Meet the real-life inspiration behind Oscar darling 'Lion'

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Entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon has the latest details.

For an actor, playing a real-life person can be a daunting challenge. But the actual people behind the characters in "Lion" say they love the way their story was told on screen.

The film earned half a dozen Oscar nominations, including one apiece for Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. For audiences, it's easy to see why they were singled out. But the two stars have also earned praise from the most knowledgeable critics of all -- the real-life people they play.

The movie tells the story of Saroo Brierley, who was separated from his mother as a boy in India and then used Google Earth to try and find her again.

"At its core, it's about love," Patel said. "And it's about mothers and sons, and the power of identity. That's what he's trying to do, is find his roots."

Brierly is living in Tasmania after he was adopted years earlier, and the character is played as a boy by remarkable newcomer Sunny Pawar.

"It's about a boy that comes from the slums and goes through tragic moments, scary moments as well," the real-life Brierley said. "But he triumphs at the end."

Brierley wrote a book about his life that became the movie.

"It was perfectly shown," he said. "So you couldn't have wanted anything better."

Kidman plays Sue Brierley, the woman who adopted and raised him.

"She really became me," Sue Brierley said. "We talked about adoption a lot, how we believed our children were truly meant for us."

The pair bonded because each has adopted two children, and Kidman is the mother of a boy and a girl with ex-husband Tom Cruise.

The power of the performances and the impact of the finished film are such that watching it for the first time is a very emotional experience.

"By the end of it, I could barely stand up and walk," Sue Brierley said. "And we just held each other and cried and hugged."

Saroo Brierley spent so much time searching for his birth mother that he calls the finale a tear jerker that always evokes what happened in real life.

"It was a time where earth and time just stood still," he said.

He has seen the movie 25 times and says what never gets old is the spontaneous standing ovation that greets him after every showing.

Live Red Carpet coverage begins Sunday, Feb. 26 at 5 p.m. ET | 2 p.m. PT with ON THE RED CARPET AT THE OSCARS. Check your local listings.
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