Freida Pinto is taking a stand against Hollywood’s relentless typecasting

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Sarah Shaffi
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“I’m 34 years old, I’ve worked for 11 years in this industry, I’m not desperate and I will never be desperate,” says the Love Sonia actress.

Friedo Pinto first rose to fame in 2008, when she played street child Latika opposite Dev Patel’s Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire. Now, 11 years later, she is back in cinemas with Love Sonia, a harrowing true story about sex trafficking and sisterhood, in which she plays a hardened and desperate sex worker.

However, Pinto’s roles have not always been so full of depth, as she revealed in an interview with the Guardian. Indeed, directors have often been so fixated on her appearance that “they couldn’t go past what they saw on the outside” to offer her a complex role. 

“That’s their problem, not mine,” said Pinto, “because I know what I can bring to the table as talent.”

Official 'Slumdog Millionaire' And 'The Wrestler' Post Oscar Party LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Actors Dev Patel, Freida Pinto and director Danny Boyle attend the Official 'Slumdog Millionaire' and 'The Wrestler' Post Oscar Party at ONE Sunset on February 22, 2009 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage)

Dev Patel, Freida Pinto and Danny Boyle at the Slumdog Millionare post Oscar party in 2009.

Citing Rise of the Planet of the Apes as a specific example of this typecasting, Pinto explained that, when she was offered her role as Dr Caroline Aranha, she accepted because she believed that she would be playing a clever primatologist.

Ultimately, though, she was disappointed with the role. 

“I felt completely undermined as the only female performer in the film who wasn’t given a task other than to be a primatologist in frickin’ high heels and follow the men around,” said Pinto. “Have you seen Jane Goodall wearing high heels and running on the Golden Gate Bridge? I don’t think so.”

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Pinto went on to add that she wishes she had been more assertive at the time, and recalled how she “spoke to one of the producers and asked why I was put in high heels because it didn’t make sense for my character… if she was so hands-on with animals, she needed freedom of movement and her body language needed to be different.”

Unfortunately, her request fell upon deaf ears and she was informed that her character had been based upon Megan Fox from Transformers. As such, there would be no costume change.

“I wish I’d been more confident in putting my case forward back then,” she said, “but I remember asking him what his reference was and I was told Megan Fox from Transformers and I was like – that is a completely different film.”

While Rise of the Planet of the Apes was disappointing, however, it is not the role that she most regrets taking. This dubious honour instead goes to Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, in which she played Dia, the subject of writer Roy’s (Josh Brolin) affections.

Pinto said Dia was nothing more “the muse, the ingenue”, leaving her little room for character building. And she told the Guardian she would never work with Allen, who has been accused of sexual assault by his daughter Dylan (he denies the allegation), again “because I’m in solidarity with women who have come out with their stories, whether they are proven or not.”

“I’m just going to stick to what my gut instinct tells me,” she added. “I’m 34 years old, I’ve worked for 11 years in this industry, I’m not desperate and I will never be desperate.”

Although she has valued working with actors such as Josh Brolin, Andy Serkis and more, Pinto’s experiences of typecasting led her to, at age 28 (she’s now 34), consider whether she really wanted to be an actress or if it was something she’d fallen into because of the success of Slumdog Millionaire

Thankfully, she has now found some meaty roles, including Jas Mitra in TV show Guerilla, about Britain’s black power movement, and the aforementioned Love Sonia.

Images: Getty


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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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