Vue Weekly in the form of Stephen Notley telephonically caught up with Vanity Fair director Mira Nair one afternoon not long ago from her hotel room in Toronto.

VW: Is this Mira?

MN: This is Mira.

VW: So how is your day going? Are you just in a hotel room all day?

MN: Yes, I'm in a luxury prison.

VW: When did your day start?

MN: I arrived at 2 in the morning from East Africa.

VW: Oh my god.

MN: My first interview was at 9 a.m.

VW: And you've just been doing them straight...

MN: Doing them straight, *and* I lost my luggage.

VW: Oh, god.

MN: But I'm fine.

VW: So do you find this just a frustrating and annoying part of the process of making movies, having to go out and do these interviews, or is there anything good about this?

MN: No, this is really good, I mean it's fine, the long haul is a bit tough, but I always am interested… I'm a sucker for knowing what people think about the movie.

VW: Well, then, let me just ask you my first question, which was what was it about the book that attracted you to it, what element of the book did you most want to bring to the movie?

MN: Well, the fact is that this book was one of my favorite books since I was 16 years old. So when they offered me the book, or the script, I just instantly said yes without even reading it because I know the banquet of the novel is amazing, you know? In Vanity Fair the chief character is the world. That's how Thackeray has brought it to life, that carnivalesque sensibility, the multilayered world, and the ensemble nature of the cast, and the sprawling canvas, all of that attracted me, because much as I threaten my crew that the next picture will be two people in a room eating sushi in Paris, you know, this is what I like to do. But also I think it's completely modern and timeless, you know the questions that are inherent in Vanity Fair, the questions that Thackeray asks.

VW: One of the things I quite liked were the Indian touches, I think that's some of the most electric moments of the film, even the quick clips of India and then of course the big dance scene. How did you feel about bringing those elements in, what place did they have in the larger story.?

MN: Well, the mileu of Vanity Fair was this time in English society when England was stealing the wealth of the colonies, so that was what gave the Osbournes and the whole middle class milleu the money of the aristocracy but without the titled status. In this time the colonies and India play a hugely important role. All the men in the film worked in India, all the most coveted items were the inlaid tables, the chinoiserie he wrote about, I mean he wrote in detail about these things, and of course I took the ball and ran with it, so I created the whole aesthetic and political context around that. So therefore for me India, showing India was very important because otherwise you wouldn't feel the impact of the colonies and the empire.

VW: How would you compare the social world of the film, where you have the simultaneously rising and falling social ladders of money and title, jumping back and forth between the two ladders, how would you compare that to today? Like, what would Becky Sharp do today?

MN: Becky Sharp would probably be the head of Enron or something. Maybe not Enron, maybe just any old bank. But, uh…

VW: She just would have gone to school, learned…

MN: Yes! I mean, most of us are Becky Sharps today in the sense that now all these avenues are available to all of us, but Becky lived in that Jane Austen kind of world where women were just supposed to sit tight and hope that someone would come for them. But Becky was not that person, you know, she had to make her way since she was 7, she was an orphan, and she was an ultimate survivor, and I think Thackeray really enjoyed her for it, because he was pretty clear-eyed about the hypocrisies and the shams of upper class society and he enjoyed the fact that she was pretty clear-eyed as well, that she was the same with a courtier as she was with the king, that she was not a liar, that she was very open about where she'd come from… you know, all those things that I too loved about Becky Sharp. But I think, isn't she a modern character? Actually, all of them are, in the sense that times have changed but the human condition hasn't changed, the fact that all of us desire something more than what we have, the fact that all of us, are we content after we get what we want? Those questions have not changed, and that quest for more greed or more vanity, more ambition, has not changed. So in that sense I feel it's not just a museum piece about a time long ago, but it is a time long ago that's absolutely pulsating with the same questions, the same challenges which we grapple with now.

VW: I guess just with very different choices, now.

MN: Yes. And options.

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