Emily Shah is the lead actress of Jungle Cry, an upcoming film from Sagar Ballary that tells the true-story of a young Indian rugby team who shocked the world.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge spoke to Emily about her role in Jungle Cry, filming in Wales, working with Clint Eastwood, and much more.
Q: What was your reaction to the story of ‘Jungle Cry’? And, why did you believe in this project?
A: First I was shocked when I heard this story. Then I was upset that these boys didn’t get the recognition they deserved. I was extremely proud of their accomplishments despite the hurdles and set backs they had to overcome. So being able to bring their story to light was one of the most rewarding scenarios I could be a part of. This was a story that needed to be told and that’s why I believe in it.
Q: I read in Indie Entertainment Magazine that you prepared for your role by watching international rugby 7’s tournaments and shadowing a physiotherapist. How has your appreciation of the sport changed over the course of this project?
A: Like any sport, athletes are required to give their utmost dedication and focus. Rugby players have a different type of dedication than I’ve seen before. When I was doing my research, I watched other physios stitch up players hands, faces, etc. (in the midst of a game) and then throw them back into a scrum or a play, straight away. It’s a tough sport that takes a great deal of endurance, strength and mental stability.
Q: It was probably quite an experience for this cast and crew to make a film in windy and rainy Wales. How was the shoot?
A: As an actor, our work hours were quite easy. We had so many breaks in between takes because of the bipolar weather. We’d shoot for 20 minutes and then break for an hour, and this pattern continued for most days. Our days were short as well, because it was a constant race against the sunrise/sunset. However, because of our limited time frame it was essential that we could shoot quickly in the time that we were given. Minimal takes were shot as we had to cover so much in a short period of time, so I tried to be as prepared as I could be.
On another note, my hairstylist probably spent the most time with me. I’m half Indian so any rain or moisture that touches my hair makes it go completely out of whack. Continuity was a challenge. And then there was the last match we shot which was an extremely cold day. I had to wear a huge coat that made me look like the “Michelin Tire” man. I didn’t even care at that point, I was so cold.
Q: I might just be ignorant to it, but it seems like we don’t see many actors straddling the worlds of Hollywood and Bollywood. Is that something you want to do? And, what qualities do you think it takes to be able to do that?
A: I don’t think that actors can’t straddle between Hollywood and Bollywood. Just like any job, the key to success is to focus on the task at hand. If someone wants to work on Wall Street, they should live in NY. If someone wants to work in Silicone Valley, they should live in SF. Same situation. You have to be in the appropriate city/country to give your optimal energy towards your career. The actors that have been able to straddle it, do so, one city/ one industry, at a time.
Acting is acting to me, so either industry will work as I speak the language. At the moment, I’m based out of Los Angeles so my focus is in Hollywood. If an opportunity in Bollywood arises, it wouldn’t be an issue for me to shift gears for a bit. No matter which industry, focus and perseverance are the two biggest qualities that I know I must have in order to succeed.
Q: You have an incredibly impressive background behind the camera – including assisting Clint Eastwood on ‘Jersey Boys’. What is your favourite memory of your time spent with one of Hollywood’s best ever?
A: Mr. Eastwood would come up to me on set every now and then and just would have a normal conversation. It’s less likely to see women working in production and I was the youngest one on set, so I think he enjoyed picking my brain as I certainly did his.
When we were shooting in New Jersey one morning, he came straight to me and asked me if I wanted an Altoid, possibly to break the ice that day. I called him out immediately and said: “Is that your pick up line, Mr. Eastwood?” He laughed and said: “Okay… you got me.”
I’ll never forget the last day. After calling picture wrap, a huge crowd of people were following him to his trailer to grab a photo or even a glimpse of him. When he saw me, he stopped and gave me a hug and said: “You made my day.”
Q: I also have to mentioned that you worked with stunt director Spiro Razatos on Captain: The America Winter Solider and Fast & Furious 7. With this experience, are you ready to take on a stunt-filled, high-octane action film? What would be the dream role?
A: Spiro has trained me a couple times because he knows how much I love action and wanted to do an action film or a series. I would joke and say: ”If you’re missing a stunt double today, just throw me in.” Besides comedy, action is my favourite genre. My dream role would be to play the woman version of a series like Bourne.
Q: What is next for you? Any ambitions or plans to share
A: Speaking of action, I’m in the development stage of an action feature for an international audience.