Forget Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, we think that actors/writers Prem Singh and Michael Pugliese might just be our new favourite dream team.
After meeting in an acting class, Prem and Michael formed an incredible bond which led to them working together and co-writing screenplays. Over the past few years, they have been working on a thrilling new project called Tiger, which is about to be shared with the world.
Tiger is based on the true story of Pardeep Nagra, a Canadian Sikh boxer who was banned from boxing by the association due to racial profiling. The movie will share Pardeep’s struggle for equality and is set to inspire viewers worldwide with its empowering message. Prem and Michael co-wrote the screenplay and also star in the movie alongside Academy Award nominee Mickey Rourke and Pretty Little Liars star Janell Parrish.
We recently had the opportunity to speak to Prem and Michael about all things Tiger: from tracking down Mickey Rourke to finally sharing their project with the world.
After years in the making, Tiger is finally about to be released. How are you feeling that it’s finally going to be shared with the world?
Prem: Relieved! And great at the same time. We all have worked very hard on this project from scripting to promoting the film. We are glad we are able to share this with the world.
Michael: There are no words that can really describe the feelings. It’s truly a dream come true and I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of this film and the message it portrays.
You co-wrote the screenplay, based on the true story of Pardeep Nagra. Why was it so important for you to bring Pardeep’s story to the big screen?
P: It’s very important to bring Pardeep’s story to the big screen because his story sends a very powerful message. It sends a message about equality, no matter the race, sexual orientation, or gender. If we have the drive to succeed in anything we set our mind too these things shouldn’t be the deciding factor. We hope to spread a positive message of diversity using Pardeep’s story.
M: We wanted to send a strong message by using the world of cinema in a positive light through Pardeep’s inspiring true story. We felt it was important to help educate the uneducated about a misunderstood religion. But also encourage anyone who is being mistreated to stand up and brave the situation head on just as Pardeep has. To spread empathy and love rather than hate. The world needs it.
How much time did you spend researching and consulting with Pardeep?
P: We spent a couple of months researching and having multiple meetings with Pardeep. At first we didn’t know how to locate him but with the power of the internet we found him and..well the rest is…history.
M: During our meetings, we absorbed as much information as we could. We were fortunate to have Pardeep live so close and have him willing to share his journey with us. Pardeep let us create his story without much guidance. He trusted our judgement and was thrilled to have his story told.
As well as writing the screenplay, you also star in the movie (Prem plays Pardeep and Michael plays Brian). What did it feel like to go from writing the movie to physically bringing your character to life on screen?
P: Raised in a Sikh home it was a role I had to play. I would even go so far to say it’s one of my dream roles. Growing up, Rocky has been one of my favorite films of all time. Being Indian I thought how great would this be to try and create an Indian Rocky. I was nervous in bringing the character to life on screen because I wanted to do justice to the role and most of all make the real Pardeep Singh Nagra proud. I can tell you this, I am very proud of what we have done, and I stand by this film, trust me when I say this you have to see this film!
M: It was definitely surreal. We worked on these characters for years before getting a chance to truly embody them. By the time we went to camera, the transition from writer to performer just felt right.
The film also stars Mickey Rourke and Janell Parrish. What were they like to work with?
P: Mickey Rourke was great! He is a legend and a great performer. He was great to work with and he is tough as nails. There is a scene in the film where he is teaching me how to box and he hits me in the face, hard!! VERY HARD! So what do I do? I take Mickey’s shots multiple times to my face, on multiple takes, but that’s what’s great about Mickey- he expects a lot from you as an actor. As for Janel, she is a beautiful and outstanding actress. Our chemistry on screen is great! Janel does a great job in this film as a lawyer, playing a strong character yet having a sweet and loving side.
M: Mickey is a legend in the industry. To be able to share scenes with someone of that skill level only brings out the best of you. Janel Parrish was with us for the entire shoot as we had a chance to really get to know her, off and on set. She’s extremely talented and experienced in her craft. She does a tremendous job. Although it was unbelievable working with those two, the highlight was definitely working with Prem. He’s grounded, committed and reaches into every emotion to portray what Pardeep actually went through. He does an outstanding job and I’m truly proud of him. It was a lot of fun and I think that’s really important.
