Actor Dev Patel fully committed himself to his role in Garth Davis' Lion.
"I called my manager straight after I walked out of the audition and told him that if I get it, don't send me anything for the next eight months. Don't distract me with any other work or audition," said Patel during a Q&A that followed a screening of the film at the Academy's Linwood Dunn theater.
Lion, which is already receiving awards buzz, tells the true story of Saroo Brierley, a young Indian boy who gets separated from his brother and mother when he ends up 1,600 kilometers away from his home, lost at a train station in Calcutta. After getting adopted by a family in Australia, and two decades later, Brierley uses Google Earth to find his his long-lost family.
Newcomer Sunny Pawar, who was cast from a group of over 2,000 boys, plays the young Saroo, while Patel stars his twenty-something counterpart.
"Journeys like this don't come around very often for someone who looks like I do," said Patel, who is of Indian descent.
Patel auditioned for the role several times, including a Skype session from a bathroom and a six-hour-long audition process, in which Davis asked him to roar like a lion.
"After the audition, [Davis] said 'If we decide to go with you. I really want you to change,'" Patel said to laughter. "He said he wanted to see a Dev Patel that no one has ever seen before." The English actor took the note to heart and went to the gym, bulking up for the role, and grew out his hair and beard in order to transform himself. "I become a man, really," he joked.
Read more: 'Lion': Film Review | TIFF 2016
In the The Hollywood Reporter's Toronto review of the film, critic David Rooney wrote that Patel gives "arguably his most nuanced and heartfelt screen work" in Lion.
Also on hand at the Q&A were co-stars Nicole Kidman and Priyanka Bose, screenwriter Luke Davis, producer Iain Canning and co-composer Dustin O'Halloran. Also at the Saturday-evening screening was the real Saroo Brierley, who published his best-selling memoir A Long Way Home in 2013.
Throughout the entire process of publishing the book and the production of the movie, Brierley has opted to live with his parents, again. He said: "We got so much going on at the moment, my thoughts are that we need to stick together. I wanted to diffuse our situation."
"I think the thing that I really wanted, along with my family, is that the film came out the way it had been in reality," added Brierley, who first saw the film by himself in Sydney.
The three-year-long journey to bring his life story to the big screen will come to an end on Nov. 25, when Lion hits theaters. Brierley concluded: "Even though it was the wrong train it sort of took me to the right station."