Archive for February 2009
A 20 year-old Kansas City woman credits God and her hair weave for saving her life from a speeding bullet.
Briana Bonds was driving out a parking lot last week when she was shot by her ex-boyfriend, who sped away. One bullet hit her in the back of the head, but couldn’t penetrate her tightly woven hair piece.
“I’ve invested a lot of money into this weave, and it saved my life. It saved my life,” Bonds told reporters.
Later that night, while watching the story being re-hashed on the awkwardness that is TMZ television—what’s with the contrived newsroom bantering? what’s host Harvey Levin scribbling on that damn board?—a young African American female commentator quipped, “Human Korean hair can save your life!”
Watch the video…
Amused, I reached out to Marcia Cole, founder and editorial director at Amber Mag, a Black and Hispanic beauty and fashion source, who explained:
“Extensions and wigs are sold and distributed primarily by Koreans, who have a huge domination of this billion-dollar market,” Cole explains. “The hair comes from across Asia: India, especially, but from Korea and China as well.”
But, Cole notes with an expert eye, “her hair looked like it was the synthetic kind, it did not look like human hair, it was a bit too shiny.”
Move over Scarlett! There’s a new muse in town, and Woody Allen’s already cast her in his new movie.
Freida Pinto, who told Audrey Magazine back in December that she was reading “loads of scripts” but hadn’t signed onto any projects yet, has decided that her second film role will be playing the ingenue in a new Woody Allen project that is not yet titled.
With the almighty Hylda Queally from CAA as her agent, Pinto seems to be making her way quite effortlessly (and impressively) through Hollywood.
The new film will begin shooting on location in London in July. Gossipmongers are speculating that the location will keep her close to her Slumdog Millionaire co-star Dev Patel, but he is insisting that they are merely friends.
Pinto will co-star in the film with Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin and Anthony Hopkins, reports Variety.
The first person Sean Penn thanked on Sunday night during his acceptance speech for winning an Oscar for Best Actor was his “best friend, Sato Masuzawa.” My ears perked up at hearing the distinctly Japanese name.
“Sean Penn’s best friend is an Asian guy?” I thought to myself. I imagined Sato might be a surfing buddy that Penn grew up with in Los Angeles, or perhaps an old friend from Santa Monica High School.
Turns out, Sato Masuzawa is a woman and Penn’s long-time assistant. According to IMDb, Sato was the set production assistant on Indian Runner, the movie written and directed by Penn. She is credited with being Penn’s assistant beginning with the 1998 movie, Hurlyburly.
Much has been made of the fact that Penn thanked Sato and a host of others during his Oscars acceptance speech, but neglected to thank his wife, Robin Wright Penn.
That might be much ado about nothing.
Talking with Access Hollywood later that evening, Penn and his wife looked very much in love and happy with eachother. The Penns explained to Nancy O’Dell that they had discussed beforehand that he would not mention his wife in his speech if he won.
Asked if he simply forgot to thank his wife, Penn says, “No, no, no…I was just trying to keep it to the little group that did the professional business on the deal.” (Watch the video here.)
Penn didn’t thank his son or daughter, either. It’s just not his style.
Apparently, Penn’s first wife, Madonna, understands. She called his speech “amazing.”
By Helena Sung
Now available at your local Barnes & Noble and Borders Books is the February/March issue of Audrey Magazine and my intimate interview with Freida Pinto, star of “Slumdog Millionaire.”
As Pinto’s popularity continues to skyrocket amidst Slumdog Millionaire’s multiple wins this past Sunday at the Oscars, tongues have begun wagging about the 24 year-old Indian beauty’s personal life. Is she secretly married to her college sweetheart? Or merely engaged? Did a budding romance with her 18 year-old co-star, Dev Patel lead her to dump her fiance—by phone?
At the time I interviewed Freida in December 2008, she claimed that she was not getting married until she was 40. Asked if she was dating anyone, Freida declared she had no time to date.
Read an excerpt from my interview with the star…
It’s three days before Christmas and Freida Pinto is dying to get back to Mumbai, or “Bombay” as she still sometimes refers to her hometown. She is in Los Angeles staying at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills—that favored hotel of visiting celebrities and affluent tourists hoping to spot famous faces in the elevators or lounging at the rooftop pool.
