Indian-born actress Freida Pinto was plucked from obscurity and thrust into the spotlight, thanks to the mega successful Slumdog Millionaire. This month, she makes her follow-up big-screen appearance in Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.
Few directors can better harness the hidden talents of a stunning young actress than Woody Allen. Once upon a time, he helped shape the careers of Hollywood heavy hitters such as Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow, Mira Sorvino and Scarlett Johansson. His latest prize: Freida Pinto, the 25-year-old former glamour model from Mumbai, India, whose first and only movie until now was 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire.
“She’s very sweet, very elegant, very well brought up, and, of course, she’s beautiful,” enthuses Allen, who cast her in his latest romantic romp, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. “But she also has a sympathetic soul.”
Pinto herself has become quite used to understating the obvious when it comes to her oft-praised looks. “I never thought of myself as a pretty face,” she says in lightly accented English. “I don’t think I’m … unfortunate looking.” She’s quick to insist, however, that nobody’s perfect: “I have big feet.”
Born to a banking executive and a high school principal seven years after the release of Annie Hall, Pinto attended an all-girls Catholic school before going to Mumbai’s St. Xavier’s College, where she studied Allen’s plays (“something with ‘death’ in the title,” she recalls) as an English-literature major. She also caught Allen’s more recent films, like Match Point, while she was still living in India.
Allen recalls Pinto’s assuredness on set: “She did her own thing, even choosing her own character’s name after rejecting a few I gave her,” he says. (In the script, Pinto’s character was named Lalita, but finding it too close to her Slumdog character’s name — Latika — she decided on Dia, which means “light” in Hindi.)
Though she’s reluctant to reveal details about her love life, it’s well documented that she and her Slumdog co-star Dev Patel have long been an item. (“Dev’s great!” is all she allows during her interview with American Way; later that day, the couple were spotted on a romantic walk in the rain.) She is eager, however, to quash one wildly rampant Internet rumor: that she’s set to become the next James Bond girl. “It’s very flattering,” she says. “[But] I honestly know nothing about it.”
Just because Bond hasn’t come calling doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of work in her future — even with a big-budget franchise like 007. She’s currently filming Rise of the Apes, a Planet of the Apes prequel co-starring James Franco that’s set for release next year. And Allen says another collaboration with the exotic beauty isn’t out of the question. Asked if he’d consider reuniting with her for, say, a big Bollywood-style musical, he was at least halfway enthusiastic. “Reteaming, yes,” he replies. “Bollywood, unlikely.”
Slumdog Success Stories
< Danny Boyle (Director)
After a brilliant debut with the Hitchcock-style Shallow Grave and the anti-heroin Trainspotting, the British director made some flops before Slumdog put him back on top. Next up is 127 Hours, the true story of a rock climber forced to amputate his own arm after being trapped under a boulder in Utah.
< Dev Patel (Jamal Malik)
Slumdog’s star appeared as Zuko, prince of the Fire Nation, in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender and is also being eyed to appear in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a film adaptation of the British novel These Foolish Things, about an old-age home in Bangalore.
< Anil Kapoor (Prem Kapur)
The Indian star who played the host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire made a brief Hollywood sojourn to appear on 24 before returning home to reprise his role in a sequel to 2008’s Bollywood hit Race. He also bought remake rights to the popular kids film Freaky Friday; his daughter Sonam will star in the reproduction.
< Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail,
< Rubina Ali (Children)
One of Slumdog’s youngest stars, Rubina Ali, cooperated with a recent “autobiography” written about her life. Both Ismail and Ali made blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos in a little-seen Bollywood feature, and they’re currently being considered for more substantial roles in an upcoming film starring Tall Dark Stranger’s Anthony Hopkins.