By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — Danny Boyle, who won the Academy Award for best director for his helming of the multiple-Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire,” has a knack for revealing to audiences the good in his movies’ lead characters.
Not that it has been easy to get his films to audiences.
The original U.S. distributor for “Slumdog” closed up shop before the movie was originally set to hit U.S. screens. There was talk about a direct-to-video release of the movie, but Fox Searchlight and Warner Bros. teamed up to distribute the film.
As of Feb. 23 it had been in the top 10 of domestic box office receipts 15 weeks in a row, and its eight Oscar wins, including best picture, were sure to shoot it past $100 million in U.S. gross ticket sales before the end of February.
Four years ago Boyle did a film called “Millions,” and he had a similarly hard time getting a distributor.
Set at Christmas, it was supposed to premiere in December 2004 in Boyle’s native England — until exhibitors chose the same date to debut three American movies, all with Christmas themes: “The Polar Express,” “Christmas With the Kranks” and “Surviving Christmas.” So “Millions” debuted in the States in March 2005 and in England that June.
“Millions” was a fable about a Catholic boy with a precocious fascination about the saints who finds a suitcase full of money and tries to make sense of this apparent great gift to him. While the boy’s older brother would prefer making some prudent investments along with the occasional splurge, the boy wants to give it to poor people since he believes the cash was a gift from God.
“Slumdog Millionaire” tells the story of a slum-dwelling Indian lad who is suspected of cheating once he hits it big on Indian television’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
“As the portrait of a man who encounters evil in many forms yet remains fundamentally innocent, and who gains wisdom from all he endures, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ is an exhilarating celebration of humane values,” wrote John Mulderig, of the U.S. bishops’ Office for Film & Broadcasting, in a review in November.
Boyle, in a 2005 interview with Catholic News Service, said even in his films with more severe themes there are moments of tenderness.
In the harrowing 1996 drug drama “Trainspotting,” the main character, once a heroin addict, has escaped the drug subculture, and the dying junkie friend to whom he loans money understands his transformation.
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