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Posts Tagged ‘Oscars

Asians at the Academy Awards — Oscars Red Carpet 2010

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Well, unlike last year’s Oscars when we saw two Asians take the stage to accept their Academy Awards, this year, the only Asians we saw at the Oscars were on the red carpet on the arms of their partners.

There was Jason Reitman (nominated for Best Director for Up in the Air) and his wife, Michele Lee:

82nd Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
Woody Harrelson (nominated for Best Supporting Actor for The Messenger) and his wife Laura Louie:
Photo by: RE/Westcom/ 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 3/7/10 Woody Harrelson and wi
George Takei (from the original Star Trek television series and his partner Brad Altman:
Photo by: RE/Westcom/ 2010 3/7/10 George Takei and Brad Altman at the 82nd
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch and wife, Wendy Deng:
82nd Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention hapa hottie, Keanu Reeves, who is partly Chinese:
82nd Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals

Freida Pinto’s intimate interview: marriage, dating, and the future

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Freida Pinto appears on the Feb/March issue of Audrey Magazine.

Freida Pinto appears on the Feb/March issue of Audrey Magazine.

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.”

Written by Asianista

February 24, 2009 at 10:37 am