phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
‘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

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

This Week June 26 - July 2

This Week June 26 - July 2

There’s a creative spark in the air this week, as several of London’s galleries and more unusual spaces throw open their doors and let the great…

Indian Summer Late ft. PunjabTronix at the Horniman

Indian Summer Late ft. PunjabTronix at the Horniman

Cutting-edge live electronica combines with traditional Punjabi sounds in this audiovisual extravaganza at the Horniman.

This Week July 10-16

This Week July 10-16

There are two major openings this week - the BBC Proms return once again for a summer of contemporary, classical and increasingly experimental orchestral music,…

This Week July 24-30

This Week July 24-30

July! You’ve treated us well friend. It’s going to be tough to say goodbye – how can we ever do you justice? Fear not, we’ve curated a…

Royal Parks Foundation London Half Marathon 2017

Royal Parks Foundation London Half Marathon 2017

2017 sees the 10th birthday of the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon when 16,000 runners will cross the start line in Hyde Park on Sunday…

The Best Music in London this July

The Best Music in London this July

Summer is here, and there’s nothing finer than soaking up that sun while listening to music. We’ve pulled together a comprehensive guide to soundtrack your July,…

Secrets of the Movies at The Strand Gallery

Secrets of the Movies at The Strand Gallery

This free, interactive family exhibition is packed with artwork, performance and workshops

“Things happen that you could never imagine when you’re working in a creative room” - an interview with Sally Cookson

“Things happen that you could never imagine when you’re working in a creative room” - an interview with Sally Cookson

Sally Cookson is a theatre-maker whose career creating theatre for youngsters has led to a primetime Christmas show at the National Theatre and a UK…

Top 5: Small Club Nights in London

Top 5: Small Club Nights in London

London is one of the undisputed clubbing capitals of the world. From underground favourite Corsica Studios to the new 6000-capacity behemoth Printworks, the capital has…

Top 5: Places to Bowl in London

Top 5: Places to Bowl in London

It’s up there with ball-pits and trampolining when it comes to classic children’s parties. Slush Puppies, changing into those shoes, choosing a suitably rude name, the…

Most popular

Win a 3 Course Meal and Drinks

The Ivy Tower Bridge - Win a 3 Course Meal and Drinks

Your chance to enjoy a delicious meal out next to The Thames with the brand new Ivy Tower Bridge.
Win Outdoor Cinema Tickets plus Prosecco & Popcorn

Swords and Sandals - Win Outdoor Cinema Tickets plus Prosecco & Popcorn

Watch an epic season of Roman-inspired films on the site of London’s Roman Amphitheatre with Swords and Sandals Outdoor Cinema!
Win a Kids-Only Adventure Holiday!

Kingswood Camps - Win a Kids-Only Adventure Holiday!

Make summer 2017 one to remember with a kids-only adventure holiday – worth £299 – at Kingswood Camps this August.
Win two tickets to a evening of jazz at Rich Mix

Certain Blacks Festival: Harlem - Win two tickets to a evening of jazz at Rich Mix

Certain Blacks: Harlem present trumpeter Byron Wallen and his band Indigo
Win a NAMily annual membership to the new museum!

National Army Museum - Win a NAMily annual membership to the new museum!

The new National Army Museum is a family-friendly Museum looking at the history of the army.
Win a copy of the DVD and the book that inspired it

Viceroy's House - Win a copy of the DVD and the book that inspired it

The incredible true story of the final months of British rule in India
London’s Historic Charterhouse

London’s Historic Charterhouse

The Charterhouse in London has been living the nation’s history since 1348.
Three Months for Just £10!

National Art Pass - Three Months for Just £10!

We’ve teamed up with Art Fund to offer London Calling readers a special offer: a three-month National Art Pass for £10.
The African Salsa Orchestra make UK Debut!

The African Salsa Orchestra make UK Debut!

The African Salsa Orchestra embark on their debut UK tour this July - including a date at London's Jazz Cafe!
Win a pair of tickets to a screening of Howard’s End and a copy of the book.

BFI - Win a pair of tickets to a screening of Howard’s End and a copy of the book.

The Oscar-winning 1990s film has been re-released in stunning 4k format to mark it's 25th anniversary.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!