London native Dev Patel, 18, and Mumbai-born model Freida Pinto, 24, have captured hearts the world over for their portrayal of Jamal and Latika, sweethearts whose love flourishes in the slums of India in Slumdog Millionaire.
As the two prepare for their date with Oscar on Feb. 22 (the film is nominated for 10 Academy Awards), here’s some inside scoop on the young stars of the movie sensation.
1. They have beginners’ luck
Patel and Pinto are movie newcomers; Slumdog is the first film for both. “It was actually the first film script I’ve ever read,” says Patel, who had starred in the U.K. TV series Skins. “My track record’s really spoiled now.”
2. They had different first impressions
“She’s absolutely stunning,” Patel thought when he first met his costar. But now he can dish about the real Freida (whom he calls a “wicked buddy”): “She’s super funny. In [public] she’s very gracious. But she’s quite the goof, she can poke fun at herself. And if someone dishes something out to her, she can give as good as she gets. She’s not shy.”
And Patel? “When I met him for the first time I was like, ‘Oh, my god, he’s a kid!’ ” Pinto recalls. “But I realized during the shooting of the film that as much as this boy is really funny and goofy, there’s this really mature, sensitive side to him as well.”
3. They have celebrity crushes
All the hoopla has brought Pinto face-to-face with her childhood crush, Leonardo DiCaprio. “In the eighth or ninth grade, I had a scrapbook with his face on it,” she admits. “I [recently] met him at the Palm Springs Film Festival. It was fantastic. It was a crush back then; now it’s just admiration for a fabulous actor.”
4. They have an Angelina connection
Irrfan Khan, the Indian megastar who plays the police inspector investigating Jamal’s game show success, costarred with Jolie in A Mighty Heart. Patel used the connection on a red carpet. “I was like, ‘Irrfan, make a beeline for Angelina! Tell her I want to say hi!’ And he did,” says Patel. “I didn’t say much. I was just more looking in awe at Angelina Jolie … I think she said ‘great film’ or something like that. It was a blur.”
5. They still haven’t chosen Oscar dates
Patel will probably take “my mum [Anita, an elder care worker]. She’s my good luck charm.” Pinto (who, like Patel, is single) is still deciding. “My mother [Sylvia, a school principal] can’t really take a break because it’s during board examinations.” Pinto may not know who will escort her, but she’s already prepping for the red-carpet walk. “I’m clumsy, so that’s when I have to breathe, control, and just walk as straight as possible.”