Sunny Pawar, in case you have not yet seen this movie, is "Lion"'s secret weapon. Pint-sized and precocious, Pawar, now eight, was six when he inhabited the role of Saroo as a young boy separated from his mother in a remote area of India. When he began his acting career starring in this movie, he did not know English, but this week at a special screening of the film and dinner at The Monkey Bar, he was happy to talk about "Lion," how director Garth Davis cast him, selecting from 2000 boys, and his next movie, "Love, Sonia" co-starring Demi Moore. In short, and no pun intended, he's a natural with a big career ahead of him. I can still hear his whiskey voice.
Dev Patel plays Saroo Brierley all grown up in Australia. It's a stretch because the boy is so tiny, you have to believe he becomes the tall-drink-of-water, lanky Patel, who told the story of how he worked to get this part, to overcome the opinion: "Yeah, he's the Slumdog dude. We don't want him. I get offers to play the best friend or the tech geek." Needless to say, anguished as Saroo in his desire to find his birth mother, his performance is superb: sexy and vulnerable. A red jellied cookie acts as Proust's madeleine unlocking a previous life. Patel said, "This is a memory piece."
Nicole Kidman plays Saroo's adoptive mother Sue Brierley: no flash or glamor, just a humble, deeply heart-felt performance, a mom being another mom. On a panel moderated by Tina Brown, Nicole Kidman, said she took the role of Sue on the condition that she would have access to his remarkable woman who was willing to raise Saroo, and a more challenging Indian boy, so damaged he would always be plagued with mental issues. Sue and I are now friends, said Kidman. Co-host of this special evening, UNICEF's Caryl M. Stern widened the context relaying unsettling statistics: about five million children are "on the move" worldwide.
Harvey Weinstein, Gay Talese, Gina Gershon, Gayle King, Celia Weston, and Lois Smith were among the guests who stayed late schmoozing about this movie and its prospects at the Golden Globes this weekend. Among other nominations, "Lion" is up for Best Picture (Drama), Best Supporting Actress for Kidman, and Best Supporting Actor for Patel. Nicole Kidman praised Dev's power as a leading man. We agreed he had that sex appeal. Would someone please offer him the role!
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.