SANTA MONICA It wasn't enough Priyanka Chopra was named Miss World in 2000. She wanted to be a princess. The Indian actress feels like she's gotten close by being the voice in the new animated film "Disney's Planes."
"I have always loved Disney and this was the closest I could come to being a Disney princess," Chopra says recently at the Museum of Flying, where the voice talent that includes Dane Cook, Teri Hatcher and Gabriel Iglesias converged to talk about the movie.
Her chance to get close to being a princess came when the beauty pageant winner, Bollywood star and recording artist was approached three years ago to provide the voice of Ishani, the plane representing the Pan-Asian community in a race around the globe. Ishani becomes a friend and possible love interest for Dusty, a crop-dusting plane who wants to leave the fields behind.
Despite a lengthy list of credits, "Planes" is Chopra's first time doing a voice for an animated movie. She had no problem with the recording sessions after all, she's often had to redub lines in her movies when there was poor sound quality. What shocked her was how she was filmed while recording the voice and animators incorporated her facial expressions into the design of the colorful airplane.
Although the actress, who became the youngest Miss World after her mother sent in her application, has been around the globe, "Planes" is a way to introduce her to an American audience. She hopes youngsters around the world will see in Ishani the message that "it's OK to be you. You don't have to try to be anyone else. Whatever you are, however you are, is fine. Nobody's perfect."
Chopra says she related to her character's drive to win the global race.
"I've always been very competitive since school. I always had to be part of all the teams. I always had to get the best grades and be in every play," Chopra says. "I've reached a point where I've started competing with myself. Every movie I do, I always try to better myself in the next one and try to find a part that is more challenging.
"It's a little vulnerable to push the envelope. You position yourself for a lot more criticism. But it's the chances you have to take to make life exciting."
Her success in beauty pageants was quickly followed by a long list of movies shot in India, where she's played everything from a love interest to an action hero. Chopra takes great pride that she battled her way into the acting career without much help because the Bollywood industry tends to be open only to those who have a connection or are the offspring of actors.
Chopra's competitive spirit that got her into films also has made her fearless in filming. The Indian beauty has never balked at doing her own stunts, including the fight scenes for her upcoming movie based on the life of Mary Kom, India's famous female Olympic boxer.
"I really had to take the punches, and that's really painful when you have to do retakes. I had headaches every evening," Chopra says. "I guess that's how 'Rocky' did it."
"Planes" opens just weeks after Chopra's single, "Exotic," has been released. That's a coincidence, as she started working on the animated films years before she even thought about making the jump to the musical world. Now she's moved into another entertainment world, all part of Chopra's competitive drive that's kept her going even if she hasn't become a princess yet.
She smiles and adds, "Maybe I don't want to be a princess. I love fairies. In my mind, I'm Tinkerbell."
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.