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Freida Pinto on life, love and movies

Freida Pinto tells Friday she relishes not knowing what's next in her stellar career and personal life

  • Freida Pinto
    Freida Pinto shot to fame after her role in the Oscar-winning 2008 movie Slumdog Millionaire.Image Credit: Reuters
  • Freida Pinto
    Freida and boyfriend Dev Patel like to keep it simple.Image Credit: Wenn

She's officially one of the world's ‘most beautiful people' and worked as a model before her award-winning acting debut in Slumdog Millionaire but Freida Pinto constantly worries about her looks. It's not her primatologist performance in the blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the Apes she's scrutinising or her on-screen demeanour as Grecian oracle priestess Phaedra in the fantasy-action drama Immortals currently showing in cinemas across the UAE.

No, India's hottest export is ultra critical of herself when she's talking on the internet with her other half, boyfriend, Dev Patel, who she met on the set of Slumdog four years ago. "I feel it's this pressure," admits Freida, 26. "He's seeing me after two weeks and I hope my hair is OK. It's just hideous. I think even the most beautiful person looks stupid on Skype."

Freida has no need to worry. She's one of the highest-paid Indian actresses, has Hollywood enthralled and has proved all the Bollywood directors, who rejected her, wrong.

"I guess the biggest struggle is getting your foot in the door," she says. "Once you get there then you have to be brave enough to embrace all the challenges that come your way and make it happen for yourself. But the biggest struggle is getting there in the first place and not having connections in any film industry whatsoever makes that very, very difficult," she adds. "I guess the one thing that keeps you going is the belief that it will happen."

The daughter of middle-class parents in Mumbai, now Freida often calls an aeroplane home as she travels the world between films.

She spoke exclusively to Friday about Immortals, her career, her love life and starring opposite Hollywood heavyweight Mickey Rourke and British actor Henry Cavill.

Why did you want to do the role of the oracle Phaedra in this big-budget film when to date you've had a pretty eclectic resume?

I've done three very good independent films [Slumdog Millionaire, You will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and Miral]. I had a lot of fun working on those. I wanted to try something different. I enjoy watching big-budget films and I'm completely enthralled and entertained by them. So why not be part of it? 

How does this role compare to other roles you have done?

Well I can't really compare this to Planet of the Apes but I can compare it to Slumdog Millionaire. What was amazing about Immortals is that [Indian director] Tarsem Singh had the first and the last word on everything in the film. That felt great because you enter a film as an actor knowing that your director is the captain of your ship.

It didn't feel like I was just going to be put next to a big green screen and would have to do everything from there. There were a lot of things that helped us as actors - having real cliffs and real shrines and all of that.

So this was actually my first big-budget film and going on to Rise of the Planet of the Apes was much easier after that. This was my bigger challenge and I've learned a whole new system of working. 

What kind of mindset do you have to get into in order to play a character like Phaedra?

As an actor, that's what you live for. You live to be in an imaginary world. If you're going to be playing yourself day in and day out it tends to get very boring after a while. When you're a kid and you read or you watch TV there's a lot of imagination that comes into play. It's the same thing with acting. It's going back into childhood to a time when your imagination had no barrier. You could just let yourself loose. So when I was asked to play the oracle priestess I felt like I was born to do that. 

What was it like working with Henry Cavill?

Inspirational. That's the best way to put it because he had a lot of things going on. There were so many things happening and the whole film rested on his well-chiselled shoulders. So I guess to work with someone like that, who had a lot going on but was also very giving as a performer, is rare and I was lucky to have that with Henry, especially on my first scene that Tarsem so beautifully crafted and put me in. 

Have you considered what it might be like to be able to see the future like your character in the film?

Now that I've played Phaedra, who has disturbing visions about the future, I think it wouldn't be the best ability to have because she knows what the future holds and can see how bad it's going to be. She can do nothing about it but continues to have visions. I'm not very sure I want that in my life. 

What was it like working with Tarsem?

I think it's very important for the director to have an infectious energy on set. He paces up and down, which can give you a headache sometimes, but he's constantly thinking. I found myself emulating his energy.

What's also great about him is that on big-budget films a lot of time actors miss out on what's happening technically on set. Tarsem has a habit - which is very good for actors - he says aloud what he's doing with the camera, where he's placing it. It automatically makes you understand what's expected of you. I think that extra information helps. 

Slumdog put you on the global map practically overnight - is it helpful to be in a relationship with someone from the movie that shot you to fame?

Only the two of us know what it felt like and even if I try to explain to, say, my closest friend, she wouldn't understand. I don't have to explain it to Dev because he already knows. So I guess it just makes it simpler. We have all these experiences that make us crack up at times and these really funny experiences like, ‘Remember that time?' and I'm like, ‘yeah, I do'. 

Why do you think that you've now been able to break out as a multicultural actress with different roles?

I think the timing has been right. The world is definitely getting smaller and people are realising that.

Do you think there are more interesting opportunities for you in Hollywood than there are in the Indian film industry?

I would like to say that the Indian film industry is catching up, so soon it is going to be on par and the opportunities are going to be intermingled anyway. In terms of technology, Hollywood is ahead, definitely ahead.

Your life is busy - how do you deal with that?

I travel too much. It's meant a lot of adjustments and it's difficult not having that feeling of being settled. It's hard but it's fun. 

How do you see the rise of an economy like India? Do you believe that it's easier than it was 20 years ago?

Definitely, it's definitely getting easier. I feel the reason why this change is happening is because we are realising that it is a global world. We're all coming together... And that is pretty much what New York looks like to me when I step outside or what London looks like to me when I'm walking around Leicester Square. 

What are you doing next?

I have no idea. 

Is that a good thing?

It's not a bad thing. Sometimes you need to have space in order to recharge your batteries and get back into it. That's what I've been doing. 

Immortals is in cinemas now.