ReelzChannel sat down recently with Simon Beaufoy to talk about creating the script for Slumdog Millionaire from Q & A: A Novel, Vikas Swarup's fictional look at a poor orphan without any schooling who manages to make it to the final round of India's biggest quiz show.
Reelzchannel: Why do you think this movie is catching on with people?
Beaufoy: Do you know, I think this is a film about hope and overcoming the impossible. That's kind of the flavor of the movie. I think we need a film about hope, and I think maybe that is what people are responding to. There's lots of other things in it. It's in this extraordinary country, and this extraordinary city, Bombay, and it's kind of a big, operatic love story. But overall it's an incredibly optimistic story. The underdog who overcomes everything to get the love of his life, and that's very simple, and kind of sentimental, romantic. But I think we need that. We need, right now, something about hope.
RC: True. What did the director or actors add to the script that surprised, or didn't surprise, you?
Beaufoy: Danny [Boyle] is a director who loves "shooting the script." He'll say he doesn't really like improvisation; he loves shooting the script. And what was wonderful to me was that no matter how hard things got, no matter how much the producers said, "Do you know what? We can't do the train sequence. We haven't the money for it. We haven't the time. [We're] running out of everything." He'll go look at the script [and say], "Your notes say that here. It says train. We're doing the train." And he shot everything in my script. Then he got into an edit room, and the fluidity he flows with the past to present is really fantastic. You don't feel like they're flashbacks. He's got this immense way with time. His films are so kinetic.
RC: How difficult was it to build lightheartedness into a movie that has some very heavy scenes? You managed to do it.
Beaufoy: I think it's essential. When ever things get really bad, I think you should have some humor. I think that's the human default. I think there comes a point where things are so bad that you just have to laugh, and I love that in films. I love putting those two things together. Comedy and tragedy. I think the funny bits make the sad bits sadder and the sad bits make the comedy better. The two play off each other. That kind of switching of tone to me is very interesting, and it's very like life, as far as I'm concerned.
RC: Tell me the process of getting the book and how you made out what you though it should be.
Beaufoy: Well, the book, Q & A by Vikas Swarup, has this initial concept of the "slumdog" who gets on the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? But it's effectively a series of short stories that don't link up a lot. So, I had to go to Bombay and rediscover a whole life story for this character, really. I invented Latika -- invented a lover for him that he loses, and loses again. I had to build a whole new world for the characters while keeping this very seductive core of it -- that you've got this guy on a game show, and the money is doubling each time, and he keeps getting more into it. So, I kept that from the book, but pretty much reinvented everything around it.