If you watched the first two seasons of the UK series “Skins” and then watched Slumdog Millionaire you might not recognize that Anwar and Jamal are portrayed by the same actor. You’ve got to figure it takes a fairly astute person to play the hyper, sexually obsessed Anwar and then turn around and be so convincing as the sensitive and devoted hero of Slumdog Millionaire. Well that’s what Dev Patel is. For someone so young and with relatively little acting experience, he’s making his mark on the big and small screens and impressing directors and audiences alike.
Raised in the London Borough of Harrow, Patel was a kid with tons of energy. Gee, you’d never think it to look at him: all wiry and lanky. So his very intelligent mother put him into tae kwon do classes to channel all that energy. Get this, in 2004 at the AIMAA World Championships our guy here won a bronze. That’s right, he medaled! Turns out that dedication and those martial arts skills will come in handy later.
Throughout his school career Dev was involved in the dramatic arts. He garnered high marks and high praise from his teachers. Once again his very intelligent mother stepped in and suggested he go to open auditions for a new teen drama TV show called “Skins”. Much to his amazement he got the role of “Anwar” a fun-loving Pakistani Muslim. To hear his co-stars tell it, the character was tailor made for Patel. For the first-time professional actor, that had to be a source of comfort. A fan favorite, the series went on to win several BAFTA TV awards during its first two seasons.
This is all prologue to the lucky chance that would thrust Dev into the international spotlight. In the summer of 2007 Director Danny Boyle was frustrated. He was trying to cast the lead in his film Slumdog Millionaire about Jamal Malik, a kid from the slums of Mumbai who unbelievably wins the grand prize on the popular game show by recalling events in his own life to answer all the questions correctly. All the Indian actors Boyle had seen so far were muscular, hero types and not at all the normal, thoughtful guy he was looking for. As it turns out Boyle’s daughter was a big fan of “Skins” and recommended he check out the actor playing Anwar. The rest is history. 5 months of shooting in India and an obscene amount of awards, including 8 Oscars later Dev Patel is one hot commodity.
So how do you follow up such an auspicious start to your career? Well Dev thought long and hard about this very question. The parts Hollywood was offering him were mostly funny side-kick roles and not at all satisfying. He fully expected to find something in the independent film arena. Director M. Night Shyamalan had a better offer. Jesse McCartney, his original choice for Prince Zuko in the big-screen adaptation of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” had scheduling conflicts. Shyamalan approached Dev about playing the Fire Nation Prince in the big-budget summer blockbuster. At press time I was hoping to have seen the film so I could gush about how wonderful Dev was but ‘twas not to be, I’m afraid. We’ll have to suppose he was awesome until we each have an opportunity to confirm that ourselves.
If you visit Dev’s IMDB page you’ll see that he has no future projects listed. I can only surmises that he’s being choosy about his next project. When you’ve got the talent and support from home (remember his oh-so-intelligent mom?) to make the best choice for yourself, you won’t stay unemployed long. Published June 2010
Update: November 2016
Wow! It’s been a minute since we chatted about Dev. He did indeed find something to do after the, let’s be frank, disappointment that was The Last Airbender. There was the charmer that was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and it’s subsequent sequel. Dev then tried his hand at American TV when he signed on to be Neal Sampat, the social media manager for a prime time news show on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO show The Newsroom. Ironic considering Dev’s own Twitter account fizzled out just around the time the show aired. More recently Dev’s been gaining some buzz as Saroo Brierly in the film drama Lion, opening Thanksgiving weekend. Lion is based on the true story of a 5 year old Indian boy who becomes lost, miles from home, adopted by a loving Australian couple (played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) and as an adult finds his village using Google Maps.
Dev Patel Fan