How did you manage to grab such a good role for your first ever film?
"It was an open casting call. So my manager told me about it and I was like 'get out of here, there's no way Danny Boyle is coming down to India', because I was already really familiar with Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and The Beach etc. I went into the audition and there was this instant connect, where I knew I could relate to the part. Anyway, the tape was sent to London and the casting director told me I'd been shortlisted. So now I had to audition for Danny Boyle. I was completely nervous because I was going to be facing the big man himself! But when I met him he was such a down-to-earth person and makes you so comfortable. So I auditioned over and over again for six months - the same scene, the kitchen scene - until I got the part."
In that scene, Latika is clearly dreaming of a better, more fulfilling life with Jamal. Did you relate to that in terms of trying to escape the modelling world for a life as an actress?
"In that sense, yes. When I was in the modelling world I always wanted to be an actor. I have learnt a lot from it and learnt to face the camera fearlessly. I definitely wanted something better. I knew I was not going to do that for the rest of my life."
Do you think there's a stigma attached to a model trying to become an actress? Could your looks have actually worked against you in that respect?
"It gets a bit irritating, because people love saying 'model-turned-actress'. They don't say 'always wanted to be an actor then became a model and now she's an actress'. Nobody has time to say all of it, so it does get a little irritating. People keep asking me if I'm very glamorous in this film. For me, glamour is very superficial, so if it's the real person you want to portray that's me, you've got to go skin deep - no makeup, no massive hair, just simple clothes. That's really me. So I don't mind having the glamour stripped out completely, to show the real me. Which is why I was so happy to play Latika, because she doesn't have any of that. It's her inner beauty that really shows and shines in the film."
How did you find Danny Boyle's style of filming?
"He gives you a lot of independence and freedom to do what you want - as long as you understand the character properly. He will not let you go astray. His style is kind of 'feel it'. He'd do a great job of narrating the story because it plays an important part, especially when you're not shooting in continuity, jumping all over the place. He will tell you what happened before, why you are like this and why you can't do this. Once he's told you all of that you are automatically hypnotized and in the zone. There is no escape and you have to deliver."
Was he like that with everyone?
"Absolutely, with everyone. I think even the kids. I remember the kitchen scene, he would keep saying this one thing in a hypnotic tone almost reminding me of the serpent in the Adam and Eve story. He'd keep saying 'five years, you've not seen each other for five years'. If someone keeps saying that to you you're brainwashed completely... so what happens is a real reaction."
How accurate is the depiction of India in the film?
"I think it is bang on. The very fact that Danny decided to shoot in the real locations and not a set makes him win, hands down. You don't get the essence or sense of any place when you're shooting it in an artificial environment, but you do when you're actually out there in the streets or the slums or the dumping grounds. Danny has shown Bombay in its true light, in terms of it not just being a poverty-ridden country and like a political situation, but at the same time it's this growing economy. I think Salim sums it when he sits on the tower block and says 'That used to be our slums brother'... it's becoming bigger and bigger. There's literally no space for it to expand, but somehow it is getting bigger."
> Click here for our review of Slumdog Millionaire