Profile of Amelia director Mira Nair
Name: Mira Nair
Born: 15 October 1957, Bhubaneshwar (India)
Background: After starting her career as an actress, Nair turned to directing award-winning documentaries, including So Far From India. She made her feature film debut in 1988 with the Oscar-nominated Salaam Bombay!, before finding further acclaim for directing Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury in the inter-racial love story Mississippi Masala. Since then, she has directed the Golden Globe nominated hit Monsoon Wedding, as well as an adaptation of the William Makepeace Thackeray classic Vanity Fair starring Reese Witherspoon.
What’s she up to now? Her new film is the biopic Amelia, which charts the attempt by legendary American pilot Amelia Earhart (played by Hilary Swank) to become the first pilot to fly around the world in 1937. The film also examines the love triangle that developed between Amelia, her husband George Putnam (Richard Gere) and her close friend Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor).
What she says about Earhart: ‘I immediately became intrigued by her because despite being an icon in her lifetime she had this consistent humility … an almost goofy humility that I find quite un-American. It seemed to say that all she really wanted to do was fly, rather than cut ribbons or get medals.’
On why Earhart became an icon: ‘She took chances and had a great style and flair while doing it. She really wanted to live beyond herself. She wanted to have meaning to more people beyond herself. When not flying … when on Earth she was a great activist, who lectured and went to the White House to ask for amendments to women’s rights. She engaged the world in a full-on way.’
On casting Ewan McGregor: ‘We [Hilary Swank and I] moved heaven and earth for him because he was making two other movies at the time. But we both really wanted him and so Hilary made it happen. They’re good friends. Hilary also chose me to direct, which I thought was great because she is someone who has the spirit of Amelia in the sense that she’s a daredevil.’
Interesting fact: Mira is currently preparing a Broadway version of Monsoon Wedding as well as a movie version of acclaimed novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
Amelia is out now on selected release.