It's been 10 years since Slumdog Millionaire arrived in theaters, and chances are you’ve still got “Jai Ho” stuck in your head. That’s ok. A.R. Rahman crafts incredible music, and his work on Danny Boyle's Best Picture winner is particularly catchy. Dance your heart out.
Yet Slumdog Millionaire almost never made it into our lives—at least not to the global extent that it eventually achieved. In one of filmdom’s most surprising journeys, a movie about an exploited Indian orphan winning a game show and taking on the mob to be with the woman he loves struggled to get traction with studios before sweeping the Academy Awards and winning millions of hearts.
Use a lifeline: Here are 10 facts about the buzzer-beating epic on its 10th anniversary.
1. THEY DIDN’T GET THE ACTUAL HOST OF KAUN BANEGA CROREPATI, BUT THEY DID GET A WINNER.
Danny Boyle originally wanted Shah Rukh Khan to play the part of the game show host Prem Kumar for obvious reasons. One, Khan is probably the most famous Indian actor of the modern era. Two, he hosted Kaun Banega Crorepati (India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?) for a season. He turned the production down, so they hired Anil Kapoor who, like Khan, had once been a contestant on the dramatic game show where he won 5 million rupees.
2. IT WAS ALMOST RELEASED STRAIGHT-TO-DVD.
Warner Bros. shut down Warner Independent Pictures, the arm set to distribute Slumdog Millionaire, just as the movie was wrapping production, and there was serious consideration about scrapping a theatrical release in favor of the far cheaper home video purgatory of straight-to-DVD. Fox Searchlight saved it from the bargain bin, and, look at that, it went on to make a ton of money and earn a lot of award hardware. In other words, the movie itself went from abandoned rags to Oscar riches.
3. THEY LEFT A CHOREOGRAPHER’S NAME OFF THE CREDITS SO HE GOT AN OSCAR SHOUT-OUT.
If you enjoyed the end credits “Jai Ho” dance performance, you’ve got Longiness Fernandes to thank. You wouldn’t be blamed for not knowing that, though, because his name isn’t in the credits over which his dance routine plays out. To make up for the oversight, Boyle apologized and thanked Fernandes during his Oscar acceptance speech for Best Director.
4. IT WAS THE FIRST BEST PICTURE WINNER SHOT MOSTLY ON DIGITAL.
Boyle and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle filmed some of the movie on 35mm, but a large portion of it was shot digitally in order to capture the raw immediacy and intimacy of the slums. Mantle and Boyle were both early adopters of digital camera technology, pushing it into the mainstream with zombie film 28 Days Later. It was also the first Best Picture winner since 1928 not to be shot on Kodak film (they used Fuji) and the first Best Picture winner to be sold as non-physical media to fans. A digital copy was included with DVD purchases.
5. COKE AND MERCEDES-BENZ WANTED THEIR LOGOS REMOVED FROM THE FILM.
Getting permission to use brands in your movie can be a tricky proposition, especially when you’re associating global powerhouses with poverty and abuse. Boyle said that Coke refused to give permission for their logo to be used in a scene where a conman is clearly using Coke to lure boys away to lives of exploitation (Coke denies the production ever reached out). Mercedes-Benz, according to Boyle, was happy to see their product next to a mansion, but not “driving ‘round the slum!"
6. IT SHARES AWARD SWEEPS AND TOILET SCENES IN COMMON WITH SCHINDLER’S LIST.
As of 2017, Slumdog Millionaire and Schindler’s List are the only two movies to ever win Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, and BAFTA Awards. They also both include sequences where a child drops into the waste of a pit toilet, so maybe we’ve found the key to dominating awards season.
7. IT WAS ON THE 2007 BLACK LIST.
Unlike the Hollywood Blacklist of the 1940s, the modern-day Black List—curated by Franklin Leonard—highlights the best-loved screenplays among studio and production executives that have yet to be produced. Simon Beaufoy’s script for Slumdog Millionaire was included in the 2007 version of the list alongside The Book of Eli, The Wolf of Wall Street, Selma, and many other notable films.
8. THE STORY EMERGED FROM THE “HOLE IN THE WALL" EXPERIMENTS.
Slumdog Millionaire was adapted from Vikas Swarup’s 2005 novel Q & A, which was inspired by Sugata Mitra’s social experiment involving an internet-connected computer and a group of children living in a slum teaching themselves how to use it.
“That got me fascinated, and I realized that there’s an innate ability in everyone to do something extraordinary, provided they are given an opportunity,” Swarup said. Mitra joked with Swarup that the movie’s title should have been Slumdog Nobel Laureate.
9. IT WAS NOMINATED FOR 10 OSCARS, BUT NONE OF THEM WERE FOR ACTING.
The soaring romance and thrilling interrogation drama that relies so heavily on the charisma and connectivity of its cast didn’t get a single acting nomination despite its otherwise dominance of the Oscars. Following An American in Paris, Braveheart, and others, it became the 11th movie to win Best Picture without garnering a single acting nomination.
10. THE OPERA JAMAL AND SALIM WATCH MIRRORS THE MOVIE’S ROMANTIC SUBPLOT.
Young Jamal and Salim spy a portion of Orfeo ed Euridice from under the bleachers at the Taj Mahal. The opera is based on the Greek myth of Orpheus, who journeys into the underworld to save his wife after she dies, propelled by an undying love. Its inclusion is a nod to the script’s similarities regarding Jamal’s (Dev Patel) quest to save Latika (Freida Pinto) from different gangland—or “underworld”—elements.