phone mail2 facebook twitter play
‘You don’t want to play the goofy sidekick or best friend characters anymore’ - An Interview with Dev Patel

‘You don’t want to play the goofy sidekick or best friend characters anymore’ - An Interview with Dev Patel

19 March 2017  | Interviews

Born in West London, we first saw Dev Patel on our screens in the anarchic Bristol-based TV drama Skins, before he got the biggest of all breaks in Danny Boyle’s drama Slumdog Millionaire. Aged just 26, Patel’s career shows no sign of stalling, having earned his first BAFTA award and Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Saroo Brierley in this year’s Lion. We caught up with Dev to speak about Aussie accents, earning his place in Hollywood and working with Nicole Kidman.

 “Great roles and films are difficult to come by for any actor, and of course when you’re a young Indian dude from London and you don’t fit into certain categories it’s even more difficult,” says Harrow-born Patel before adding with a sarcastic smirk, “You also don’t want to play the goofy sidekick or best friend kind of characters anymore.”
 
But Patel has proved that you only actually need two good roles to write yourself into the cinematic history books: Slumdog Millionaire brought him global attention; and Lion brought him critical acclaim. “When I first worked on Slumdog, I was only 17 and I was so new to the filmmaking world that I didn’t feel worthy of all the attention that came with the success of the film,” says the 26-year-old frankly. “I didn’t feel that I had earned my way into the business, but I’ve been working hard ever since and as soon as Lion came along I knew that this was my chance – I’d been waiting for precisely this kind of substantial and profound role.”
 
Amiable and confident, Patel is not afraid to admit that preparing for Lion required huge dedication and was at times deeply frustrating. The film tells the incredible true-life story of Saroo Brierley, adopted by an Australian couple after he was separated at age five from his Indian brother and mother and who later used Google Earth to track down his original family and rediscover his roots. “I spent eight months getting ready for the film. When I first discussed the part with Garth [Davis – director], he said he needed me to bulk up and have the kind of physical presence that Saroo has, and that he ‘wanted to see a Dev Patel that no one has seen before’,” he says. “I also had to work pretty hard on getting his Australian accent right because people will let you know very fast if you don’t!”
 

Fortunately, the spirited star had an Australian screen icon on set with him every day in the form of Nicole Kidman, playing the role of Saroo’s adoptive mother, Sue Brierley. “I knew she was going to be very sweet and gracious – she just gives off that energy,” Patel says. “Once I got over the nerves of meeting Nicole, I saw how she really put in everything in the role. I’d been prepping for eight months, but she’d been prepping for most of her life in a way, because she is a mother with adopted kids. There was truth there. It was beautiful being in such an intimate performance space with her.”
 
Patel declares that he felt obliged to do his character justice both as an actor and out of respect for a man he greatly admires. “I felt a tremendous weight of responsibility to Saroo since this is his story and that makes you want to do your absolute best to portray him as authentically as possible,” he explains. “I never went through anything like the incredible challenges he faced. I remember as a young boy I went grocery shopping with my mum one day in London and I wound up getting lost in the store. It was only for five minutes, but it felt like five hours!”
 
He may not have won the Best Supporting Actor statuette – won by Mahershala Ali for Moonlight – but his transition from light-hearted comedies like The Second Best Marigold Hotel to serious roles is uncontested, and later this year he will star in Hotel Mumbai – a thriller about the terrorist attacks in 2008 at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in India.
 
“This story is very close to me and to everyone in India,” Patel reveals. “I play a waiter who was working at the hotel during the attack and it’s a truly beautiful story about human courage and how the staff behaved very selflessly and courageously under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. I think it’s a very inspiring and beautiful story that I hope will reach audiences all over the world.”
 
Lion is out in UK cinemas now. Find out more here.

Tell us what you think

You may also like

Free Fire - An Interview with Ben Wheatley

Free Fire - An Interview with Ben Wheatley

Ben Wheatley’s films are sick and twisted in the best way possible. With Free Fire, the genre experimenter goes for pure fun, delivering a 70s-set action-comedy…

This Week 27 March - 2 April

This Week 27 March - 2 April

The days are getting longer and (very gradually) getting warmer, so it’s time to go outside! Follow along the path of nature to discover Moomins and…

The Best Places to Watch the Boat Race in London

The Best Places to Watch the Boat Race in London

The Boat Race – a contest between two of the Britain’s most elite and exclusive universities in a sport watched approximately twice a year that incomprehensibly…

Walk of Shame – An Interview with Eleanor Conway

Walk of Shame – An Interview with Eleanor Conway

Eleanor Conway began her career as a music journalist, travelling the world and interviewing some of the music industry’s biggest names. A ferocious clubber and party…

Brexit, moving to London and Denial - An Interview with Rachel Weisz

Brexit, moving to London and Denial - An Interview with Rachel Weisz

London born and Cambridge educated, Rachel Weisz has wowed audiences from her breakthrough role as Egyptologist Evelyn in The Mummy to her Oscar-winning performance as…

Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait

Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait

You might think you know Amy Winehouse. The caricatured, instantly recognisable figure in tiny 1950s style dotted dresses with a colossal beehive of black hair,…

Don’t Wake The Beast - An Interview with Kill The Beast

Don’t Wake The Beast - An Interview with Kill The Beast

“We’re all friends because we’re weirdos,” says Clem Garritty, one fifth of theatre company Kill The Beast. “We just hope other people like the stuff that makes us…

Australia’s Impressionists at The National Gallery

Australia’s Impressionists at The National Gallery

The Australian Impressionists of the late 19th Century attempted to depict a country undergoing huge changes, a nation searching for an identity, a land with…

Top 5 – Alternative Wedding Venues in London

Top 5 – Alternative Wedding Venues in London

Whether you’ve just been popped the question, been the nervous proposer or still dreaming, we’ve done some leg work for you and rounded up some alternative…

An Alternative Guide to St Patrick’s Day Events in London

An Alternative Guide to St Patrick’s Day Events in London

We all know about the annual St Patrick’s Day Parade and Trafalgar Square Festival in Central London, but what else is going on around city this…

More inspiration...

Free Fire - An Interview with Ben Wheatley

Free Fire - An Interview with Ben Wheatley

Ben Wheatley’s films are sick and twisted in the best way possible. We talk to him about his latest film, Free Fire.
This Week 27 March - 2 April

This Week 27 March - 2 April

We find out what will be keeping you occupied in the capital this week.
The Best Places to Watch the Boat Race in London

The Best Places to Watch the Boat Race in London

Whether you're Oxford, Cambridge or (literally) somewhere in between, find out the best places to watch the Boat Race 2017.
Deutsche Börse Prize Exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery

Deutsche Börse Prize Exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery

This diverse exhibition takes in landscapes, travel diaries and post-modern self-portraits.
Walk of Shame – An Interview with Eleanor Conway

Walk of Shame – An Interview with Eleanor Conway

Sex, sambucca and Tinder. Take the walk of shame with Eleanor Conway in her hilariously confessional stand-up show.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!