The rise and rise of Slumdog Millionaire

Matt Dickinson,Press Association
Monday 23 February 2009 08:01
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The eight Oscars for British movie hit Slumdog Millionaire, the rags-to-riches tale set in Mumbai, caps an unstoppable run through award ceremonies this year.

Directed by Danny Boyle, the film has already won seven Baftas and four Golden Globes as well as Critics' Choice and London Film Critics' Circle awards.

It went to the Oscars with 10 nominations, and was named by bookies as favourite in seven categories.

The film's Academy Awards, which included best film, best director and adapted screenplay, saw it overtake the performance of Shakespeare in Love, which won seven statuettes and was the last British film to bowl the Academy over.

The historical romantic drama, co-written by playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, won in 1999, including best actress for Gwyneth Paltrow - prompting one of the most famously emotional acceptance speeches in Oscar history.

Slumdog just failed to beat The English Patient, Anthony Minghella's Second World War romance, which won nine Academy Awards in 1997.

But Slumdog has arguably been a much bigger hit at the box office, taking more than £7 million in its first fortnight and £21 million so far.

Slumdog's centres around orphan Jamal Malik, a contestant on the Hindi version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, played by west London teenager Dev Patel.

Before Slumdog's success, Patel starred as sex-obsessed Anwar in teen drama Skins while finishing off his AS-levels.

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He is now one of Hollywood's hottest properties after being named the Critics' Choice Awards best young actor/actress for his Slumdog role.

But the 18-year-old from Harrow, north-west London, says he is still coming to terms with his star status.

"It's really surreal," he said, "I got off the plane at Heathrow and there were loads of paparazzi.

"I was like, 'Are you sure? Are you sure there's nobody better?"'

His mother Anita - who nagged him to go to the Skins audition - keeps his feet on the ground at home by insisting he makes his bed.

As a pupil at Whitmore High School, he earned full marks and an A* in his GCSE exam for his self-penned portrayal of a child in the Beslan school siege.

His drama teacher, Niamh Wright, said previously he was an impressive actor from an early age.

"Dev was a gifted student who quickly impressed me with his innate ability to communicate a wide variety of characters imaginatively and creatively," she said.

Slumdog's success at awards ceremonies has been matched by its performance at the box office - since opening on January 9 it has taken £21 million in the UK alone.

Tessa Ross, controller of Film4, which funded the movie, said the success showed there was a huge appetite for independent British cinema.

"We are over the moon that the Oscars have acknowledged and rewarded British independent film this year," she said.

"It is hugely important for the talent to see their work recognised internationally and is a great reassurance that it is worthwhile taking creative risks."

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