Pinto and I are ensconced in a corner of the nearly empty lobby bar, sitting on overstuffed couches and sipping tea. It’s a chilly Monday afternoon and Pinto keeps a short, dark trench coat wrapped around her black Penguin mini-dress. Her long legs are bare and she’s wearing tall, black peep-toe slingbacks—the same ones she’ll be wearing later that evening when she appears on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Passing hotel patrons stare at the stunning brunette—wondering who she is, or perhaps recognizing her as Latika from the acclaimed film, Slumdog Millionaire. Pinto doesn’t seem to notice. She’s telling me how much she’s looking forward to going home to Mumbai, where she lives with her parents and older sister, Sharon.
“My mum hasn’t seen me in four months,” the 24 year-old actress laments, speaking with a soft Indian accent washed with British overtones. “I promised her I would be home in time for Christmas.” (Pinto is Catholic.) “Since the Toronto Film Festival in September, I’ve lost count of how many interviews I’ve done. It’s been crazy. I have to get a new passport because mine has been stamped all over. I carry the same suitcase everywhere. Sometimes I don’t even unpack. I’ve been wearing the same clothes for two months now.”
Is that the dress you’ll be wearing on The Tonight Show? I ask. “Oh, no,” she says. “I’ll be wearing a very pretty pink cocktail dress by Marchesa.” Pinto has a stylist from Fox Searchlight Pictures (the film’s U.S. distributor) to help her with wardrobe selections and the procuring of dresses—just one of the perks of being a burgeoning star.
From the moment Slumdog Millionaire premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, audiences and critics have embraced it as an inspiring hit. The film critic Roger Ebert gushed that it was “breathless, exciting, heartbreaking and exhilarating at the same time.” Ebert predicted Slumdog Millionaire would win the Audience Award at Toronto and he was right. Since then, the film garnered dozens of top awards from industry groups. (At the time of this article, Academy Award nominations had not yet been announced, but the Oscars buzz surrounding the film had gotten deafening. This past Sunday, Slumdog Millionaire won multiple Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Song, and Best Score.)
Directed by Danny Boyle (with a co-director credit later going to the film’s casting director, Loveleen Tandan), Slumdog Millionaire is a love story shot against the backdrop of Mumbai’s sprawling slums and emerging high rises. British actor Dev Patel plays Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old boy who’s survived the slums to get a respectable, if menial, job serving tea at a call center. Unable to forget Latika, the orphan girl he loved as a child, he continues searching for her despite the obstacles of time, poverty and a menacing older brother. It is the hope that she will see him on television that drives Jamal to get onto the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” (Famed Indian actor, Anil Kapoor, is sublime as the smug, mocking game show host.)
When Jamal answers question after question correctly, bringing him closer to the jackpot of 20 million rupees, he is suspected of cheating. How can a boy from the slums know who is on the American $100 dollar bill? How can an uneducated slumdog correctly name the Indian poet who wrote the lyrics for a classic song?
The police torture and interrogate him. Only then does Jamal reveal the brutal and heartwrenching episodes from his childhood—shown in action-packed flashbacks—that have enabled him to know the answers.
Despite the film’s unflinching images of slum life, viewers hail Slumdog Millionaire as an inspiring rags-to-riches tale—about never giving up, triumphing over your circumstances, and the notion that some things in life are destined. Though Pinto appears briefly early on in the film—a vibrant image of a smiling young woman wearing a yellow blouse—we have to wait a long time to see her again.
Interestingly, the character of Latika did not exist in the Vikas Swarup novel, “Q & A,” from which the Slumdog Millionaire screenplay was adapted. Swarup, who is an Indian diplomat, sends me an email from Pretoria, where he is currently posted as India’s Deputy Ambassador to South Africa. “I think Danny Boyle and the cast and crew have done a superlative job,” he writes. “Freida is a very beautiful woman and she brings just the right amount of intensity to her character.”
“You meet me towards the end of the film, which is why I told Danny [Boyle] I didn’t understand when he told me I would join them for all the presswork. I said I’m barely in the film for twenty, twenty-five minutes at the most,” Pinto recalls. “And he’s like, ‘Freida, Latika’s importance in the film is her absence. If you could see her all the time, then Jamal wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble for you.’”
