Hotel Mumbai forces Aussie star to ask tough questions
INTENSE is one word to describe Tilda Cobham-Hervey's latest film effort, a real life story about the horrific Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008. At least 174 people were killed and a further 300 injured in the co-ordinated shooting and bombing attacks that lasted four days across the Indian city. Some 26 foreigners were among those killed, including two Australians.
"Even though I was a part of making the film and seeing all the behind the scenes, it really shook me as well," Cobham-Hervey tells Insider.
At its core, Hotel Mumbai asks the question: What would you do if you were in the same situation?
"That is a reaction we are all hoping the film has on people," Cobham-Hervey says.
"I would like to think I could have acted with the strength and compassion and resilience that a lot of people in the attack actually did but you can't help but be caught up in what you would do and how you would react in that moment.
"So much of it for me in making this film was instead of everyone focusing on their differences, it was the coming together of all these people from different walks of life
and finding that unity and having compassion and empathy for each other is the way to solve a problem."
Cobham-Hervey plays a nanny named Sally in the film, which also stars Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Anupam Kher and Jason Isaacs. And it was during the shoot that Cobham-Hervey met her now boyfriend, Oscar nominee Dev Patel (Lion), who plays hotel waiter Arjun.
"I hope I'd be able to stay calm and be practical and have compassion and try to problem solve with everyone," she says when pushed on how she thought she would react in a similar situation.
"But I guess it is very hard to know unless you are in that situation. The staff in India that worked at that hotel were so extraordinary. I don't know many people who would have acted the way that they did. They are like superheroes in what they did."
The terror attacks were carried out by 10 members of Islamic terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, who targeted locations including the landmark Oberoi Trident and Taj Palace hotels.
Shot between Adelaide and India in 2016-17, Hotel Mumbai focuses primarily on the Taj Hotel attack.
"I feel like it is a broader thing than religion. More than religion, I definitely think there are some questions about what people live for and I think that is an even more powerful thing to have a group discussion about," Cobham-Hervey says when asked about the Islamic extremism portrayed on screen.
"I think religion can be really positive and in some ways it can be really negative and I think that is the same with people no matter what you believe or who you are.
"It is very easy to put blanket terms on things like religion and I think that this film shows it is much more complicated than that. I have understanding for every single person in that film, which I think is really important to discuss too.
"There are reasons and hardships for everyone and to be able to have a deeper understanding of that and question the way that we think about certain people and places, it is great to be able to challenge everyone's ideas on that."
Now 24, Cobham-Hervey was a teen when the terror attacks took place and remembers them as "the first world event I felt connected to" because her best friend at the time was travelling in India with her family but not in Mumbai.
"So many people from so many places were caught up in it. I guess it makes me feel so lucky for the life I live and it forces me to be grateful for every moment because you never know what is going to happen," she says.
Now based in Hollywood, Cobham-Hervey is known locally for her work on The Kettering Incident, for which she was nominated for a Silver Logie Award.
She has several big projects coming up, including films Burn and Flinch, and recently wrapped shooting on Helen Reddy biopic, I Am Woman, in Sydney.
"It changed me that film," she says of playing Reddy on the big screen.
"She is such an extraordinary woman, Helen. She has taught me so much about the woman that I want to become. If this film can even do half of the things that she has done for me personally, I think it could be really special. It is so exciting to share that and educate people on this amazing woman who did so much for women of my generation."
The future looks bright for this talented star-on-the-rise.
"I still feel so at the beginning of it all and I still have so much to learn but it is such an exciting time to be working," she says. "Stories have become so much more accessible and even on the creative side, there are so many actors writing and directing so there are a lot of different pathways to be involved in storytelling, which really excites me too."
HOTEL MUMBAI OPENS ON THURSDAY