Dev Patel on Slumdog Millionaire
By Fred Topel | Image property of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Slumdog Millionaire is Dev Patel's first movie, and only his second big job. He first appeared on the British series Skins, in a small part that caught director Danny Boyle's eye. Early buzz on Slumdog has already thrust Patel into the spotlight.
Dev Patel is a Slumdog Millionaire
"Danny was having trouble casting the lead role out in India, because all the guys there are really butch and stuff like that," said Patel. "They need to be able to take their tops off and go under waterfalls, and obviously that's not me. So he came back to London a bit deflated and then his daughter's watching TV and my bit comes onscreen and she's all, 'Why don't you give this guy a go?' So I got myself on tape. I got a call from the casting director because I didn't have an agent at the time, because I was really new to it all, and she goes, 'Danny likes you and you're going to have a meeting with him.' I remember sitting in a spotlight and I hadn't done many auditions before so I brought my mom with me because she's like my lucky charm. There's all these good looking dudes with like designer stubble and stuff and their girlfriends, and I was sitting there with my mom. I was like, 'Sh*t.' And then Danny opened the door and said, 'Dev, you're next.'"
In Slumdog Millionaire, Patel has to portray the longing for a lifelong forbidden love, hold up under torture and just plain be likeable. "It's weird because I remember before I went for the first audition, right, I got a small snippet of the script and not the whole thing. It's not in there anymore it's a scene with his brother where they're talking about destiny and she's my soul mate, and we're made to be together. I'm like, 'What the hell? This guy's 17 or 18 and he's talking about that.' I looked at my sister and I'm like, 'Is this normal? Because I like computer games.' And then when I read the full thing, I was just like after the 20 pages you're just like, 'Whoa!' It's so endearing. You just want to root for this guy. You really want to root for him. I was instantly drawn to his innocence. I thought that's what I could do. I could bring that to him."
Innocence is still a tall order given the subject matter of the film. "He's a kid who's 18 and he's witnessed his mother die at a young age. Whereas his brother gets tainted by his environment and enticed by the gangs and the power you can get with guns and girls and money is his driving force this boy is still innocent. He lives in a dog eat dog environment and it's survival of the fittest almost every day, but he's got this integrity to him. He takes all this sh*t from this game show host. He rips him to shreds in front of a live audience, the whole of India. He's tortured, and he doesn't give up. He's so endearing. I said, 'I can bring that to him I think.'"
Filming in India offered Patel a chance to connect with his real life roots too. "They took me to the slums and things like that to get into character when they were doing location scouts. I went to one slum which has a population of two million people and it's still growing. Coming from London I had this stupid preconceived notion, a stereotype of what a slum would be, sitting at home on my couch eating fricking popcorn. You see these healthcare aid ad bits on TV and you just see this malnourished kid holding up an empty bottle of food, and they're depressed. I woke up on the day to go on to this location scout and I thought, 'Damn, it's going to be a bloody hard day. I'm going to be depressed.' I was glad to be proved wrong when I was there. When you're there all you get is an overwhelming sense of community. They call slums there colonies because it's like that. Everyone knows everyone and they're all working together in unison, like one molecule, like one cell."
Slumdog Millionaire is out in theaters now.
For the poster, trailer, review and more movie info, go to the Slumdog Millionaire Movie Page.
Sources: Image property of Fox Searchlight Pictures
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