Freida Pinto must have a very strong head on her shoulders to keep it from spinning off. Just months ago she was the star of a film destined to go straight-to-video. Now Slumdog Millionaire is an irresistible Oscar-winner and Pinto is the fresh face of the Third World. The 24-year-old unknown, formerly a Mumbai model who didn’t even start taking acting lessons until Millionaire wrapped, also has her pick of projects. Even stranger: she appears to be making smart choices.
Variety has broken the news that Pinto has signed on to appear in Julien Schnabel’s follow-up to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Miral could be a movie that causes a lot of trouble. It’s the story of a Jerusalem orphanage which witnessed the tremendous upheaval in Palestine following the establishment of Israel in the 1940s. Pinto stars alongside Hiam Abbas, who will play Hind Husseini.
A Jerusalem socialite, Husseini literally took in 50 refugees from the 1948 Deir Yassin massacre. She turned her home into the “Dar Al-Tifl” or Child’s Home. What started as a two-room creche turned into a complex in East Jerusalem that includes a school and museum of Palestinian art and folklore. Husseini’s example was all the more defiant considering the region’s emphasis on family and ancestry. She empowered her kids by reminding them, “The prophet Mohammad was an orphan; Jesus was raised by his mother only. Weren’t they respectable?”
Schnabel‘s previous work has shown off his skill at present biography in a purely sensual way. Before Night Falls, for instance, does a remarkable job of recapturing the sights, smells and sounds of Cuba during the time Castro came to power. He is a rare filmmaker who doesn’t stint on interiority, either, as witnessed by his Oscar-nominated Diving Bell. So there’s every reason to be excited about this project.
Pinto is also in the next Woody Allen film. Woody Allen being Woody Allen, very little is known about the London-set project, which also stars Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and Naomi Watts. Okay, Pinto is probably just there to give Allen somebody to ogle at through the camera lens. But really, can you blame him?
The only thing we can’t excited about is the rumors linking Pinto to the next Bond movie (along with every other actress in town). Sure, it’s prestige of a sort. But Bond is notorious for blowing his nose on actresses and then tossing them away. (Anybody heard from Maud Adams lately?) But if the Bond producers are looking for a little South Asian flavor, maybe they should look at other Bollywood beauties like Kajol or Aishwarya Rai or even the divine Rani Mukherjee–all of whom will probably be happy to take the rupees and run.
Can Pinto play it cool and be the next art-house pin-up? Who will be the next crossover star from Mumbai? Let us know what you think in the comments box.
Tags: Aishwarya Rai, Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas, Before Night Falls, Freida Pinto, Hiam Abbas, James Bond, Josh Brolin, Julien Schnabel, Kajol, Maud Adams, Miral, Naomi Watts, Rani Mukherjee, Slumdog Millionaire, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Woody Allen