Go get those Award Season bait roles, Dev Patel!
In 2008, two relatively unknown actors starred in Danny Boyle’s award-winning Slumdog Millionaire, which also turned into a surprise blockbuster that year and throughout a chunk of 2009 (making over $375M USD worldwide with a $15M USD budget) for its ‘gritty’ feel-good quality. Patel and Freida Pinto had two completely different career paths~ one went off to a Woody Allen film (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger), the other ended up as the bad guy in M. Night Shyamalan’s much-reviled live-action adaptation of Avatar, The Last Airbender.
Pinto went on to star in a number of big budget Hollywood flicks (Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Immortals), while acting in some smaller indie/arthouse films (Miral, Trishna, Desert Dancer), eventually landing in Terrence Malick’s hands for Knight of Cups.
Dev Patel gave us the crowd-pleasing Brit dramedy about old age, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (and subsequently in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). In between? He was part of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, and finally landed Chappie. And The Man Who Knew Infinity. And now Lion.
Lion is based on A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley (played by Patel on the film), a non-fiction book that he wrote on his experience of being separated from his birth mother in Madhya Pradesh, India, as a 5-year-old and his adoption by a family in Australia. Having forgotten about his early life in India, he took to Google Earth to trace back on the few memories he had left until he found the Burhanpur train station that led him to a town called Khandwa.
The film also has a great supporting cast, starting with Nicole Kidman who plays Saroo’s adoptive mother, David Wenham, Rooney Mara, as well as Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tannishtha Chatterjee — who will likely play Saroo’s blood-siblings when they meet up — and Priyanka Bose, who seems to play Saroo’s birth mother.
The biggest indication that this will probably play hard during the award season months is that Lion will premiere at this year’s edition of the Toronto Film Festival on September 10, followed by a November 25th release in the United States and Canada, pushed by Harvey Weinstein.