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

Black Cat Cabaret

Black Cat Cabaret

A decadent, dazzling cabaret on London's Southbank.

Song of Contagion at Wilton’s Music Hall

Song of Contagion at Wilton’s Music Hall

Acclaimed World and Jazz musicians combine with a renowned scientist to tell the story of gobal epidemics.

Carl Hutchinson Interview

Carl Hutchinson Interview

Comedian Carl Hutchinson is on a high. He's collected a number of awards since his breakthrough Edinburgh solo show "Acceptable?" won popular and critical acclaim…

“Burlesque is supposed to be a comment on modern society”. An interview with Tempest Rose.

“Burlesque is supposed to be a comment on modern society”. An interview with Tempest Rose.

Tempest Rose is an international Burlesque artist, and a leading figure in the industry. As well as being a performer, Tempest also produces work that…

The Best Food in London This May

The Best Food in London This May

While the frosty mornings and icy winds beg to differ, London’s bar and restaurant scene is hotting up for summer in the capital. Check out this…

This Week 22-28 May

This Week 22-28 May

There’s a veritable smorgasbord of activities on the menu throughout the final week of the month of May. A scorching play tackles London’s housing crisis head-on at…

Ealing Blues Festival 2017

Ealing Blues Festival 2017

The Ealing Blues Festival presents a weekend of homegrown and international musicians.

KERB and Maverick Festival: Noshville

KERB and Maverick Festival: Noshville

The Americana-tinged food and music weekender returns to King's Cross for a second year.

Win a Trip to St Pauls Cathedral & a Meal for Two

London Day Out - Win a Trip to St Pauls Cathedral & a Meal for Two

Visit the stunning, iconic St Pauls Cathedral followed by a two-course meal with wine at Brasserie Blanc!

‘I just think a magician should be able to do it all’: An Interview with Ali Cook

‘I just think a magician should be able to do it all’: An Interview with Ali Cook

Ali Cook is a rare breed of magician. With an off-beat performance style that combines comedy and magic, he has become a headline act -…

Most popular

Win a Trip to St Pauls Cathedral & a Meal for Two

London Day Out - Win a Trip to St Pauls Cathedral & a Meal for Two

Visit the stunning, iconic St Pauls Cathedral followed by a two-course meal with wine at Brasserie Blanc!
Win a pair of tickets to the West End transfer of Kiss Me

Trafalgar Studios - Win a pair of tickets to the West End transfer of Kiss Me

Unorthodox 1920s love story Kiss Me comes to the West End
Win a pair of tickets to new musical Roller Diner

Soho Theatre - Win a pair of tickets to new musical Roller Diner

New musical-comedy Roller Diner is an award-winning show about love, jealousy and murder
Win one of three copies of new book Shop London

Author Emma McCarthy - Win one of three copies of new book Shop London

Emma McCarthy's new book handpicks 200 of London's best independent shops and retail destinations.
Win two tickets to Vices and Verses ft. Katie Melua

Poetry & Lyrics Festival - Win two tickets to Vices and Verses ft. Katie Melua

Katie Melua, Murray Lachlan Young and Don Black chat and perform poetry at King's Place
Win one of five pairs of tickets to a Tchaikovsky Gala!

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - Win one of five pairs of tickets to a Tchaikovsky Gala!

Experience a night of Tchaikovsky's greatest hits, performed by the Royal Philharmonic, at the Royal Albert Hall
Win a pair of tickets to new musical Holy Crap

The King's Head Theatre - Win a pair of tickets to new musical Holy Crap

New musical comedy Holy Crap is a premiere brimful of sin and sacrilege.
“Burlesque is supposed to be a comment on modern society”. An interview with Tempest Rose.

“Burlesque is supposed to be a comment on modern society”. An interview with Tempest Rose.

Burlesque figurehead Tempest Rose talks to London Calling about the past, and future, of the movement.
Win a Pair of Tickets to The Kite Runner

Playhouse Theatre - Win a Pair of Tickets to The Kite Runner

Relive the magic of Khaled Hosseini's much-loved novel The Kite Runner.
Win a pair of tickets to a night of Mexican wrestling!

York Hall - Win a pair of tickets to a night of Mexican wrestling!

York Hall present Lucha Libre: an exciting evening of iconic masked Mexican wrestling

Your inbox deserves a little culture!