: Danny Boyle’s Passage to India

Danny Boyle’s Passage to India

When it came to choosing a director for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, the filmmakers knew the wide-ranging story of Jamal would require someone adept at merging the comedic, the adventurous and the deftly humanistic in one singular vision. Someone whose vision would have to traverse across themes of family, crime, survival and love in a story that is sometimes breathtakingly gritty and other times romantic and mythic.

From the beginning, the team’s number one choice was Danny Boyle, who has shown an ability to sink his teeth into all kinds of iconoclastic stories of modern life, from the raw comedy of TRAINSPOTTING to the abject terror of 28 DAYS LATER to his recent excursion into sci-fi, SUNSHINE.

“When we sat down and asked ourselves who would be the best person in the world to direct this material everyone thought ‘Danny Boyle!'” Christian Colson recalls. “We sent it to him, he read it and said ‘count me in.’ It was that easy.”

First Visit to India

On the one hand, Boyle seemed perfect for a story that squeezes an incredible breadth of storytelling into a rollicking entertainment. On the other hand, Boyle had never so much as visited India. This, however, turned out to be a positive.

Colson believes that that it was Boyle’s newcomer’s view of India that was able to bring such striking originality to the look and feel of the film, capturing at once the frenetic energy, ink-black comedy, gangster threats and hopefulness of Jamal’s life and circumstances. “Danny brings an outsider’s perspective to India in the same way that Sam Mendes brought his perspective to portraying suburban America in AMERICAN BEAUTY and Ang Lee did to Jane Austen¬ís England in SENSE AND SENSIBILITY,” says the producer.

“Sometimes, a fresh eye can bring out the colorful, unique or vibrant that we, any of us, don¬ít see in our own cultures. I think there is a vibrancy to the movie that comes from Danny’s outsider curiosity. He looks at everything differently.”

Simon Beaufoy was further pleased by Boyle’s respect for the integrity of the script, as well as his ability to bring his own inimitable style and approach to the material. “SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is unmistakably a Danny Boyle film, with his absolutely unique vision, and yet pretty much every word that I wrote is there in the film,” says Beaufoy. “Danny was incredibly respectful of the words on the page and would never touch the dialogue without a huge amount of consultation with me as the writer.”

In turn, Boyle regarded Beaufoy’s script as a guiding light that continually inspired cast and crew throughout the filmmaking process. In the heat of shooting under very tough conditions, Boyle explains that it helped to remain as faithful as possible to Beaufoy’s blueprint. “I think the script is like a tunnel you get into and the fewer detours you make while you’re in it, the better,” he says. “As a director, your role is to make the movie as vivid as you can and as complex and exciting as you can, but always to serve the narrative as much as possible.”

With so much passion and creativity behind it, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE’s development path was unusually rapid. “It was like a snowball that grew as it rolled down the hill,” Tessa Ross comments. “Truly nothing stopped it in its tracks and things really speeded up because of Danny. We were able to develop and finance the film with Celador, and this meant we could then make all the important financial and creative decisions together very quickly.”

It wasn’t long before Boyle and his creative team were headed to one of the biggest, densest, most volatile yet vibrant cities on the planet.