We were in the red carpet for the New York Premiere of The Weinstein Company’s LION at MoMA.
Nicole Kidman (Saroo’s Adopted Mother), Dev Patel (Adult Saroo), Sunny Pawar (Young Saroo), Priyanka Bose (Saroo’s Birth Mom), Deepti Naval (Mrs. Sood), Saroo Brierley (film based on his personal memoir, A Long Way Home), John and Sue Brierley (Saroo’s real adopted parents), Luke Davies (Screenwriter), Iain Canning (producer,) Angie Fielder (producer), were all in attendance. Read our red carpet interviews below:
How did you come to the project?
Luke Davies: I had a prior friendship and working relationship with the producers. They came to me. It wasn’t a job offer it was an audition. It was like you can try. You can pitch for this film. I desperately wanted to get the job, so I read the book very quickly, wrote a story outline very quickly, and started having conversations with the producers and the director who was already on board Garth Davis, and I got the job.
They said congratulations you’ve got the job. Jump on a plane and go to India, Saroo is waiting their for you. He’s going to show around all the places where the real things happened. Meet the real people, meet his biological mother, and that’s the beginning of your research trip.
What was that experience like, and how much did it impact your rewrites?
Luke: It had a huge affect on my rewrites. I’d been to India only once before. This trip was very much an eyes wide open way of soaking up some of the raw chaos. India is an extraordinarily chaotic, beautifully chaotic country. That had a huge impact. You can can see it, I think, in the cinematography, and in the way that Garth places this little lost kid on these vast canvases. Hopefully it made it from my experience of research through to the page, and then up to the screen.
How is collaborating with Garth?
Luke: Garth is a kind of enlightened human being. Not just a great director, but a very beautiful person. I think everybody speaking for Dev, Nicole, everybody we all love Garth so much. We’re sorry he can’t be here. He’s in Italy shooting Mary Magdalene with Rooney Mara, and he can’t do all this stuff. I love working with Garth. He and I spent a week together with a white board and mapped out a whole lot of ideas. Then I went away into my cave and started writing the first draft. Then through the process we had a lot more contact.
Would you say that this was a different experience for you then most of your screen plays, a unique experience?
Luke: Yeah, absolutely a unique experience. This story is in many ways so pure and uncomplicated that it was a challenge in itself to give it a exhilarating cinematic structure without it feeling like it was tiny. It’s not tiny it’s massive. it’s about a guy who literally finds his mother from outer space. Outer space, needle in a haystack kind of story. We wanted to catch both the immensity of these two continents India and Australia, and the intimacy of this very perilous story.
Can you speak a little bit about how you got your start in screenplay writing?
Luke: I wrote a novel. I was a poet a novelist. I wrote a novel called Candy which had some success back in Australia. When there are people interested in the film rights I took that moment of opportunity to bargain, to negotiate a situation where it’s like I’ll sell you the film rights, but I have to write the first draft. I wanted a foot on a ladder to see if I could do that. Then it was no turning back after that. Then I wrote the second and the third draft. That film came out about 10 years ago. That was the third last film that Heath Ledger made before he died. It was a sad connection with that film.
We also spoke with Producers Iain Canning & Angie Fielder.
I know that you were on the ground in India. Can you speak about that experience of just being on the scene and what you loved about the story?
Angie: Shooting a film in India is really challenging but really, really fun. We’re doing lots of tricky stuff like filming on trains and things, but we had a great production services company, India Take One, who really helped us out a lot. It’s just so great being in a country like that. The energy is amazing. The story is such a beautiful story. Everybody wanted to work on it. The feeling on set was always really great. We were working with this gorgeous little actor Sunny Pawar who was amazing every day and kind of knocking it out of the park. It was just a really positive, lovely experience.
How did you discover Sunny?
Angie: We did a really big open casting search, so lots of kids who were non-actors. He worked really hard with Garth the director over a number of weeks competing against a lot of other kids, but he was kind of a stand-out from the start, really.
Speak about collaborating with Garth and what you admire about him?
Ian: He’s very unique. I think he’s a director who loves every single aspect of filmmaking. He loves the early mornings, he loves working with actors, he loves the challenge of having a young six-year old kid, and molding and bonding and getting a performance out of that child who was not an actor. He’s sort of worldly wise and also got a new soul. He’s sort of an interesting mix, Garth. It’s partly my fault he’s not here, because he is directing a film I’m producing at the moment in Italy. We’re all missing him, but he’s in every frame of the film, and he’s in every frame of the film because he’s got such a soulful energy. I know that the actors really enjoyed the process with him and the end result of the film as well.
Speak about collaborating with Nicole. She’s a wonderful actress.
Angie: Yeah. She’s incredible to work with. This is the first time that I had worked with her and it blew me away, actually. When she comes on set, everybody just raises their bar. She’s so hardworking, she’s so committed, she’s so in it. She just is a veteran of disguise. She just completely transforms into the character.
Did you learn anything about yourself while on this filming journey?
Ian: I think it’s really hard not to know the true story and listen real Sue and John talk about ttheir ethos, which is just do one good thing. Their two good things was extraordinary, which they adopted these two boys that needed love and care. I think maybe every day we’ve got to try and find one good thing to do.