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Last Updated 05.04.2020 | 4:31 PM IST
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“Aamir Khan said ‘no’ to my film” – Roger Spottiswoode


Ever thought what it would read like if I had to transcribe my interview with the director of Tomorrow Never Dies by taking the best lines from the same movie? Take a sneak peek: Roger Spottiswoode (RS) - Good Morning. What kind of havoc shall the Harrow Observer columnist and Bollywood Hungama's London correspondent create in the world today? Devansh Patel (DP) - The Mumbai Film Festival coverage, some bikini babes from Bond movies and an Indian Bond. RS: Outstanding! Did you know the distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success? DP: Well, I'm here to find out just that. RS: With all due respect, I don't think you have the balls for this job. DP: Perhaps. But the advantage is, I don't have to think with them all the time. RS: I hope not, but accidents do happen. DP: Oh yea? They frequently do with journalists like me. RS: Well, that takes care of the normal wear n tear. I also believe you have two things that belong to me. DP: I really don't have Michelle Yeoh and Teri Hatcher. You can check me. RS: You forgot the rule of mass media: Give people what they want. DP: I owe you a pleasant interview. That's what I can give. RS: I think we understand each other. It'll be a fun chat. DP: And they say journalists don't know how to have fun. My editor told me once: A key to a great story is not who, or what, or when, but why. RS: Why? It's time to Bond well, that's why. So press that magic button on your dictaphone. DP: You see, Mr Roger, I have a backup plan too. RS: No Mr Patel. Not Roger. My name is Spottiswoode, Roger Spottiswoode. You got that?

Devansh Patel: After seeing Tomorrow Never Dies, did anyone come up to you and say - Roger that?


Roger Spottiswoode: (laughs) Oh yes, they did. I'm sure they did.


DP: Is this your first visit to Mumbai and the festival?


RS: No, this isn't my first visit to Mumbai but to the festival, yes. This is my first time. I was in Stuttgart attending an Indian Film Festival when I received a kind invitation to attend the Mumbai Film Festival.

DP: What's the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Mumbai?


RS: It's definitely not the word Bollywood (laughs). But yes, I think for me, it's the India as a country that fascinates me. I've been to Mumbai before and I love Kerala. I haven't been to Delhi but would love to visit once. I'm also not a big fan of musicals.


DP: That means you aren't a fan of Baz Luhrmann.


RS: (laughs) He is a wonderful man and makes good films but I am just saying that I'm not a fan of musicals.

DP: So, which Bollywood movies have you seen and liked?


RS: I've seen Lagaan and I loved it. I met Aamir Khan last year and it was a terrific meeting.


DP: What did you like in Lagaan?

RS: It is inconceivable that you could propose to a financier or a studio or anyone, that you could make a film on issues, on maguffin (as Hitchcock called it the central plot) that deals with taxation. The idea is ludicrous and more when the idea can be solved by playing a game of cricket. Wow! That's bizarre. What's extraordinary is the fact that he ends up making a film that's political and entertaining. I mean the actor who played the role of the 'untouchable' ends up being a spin bowler and everyone touches him. Yes, it has songs but let's leave that aside (laughs). Lagaan deserved an Oscar.


DP: Why did you meet him?


RS: I was trying to make a movie on India's greatest mathematician - Ramanujan. I wanted to have Aamir Khan play Ramanujan but he declined my offer. I guess it was right for him to do so. It was Aamir who declined the offer and not me. He thought that he was too old to play the role of Ramanujan. But I knew that I'd do justice to the role if he had said a simple 'yes' (smiles).


DP: And who have you thought of now to play Ramanujan?

RS: South Indian actor Siddharth will now be playing Ramanujan. The movie is shot in Chennai and I am really excited with this film of mine. It's going to be a big one.


DP: Filmmakers in the West have always depicted a sorrow state of India in their movies. What would you like to see coming out of the emerging India?


RS: I don't think that's right. The West has never demeaned India in their movies. They've rather portrayed the human side of it. Nobody really feels that the flashy films about American affluence are real America. So why would one praise the flashy films of India? Why should India be an exception?


RS: But tell me, what are your favourite films?


DP: My favourite films are The Social Network, Frost Nixon and Body of Lies. These are the ones I can think of on top of my head.

RS: Aah! Interesting cut. You like Michael Sheen?


DP: Yes, he is one of my favourite British actors.


RS: Mine too. In fact, I might be offering Michael Sheen a part in one of my movies, and if he doesn't do it, I will not like it one bit.


DP: That's interesting. Roger, does Mumbai fascinate you for a backdrop of any of your future films? Like how Danny Boyle did it with Slumdog?

RS: The last couple of years have gone in preparing my film on Ramanujan that I'll be shooting in Chennai. I would love to if anything materialises in the near future though. Mumbai is very interesting.


DP: You are sitting right next to the sea side. Have you ever faced the Indian sea and shut your eyes and open them to see a gorgeous woman come out of the water in a bikini? That would make a James Bond moment, wouldn't it?


RS: (laughs) I've done my version. It's time for you to make another James Bond. Let's see what you can come up with. The next Bond film should be shot in India.


DP: How was your experience of working on Tomorrow Never Dies?

RS: It was mad, great, exciting, fun. I made it a bit different, not too much the same. We had all this money that we spent on the best crew from the world.


DP: And what about Pierce Brosnan?


RS: I think after Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan was the best Bond on screen. He was witty and he is a really nice man too. But I guess no one likes to see a humorous Bond, do they?


DP: What about Sean Connery?

RS: I love him too. He doesn't like to work now-a-days because he loves playing golf (laughs). But yes, I had something for him a while ago and I can't remember what it was. Yes, I'd love to work with him if some good offer comes by.


DP: Can Michael Sheen be a good Bond?


RS: I don't think he would like to do it. A Bond movie takes a year and a half of your time. It's hard work but it's not that interesting for an actor to do as of now.


DP: And what's the best thing that should come out of movies worldwide?

RS: I think somehow if we can help finance the independent movies, that'd be great. Yes, I love the internet but it has made it harder for everyone in the movie business. And between that and the Chinese, well, it makes life very difficult. I shot a movie in China but before my movie came out, it had already got 500,000 downloads. So you cannot get your money back. What's worse is that Chinese journalists find it all funny.


DP: What else is keeping you busy?


RS: Well, as of now it's the Mumbai Film Festival and then my documentary film that I shot with an Indian woman that's about Rwanda and Northern Ireland. The documentary is still untitled.


DP: And what about movies besides Ramanujan?


RS: I am also doing a movie called A Very Ordinary Man set in 1945-46 in Berlin. It's about this man, who is still alive aged 94, who spent the war with Hitler in the next room. He was his phone operator. He was captured by the Russians because they were not sure whether Hitler was dead or alive. He was tortured for twelve days after the war and then he was interrogated by a Jewish guy who didn't torture him for three days. The film is set about those three days.

DP: Ok, let's end this one is style, shall we? You favourite Bond actress. How many sleepless nights have you spent thinking about her?


RS: (laughs) It has to be Michelle from my film Tomorrow Never Dies. She is the gutsiest and the most terrific person you can imagine. She is funny and intelligent. If you tell her to jump of a twenty story building she will do it without a blink. She's got nerves of steel. She is smart. She is sexy. I said to her that if there was a female Bond on screen, it had to be her. Michelle Yeoh makes a perfect Bond. If it wasn't for Daniel Craig, it would be her (laughs).

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