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Freida Pinto: I wonder if I'll get another film

Last updated on: November 11, 2011 15:11 IST

'I wonder if I'll get another film'

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Arthur J Pais in New York

Freida Pinto has been featured in a huge hit, Rise Of The Planet Of Apes, which is headed for an awesome $500 million worldwide. The movie, which is still running in some American and European movie houses, is the number one Hollywood hit in recent weeks in Japan and China.

When told that she is one of the most enviable artists who would be able to reach $1 billion worldwide box office collections in just about three years, she said: "I have not really been following the numbers. I have been concentrating on my performances."

For Freida, who stars in director Tarsem Singh's Immortals, reaching the $1 billion landmark is an excellent possibility -- her films in three years -- Slumdog Millionaire, Miral, Planet... and You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger -- have grossed over $870 million worldwide. 

She is not yet a Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock at the height of their popularity, but Freida surely is an A-list artist wanted by top filmmakers in Europe and America. Her fifth film, Black Gold, premiered recently in Qatar. Made for $50 million -- very high for an Arabic film -- by a quasi-government agency in Qatar, it features her as an Arab princess opposite a number of well known artists including Antonio Banderas.

"I have played an Arab woman twice," Mumbai raised Freida says, referring to the controversial Palestinian drama Miral directed by Julian Schnabel, an American (Oscar nominated for The Diving Bell And The Butterfly). Freida got solid reviews for her work in Miral.

Soon the verdict will be out on her work as Phaedra, the Greek Oracle who predicts the future but is worried that she cannot change things, in Immortals.


Image: A scene from Immortals

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'I will never abandon small, independent films'

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Sought by the evil dictator Hyperion as a means to find the bow that would make him even more powerful, she hides in plain sight as a slave in his encampment. She has already captured the heart of the rebel Theseus (Henry Cavill), who is fighting to save fellow Greeks from the annihilating forces of Hyperion. She is conscious of her role in helping to guide him to his destiny and victory over evil.

Theseus has several other companions on his journey, including an unsavory character named Stavros (Stephen Dorff), and a monk who protects Phaedra. Phaedra, who has lived all of her young life in the company of her fellow priestesses, is suddenly thrust into a big world of treachery and violence. Though she also comes across the noble Theseus, she is disturbed by her visions. They may come true but they are also ambiguous.  

"It's a very disturbing experience for her," Freida explains, "because she doesn't know exactly what will happen. She first sees Theseus in a vision, but she doesn't know who this person is. He is holding the emperor's belt, which means he could be the savior. But she doesn't completely trust him, because she doesn't know what the vision really means. It's only as things progress that she begins to believe he is going to save the people."

The film, made for $75 million, was going to be her first big-budget film but Planet... ($90 million), hit the screen first. 

"I was drawn to the film (Immortals) for a number of reasons," she says, talking from Los Angeles where she is promoting the film. "Having worked in three small films independent by nature, I thought it was time for a game change. Even then,  I also knew that I will never abandon smaller and independent films. There were a couple of big films on the horizon but I did not want to rush and regret having acted in a big but bad film  "


Image: A scene from Immortals

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'It took me less than 10 minutes to accept the part'

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When director Tarsem narrated to her the outline for Immortals, it took her less than 10 minutes to accept the part. 

"Everyone knows that Tarsem is a visual director," she says, "but it became apparent from his narration that while he handled all the complex technical details, the soul of the film would be intact."

Tarsem had everything planned in his head, Freida says. "He also told me he did  not want any of the gimmicky stuff, the eyes-rolling-out kind of an oracle. He gave my character a very human touch. He told me that I had to have a Zen look on my face. He also said, I don't want to show the expressions on the face but internalize the emotions and show the intensity in the eyes."  

In the Immortals production notes, she calls Tarsem 'one of the most encouraging directors you will ever meet... Working on a big-budget project like this, time is literally money, but he was always patient and open to suggestions.'

Producer Mark Canton, whose hits include 300, had spotted Freida soon after she made her film debut in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, a huge worldwide box-office hit that earned over $360 million. 'It was time for her to step up and be a real movie star,' he says in the production notes. 'She's phenomenal looking. She's very dedicated and a real professional. She felt like the most natural part of the movie for us. There was no question that we wanted Freida Pinto.' 

Co-producer Gianni Nunnari agrees: 'There are certain actors or actresses that grow within the time of the shooting and that was Freida.' 


Image: A scene from Immortals

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'Tarsem is a visual director'

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Though he had not seen Slumdog Millionaire when she signed her, Tarsem admits that her striking beauty and otherworldly air won him over. 

"Phaedra needed to be exotic compared to most of the people in her world," says Tarsem. "People might expect that because it's a Greek film, she would be Greek, but that's not what I envisioned. When I met Freida I just said, she's it." 

Freida adds: "Thirty or forty years ago it would have been nearly unthinkable to see so many interesting parts for people of different ethnic backgrounds written in Hollywood and in Britain. I don't think I would have succeeded in those times. It surely has to do with the shrinking world, the globalization is bringing people closer. You see a London or Paris or a New York street, and you will easily find people from across the globe, and they seem to belong to the landscape."

Unless an artist is able to get under the skin of a particular character, casting agents and directors will not consider them for a variety of ethnic roles, she adds.

"When I began traveling outside India when I was about 20 (for modeling work and shooting television films), I did not go to different countries just as a tourist," says the 26-year-old actress. "I also studied the local culture and got to see how people lived. I do similar research while preparing for a movie role."

She also had to learn how to blend with the local people. "Otherwise, you will stick out like a sore thumb," she adds. "Travelling always is a nourishing experience to me."

She says she went out of her way to make sure she would play the role of a wronged woman in the soon to be released Trishna, a British film made by Michael Winterbottom, which in a way is her full-length Indian role.

The director, Freida says, challenged her to know different dialects of the Marwari language for Trishna which is set to be big extent in Rajasthan.

"I also had to improve my Hindi," she says. "Though I grew up in Bombay and I know Hindi, I did not use the language widely. Certainly at home we spoke more English than any other language."

It  was also most important that she learned the body language of Rajasthani women.


Image: A scene from Immortals

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'It was time for a game change'

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Winterbottom had her spend hours with a family that also appears in the film. 

"My visits to the family and their involvement in the film were all planned in such a way the family's routine was not disturbed," Freida explains. "There were many times we had to be there early in the morning because the family members had to go to work and the children had to be in the school." 

Another big challenge was to play the character of Trishna, who is outwardly very passive. "There are times she feels she has conquered her problems and she is almost there and yet she isn't there, she faces new obstacles and betrayals. I had to internalize many things for this role. And it was not easy at all, considering that I had to rein in my aggressions. I am an outspoken woman from Mumbai, and Trishna is totally opposite of what I am."

Does she have any fears in her acting career?

"I still have the same fears I had right at the start," she replies. "As Slumdog Millionaire was ready for release , I wondered if that was the end and if I was going to another film. When I look back, everything still looks surreal. When Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscars and became a big hit worldwide, I wasn't sure I would still be able to get roles."

At the end of every project, she says, she wonders if she will get another film. "I believe many artists go through such thoughts and anxiety, even the ones who are very well established. And when I think that I am not the only one who feels that way, that keeps me going."

What is some of the best advice she has taken from her directors? "Woody Allen (who directed her in Tall Dark Stranger) told me when a director says 'action', people start acting. I don't like it, he said. People should get a sense of the characters they are playing and get under the skin of those characters."


Image: A scene from Immortals

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