Her modesty seems genuine. When I tell Pinto that my South Asian friends think she looks like a regular Indian girl (albeit an extremely gorgeous one), rather than a Bollywood star, Pinto nods in agreement. “I think I look like the typical Indian girl,” she says. “There are so many pretty girls back in India. The most beautiful thing is they’re not even aware of it. That is the beauty of their beauty.”
What’s not typical is her name. “I am completely pure Indian,” Pinto insists. “But I come from a Catholic family, which is why we have more English sounding names. My mum loved the name Freida, so she named me Freida. And my surname is Pinto. I really don’t know which part of me is Portuguese because I’m pure Indian, but ages ago when the Portuguese came to India, there were a lot of conversions that took place, so my forefathers’ forefathers’ forefathers were probably Portuguese and Pinto is brought down from those generations.”
She agrees, too, that she doesn’t look like the typical Bollywood star. “I think I’m too thin for the Bollywood industry,” she admits, referring to the legendary Hindi-language film-making industry based in Mumbai. (She’s 5’5½” and weighs 48 kilograms—about 105 pounds.) “But, I’ve always been this thin.”
The future seems bright for Pinto. She’s signed with Hylda Queally, a talent agent at Creative Artists’ Agency, who represents Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, Marion Cotillard, Katie Holmes and a cadre of other A-list stars.
“I saw Slumdog Millionaire and thought it was amazing and a beautifully told story,” Queally says, speaking by telephone from her office in Los Angeles. “Freida was absolutely magnetic in it. It was an amazing first performance from an actor and the depth of emotions she showed. I don’t know her history, so my interest in her was purely from this film. I think she has a huge future.”
Does Queally predict that Pinto will be big? “I don’t have a crystal ball, but I hope she has a long career. I want her to work with the best talent and to put her in the hands of the best directors and provide her with the best opportunities.”
Pinto, meanwhile, continues to marvel at the turn of events. “I don’t think any of us expected anything. I don’t think any of us back then knew what was going to happen to the film, which is what makes it even more worthwhile when it comes to you as a surprise.”
She reveals she had only two expectations of herself. “I wasn’t thinking of recognition to be honest. I was just thinking, ‘I hope Danny Boyle is happy with my performance. I hope I am happy with my performance.’ That was all I was thinking about. I hope I gave it my best and I hope it shows on screen. When the affirmations and accolades come your way, it’s just people’s way of showing they appreciate you, and I’m just so grateful. And it’s so wonderful because you realize it’s that one quiet, honest film that everyone is loving.”
The first person that Sean Penn thanked last night during his acceptance speech for winning the Oscar for Best Actor for “Milk” was not his wife, Robin Wright Penn, but his “best friend, Sata Matsuzawa.”
Now, I ask you. Who is Sata Matsuzawa? I’ve Googled till my fingers bled, but could find no information on this person—presumed to be a man.
If anyone knows, can you please kindly send me a note?
Below is how Penn’s acceptance began. For the full text, go to the Oscars website.
Thank you. Thank you. You commie, homo-loving sons-of-guns. I did not expect this, but I, and I want it to be very clear, that I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me often. But I am touched by the appreciation and I hoped for it enough that I did want to scribble down, so I had the names in case you were commie, homo-loving sons-of-guns, and so I want to thank my best friend, Sata Matsuzawa. My circle of long-time support, Mara, Brian, Barry and Bob. The great Cleve Jones. Our wonderful writer, Lance Black. Producers Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks…
**UPDATE: No wonder I couldn’t find this person. The Oscars website had spelled the name wrong. (It still hasn’t been corrected.) The correct spelling is Sato Masuzawa. Thanks to Karin from Denmark who sent me a link to IMDb, which reveals that Sato is Sean Penn’s longtime assistant. Thanks to Digrasian for clarifying that Sato Masuzawa is a woman. (See new Asianista post, above.)
Freida Pinto looked dazzling at the Oscars on Sunday wearing a vibrant blue beaded gown by John Galliano and gorgeous, ancient diamonds mined from her native India.
We’re glad Ms. Pinto didn’t wear the dress the way it was shown on the runway.
File this under, “How cute are they???”
The Indian boys and girls who played the younger versions of Jamal and Latika–roles played by Dev Patel and Freida Pinto, respectively–in the critically acclaimed and smash hit movie Slumdog Millionaire looked adorable on the red carpet in their little gowns and tuxedos.
They charmed interviewers and audiences with their unbounded enthusiasm…