Danny Boyle, known for his sidesplitting black humor and his eye for grittiness, is one of the most significant contemporary British filmmakers around. After getting his start on British TV in the early '90s, directing episodes of popular series including Inspector Morse, For the Greater Good, he made his feature film debut in 1994 with the BAFTA-winning Shallow Grave.
It wasn't until 1996, however, that he was thrown into the international spotlight on the strength of the cult classic film Trainspotting, a movie that it obvious that heroin is the worst thing in the world, and that Danny Boyle is one of the best. In the following decade, Boyle continued his success, helming a flurry of films, from sci-fi thrillers (Sunshine), to adventure dramas (The Beach), to straight zombie-horror flicks (28 Days Later).
Slumdog Millionaire, however, released in 2008, was a success unlike anything in Boyle's already decidedly successful catalogue. Slumdog launched the filmmaker into the cinematic stratosphere, ultimately landing him an Academy Award for Best Director.
Interestingly, though, in Boyle's repertoire, Slumdog is pretty much an anomaly. Sure it's gritty, and sure it has its darkly comedic moments. But at its core, it is a romance and a melodramatic one, at that.
Boyle hasn't been very prolific since Slumdog, but with him, it's always been quality over quantity. In 2010 he teamed up again with Slumdog screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and composer A.R. Rahman for 127 Hours, resulting in Academy Award nominations for the three of them. More recently, he helmed Steve Jobs, based on Walter Isaacson's biography of the Apple founder, and featuring a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin.
Simon Beaufoy already had a best original screenplay Academy Award nomination under his belt, (for the cult classic British comedy The Full Monty), by the time he first read a draft of Indian author Vikas Swarup's debut novel, Q&A.
Several months later, he found himself meandering through the slums of Mumbai, looking for inspiration. Before long he had adapted the novel into a screenplay, building a more elaborate narrative around the protagonist, Jamal, and most importantly, adding a central love interest: Latika. (Source)
Eventually British studio Celador took on the project. And based primarily on Beaufoy's credentials, particularly with regards to The Full Monty, Danny Boyle agreed to direct. Beaufoy's work on Slumdog ultimately won him the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay as well as the Golden Globe for best screenplay. (Source)
Beaufoy has continued to build on his Slumdog success, collaborating again with Boyle again in 2010 on 127 Hours. He followed up by contributing screenplays for 2011's Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, the second installment of The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire, in 2013, and the 2015 disaster film Everest.
When British production company Celador first approached director Danny Boyle with the script for Slumdog in 2006, the veteran director was skeptical. Boyle wasn't thrilled with the idea of making a movie about Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?—much less for the company who originally rose to prominence by producing the actual show. (Source) Before long, however, the strength of the script won out, and Boyle committed to the project.
The following summer, Celador's Christian Colson, with the backing of fellow British studio Film4 (which would go on to work with Boyle again in 2010's 127 Hours) reached out to U.S. distributor Warner Independent Pictures who ponied up for $5 million, enough to begin production. (Source)
Filming began in November 2007, but by May of the following year, Warner Independent had been folded into its parent studio, Warner Bros. Doubting the commercial appeal of Slumdog, Warner Bros. pushed for a straight to DVD release. (Source)
Fortunately for theatergoers in the U.S., Fox Searchlight, Fox's indie movie division (think Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, and Birdman) intervened, tapping the film for theatrical release. Sure enough, it worked out in their favor, becoming Searchlight's highest grossing film of all time… and definitely making millionaires out of the guys who made Millionaire.
The film was shot almost entirely on location in Mumbai, India… with a brief excursion to Agra for some exterior shots of the Taj Mahal. The Mumbai slum of Dharavi appears prominently in the film as the slum where most of the action takes place.
And Indian casting director and filmmaker Loveleen Tandan served as co-director on the project, responsible primarily for casting in India, and translating a lot of the dialogue into Hindi.
Aside from leading man Dev Patel (who's British), Tandan and director Danny Boyle cast almost entirely Indian actors—some extremely famous, including Bollywood superstar Anil Kapoor as game show host Prem Kumar, and some that were then-unknown, like Freida Pinto as Latika.
It's nearly impossible to separate the chaotic, vibrant action of Slumdog Millionaire from A.R. Rahman's propulsive, haunting soundtrack. Combining the percussion and rhythms of his native India with droning synths and distorted guitars, Rahman captures the sonic landscape of this rapidly globalizing country on the threshold of the 21st century.
Rahman's work on the film won him two Oscars, for Original Score as well as for Original Song, courtesy of the borderline too-catchy "Jai Ho."
Oh yeah, and in 2009, this composer/singer-songwriter/producer/philanthropist/all-around-rock star was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world. (Source)
Slumdog was an instant success upon hitting theaters in 2008, charming both critics and regular moviegoers alike with its uniqueness, charm, and heart. It was a commercial hit worldwide, ultimately powering the film to a Best Picture win at the Academy Awards. (Source)
Though the film has nothing of what you could call a "cult following," it remains extremely popular on a global scale today. And honestly, we think it should have a cult following: flash mobs in abandoned train stations, anyone?