We hear that you actually garnered Mickey’s attention after finding the gym that he uses. Can you tell us about how his involvement came about?
P: Michael and I have been through a lot in trying to create this film. From us meeting in acting class, and having weekly meetings at our local Starbucks to have script sessions to helping in putting the film together. When we heard from our producers that Mickey’s name was being tossed around Michael and I thought he would be perfect for the role. We believe when you want something bad enough you go out and get it! We found out the gym where he trains at and decided to make a trip to LA and kinda…kinda stalked Mickey out. Once we went to the gym we were talking to the owners and he said: “Mickey is coming here soon, stick around.” We are glad we did because we ended up having a 45 minute conversation with him and he was on board.
M: Just for the record, I don’t condone stalking Oscar nominated actors or anyone for that matter but in the case of getting a movie made.. sometimes it’s totally necessary. We found out where Mickey trained and went to his gym. Punched boxing bags and skipping for hours until he walked in. We got introduced by the owner (Freddy Roach) and spoke to Mickey for about 45 minutes. The rest was history.
Tiger is directed by Alister Grierson. What did it feel like to have the support and expertise of such a well-known producer?
P: We are very lucky to have well-known producers. Rocco Pugliese our head producer believed in the film as much as Michael and I did, and to us that was very important. My hat’s off to him- he worked just as hard as any one of us to ensure the film gets seen around the world. Also having a director like Alister Grierson, he taught me so much, and this was a great learning experience. Alister on set, was great to me and really brought the best out of my character. One great thing about him was he really took time to understand each character, and tell a great story on screen.
M: From the beginning of development, we had a strong team surrounding us. People who believed in the project as well as the movement that comes with it. With Alister’s unbelievable eye for perfection and story telling – it was an absolute pleasure having someone with his skill set taking charge and wear the hat as captain.
Michael, your interest in directing further developed whilst filming Tiger and you had the opportunity to shadow Alister. How was the experience for you?
M: I’m not sure how Alister allowed me to breathe down his neck for the entire shoot but he did. I was extremely fortunate to be able to soak in as much as I could from such a well-rounded and experienced film maker. I have an unbearable amount of love for story-telling and being able to share my vision of a story was always something I wanted to do.
You’ve obviously worked closely together as you both co-wrote the screenplay and star in the movie. Why do you think that you two work so well together?
P: We work so well with each other because we bring the best out of each other, we are always on the same page. Michael does a brilliant job in playing the antagonist, Brian Doyle and believe me the viewers will not like him. When we met in acting class and I saw him perform I was blown away. We trained together in the same acting studio and we grew as performers, writers and at the same time formed a brotherhood. That’s one thing you will be shocked when you see the film, because our characters really hate each other, you will never guess we are close in real life.
M: He’s my brother. We have the same drive, same passion, same work ethic on and off the screen. We’ve been on this positive wave since the first time we met in acting class. We just clicked.
A lot of the feedback from the private screenings have deemed the film as inspiring. What do you hope viewers will take away from the movie?
P: I hope the viewers can walk away feeling inspired, and motivated. We want to create a movement to push equality and diversity, and I believe we can do that with this film.
M: Exactly that. We want the viewers to be encouraged to stand up for what they believe in, no matter what it is. Whether it’s your gender, ethnic background, skin tone, sexual orientation, – whatever it may be. If you believe in it. Stand up for it. Because nothing but good will come from it. And we hope Tiger inspires others to do just that.
What was the most important thing that you learnt throughout the whole process?
P: The most important thing I have learned in this entire process was, whatever you do give it your 100% of your effort. I told Michael before flying to Ohio to shoot the film, I want to walk away from this film knowing I have given my best, my 100%. I can say that I did, and now it’s up to the audience to decide.
M: To never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about.
Can you tell us about what else you have in store during 2018?
P: We have a few projects we are working on, but most of our 2018 will be traveling all over the world meeting people and promoting TIGER.
M: It’s an exciting time.
Thank you so much to Prem Singh and Michael Pugliese for their time. Tiger is due for release later this year.