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 1,000 miles away from his home, lost at a train station in Calcutta.
Dev Patel, who broke through in 2008's Slumdog Millionaire, stars as an older Saroo, who gets adopted by a woman in Australia.
In a featurette for the film, director Garth Davis remembers when Patel first got involved in the project: "Dev got wind of this story early on, when we were still writing, and he pulls up at [screenwriter Luke Davies'] house in his car and walks right in and goes, 'Hi, I'm Dev!'"
An adult Brierley uses Google Earth to find his birth mother two decades after being separated from her.
"You have these two wonderful beacons: his Australian mother and his Indian mother. They were the two pillars of his life," says Patel. In Lion, the actor's onscreen adoptive mother is played by Nicole Kidman, and his Indian mother is played by Priyanka Bose.
Patel says that his mother was the reason he took the role in the Weinstein Co. production, for which he spent eight months preparing. "The greatest influence in my life has been my own mother, so when I read this, I knew I was gonna do this film for her."
Lion hits theaters on Nov. 25.