Green Knight Actor Dev Patel: The moment between ‘the action’ and the ‘cut off’ that looks like a drug, it all dissolves


Written by Kyle Buchanan

Horses know Dev Patel said.

“A horse can tell if you only got two hours of sleep the night before,” he said. “If you are anxious the horse can smell it. Armani certainly could.


Armani is one of Patel’s most important co-stars in the new medieval fantasy The Green Knight, in which the 31-year-old actor plays Sir Gawain, a potential warrior who sets out on a sort of suicide mission. Part of his quest takes place on horseback, and Patel, who had never ridden before, attempted to gain Armani’s favor by having him steal stolen apples from the hotel lobby in Dublin.

Still, appealing to a horse’s stomach can’t do much. If Patel couldn’t summon enough authority to play as Gwain, Armani would surely be the first to sense it. After all, they would spend their first day of filming together in an Irish wilderness where the wind blows so hard that Patel found himself hugging Armani tightly just to stay upright.

As those gusts of cold air pierced the metal mesh of Patel’s chain mail in a way no sword could, did Armani know his rider was more neophyte than knight? And could the horse be feeling some of the other things that make Patel anxious, like his natural tendency to overthink his career – what Patel calls “paralysis by analysis” – or the way he wondered what people would do? of a British Indian actor playing King Arthur’s nephew?

OK, maybe some of these concepts are a little too complicated for a horse to understand. (Although Armani couldn’t be reached for comment, so who can tell?) But Patel still had a lot on his mind that first day, and I haven’t even addressed the issue of his food poisoning yet. .


“All this talk about performance,” he moans, “and I’m here on top of a chain mail horse, in the freezing cold, hoping I don’t have diarrhea. “

Patel was video chatting with me from Adelaide, South Australia, where he is busy editing his first martial arts movie titled Monkey Man, while keeping an eye out for The Green Knight, which was originally due to be released last. summer and will now debut in theaters on July 30. Directed by David Lowery, The Green Knight adds a welcome twist to Patel’s summary of simple crowd pleasures: unlike Slumdog Millionaire or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Lowery’s film is artistic, mysterious, and a little sexy.

Or, let me put it more clearly: The Green Knight understands that Dev Patel is an idol now.

The once-gawky actor has grown into a prominent man with romance-romance hair, empathetic eyes and a well-groomed beard, and although Patel’s photoshoots regularly bring in big numbers on social media, no movies before this one had really capitalized on its status as love at first sight for the Internet. Patel wasn’t even on Lowery’s initial casting list for “The Green Knight,” but after the director saw a Zegna fad spread with Patel looking suave and regal, he found himself so caught up in the potential. from Patel that he began to draw a picture of the actor on horseback.

“From the moment I met him, I was very aware that he was going to be the thing that would make the movie epic,” Lowery said. “If we couldn’t get to an epic location, if we couldn’t find the right view, I could always fall back on him because he will give it to us in close-up. “

Sir Gwain is a bit of a fool when we first meet him, a drunken sloth who would rather court than fight. Still, he thinks it’s his fate to be known for something big, and when a tree-like creature called the Green Knight challenges King Arthur’s court, Gwain too eagerly accepts, beheading the monstrous figure.

Unfortunately, the Green Knight survives his own beheading and promises to return the blow to Gwain in a year. This means that although Patel is portrayed as a romantic thug – and Lowery delves into the idea, outfitting him with a series of low-cut blouses – this is the rest of the movie, in which Gwain finds himself humbled by the date. looming limit of the Green Knight, this is really meant to test his courage as a man.

dev patel “As a young actor in Hollywood, you face issues of masculinity, ego, success and fame. This is the same quest this young man pursues, ”Patel said of his role in“ The Green Knight ”. (Devin Oktar Yalkin / The New York Times)

“I certainly know every fan of Dev Patel’s hair and beard – I’ve seen these memes,” Lowery said. “But I don’t think people understand exactly what he’s going to do as an actor and ‘The Green Knight’ is only scratching the surface.”

Lowery’s film is enigmatic enough to mean different things to different viewers, and it is sure to generate a thousand subtitles devoted to decoding its dreamlike logic. But for Patel, the main point of The Green Knight is clear: Gawain thinks he’s entitled to fame even though he hasn’t done anything to prove it’s deserved. His quest is therefore a journey towards integrity which is accompanied by some current parallels.

“Whether you’re an Instagram model or a YouTuber, there’s this thirst to be recognized, to get talked about your legend, to get likes,” Patel said. “And for me, as a young actor in Hollywood, you face issues of masculinity, ego, success and fame. It is the same quest that this young man will become a known knight. All of this I bonded to.

None of this was originally in the cards for Patel, who grew up in the London Borough of Harrow as the youngest of two children. Both of her parents had emigrated from Nairobi as a teenager. Her father, Raju, is calm and introverted, while her mother, Anita, is the family force of nature. “She’s a great personality, and she can make the whole room laugh,” Patel told me. “I think my love of playing all these characters comes from her.”

Dev Patel Dev Patel plays the role of Sir Gauvain in The Green Knight. (Photo: Devin Oktar Yalkin / The New York Times)

Patel was a hyperactive kid and his parents enrolled him in years of martial arts classes to channel that excess energy. Still, he always had something more to give, and when his mother saw a casting commercial for Skins, a teen drama that would boost the careers of young actors like Nicholas Hoult and Daniel Kaluuya, she pushed him on. to audition for the role of sex. crazy Anwar.

The show was a success, but the neighbors were horrified. “It was like suicide in the community to put your kid on a TV show and let him drop out of school at 16,” Patel said. “While everyone’s kid is becoming a doctor or a dentist, I’m here on this TV show,” he said, “faking sex and doing drugs”.

He had never acted on camera before, and Skins was a trial by fire. The money was good enough to make things better for her family – with her first paycheck, Patel bought her sister a new bed – but the show’s big online sequel goes both ways.

“I was a young boy who frequented these chat rooms and it was pretty brutal,” Patel said. “There were all these lists of who’s the favorite character on the show or who was the prettiest character, and I was always the ugliest, the least attractive. No one liked Anwar. It really touched me personally. “

Maybe that’s why he’s still wary of compliments 15 years later, or why he laughs at himself before someone else has a chance. When I bring up the fanbase rooting her on social media, I can’t even finish the sentence until Patel steps in: “The three members of this fanbase? Even when “Slumdog Millionaire” won Best Picture at the Oscars in 2009 or when, eight years later, Patel himself received a nomination as a supporting actor for the drama Lion (he lost to Mahershala Ali), all this attention made him uncomfortable.

“I didn’t feel worthy,” he said. “It’s a testament to my natural low self-esteem: you’re out there with some really awesome creatures, the best of the best, and you’re like, ‘I don’t know what I have to offer in this space.’ “

He said his agents were still frustrated with him for turning down blockbusters from major studios. “Maybe it’s a fear of how I would fit into this world,” Patel said. Sheepishly starts talking about “one of the worst movies I’ve ever made, and I shouldn’t even be talking about it, but do a quick search on IMDb and you’ll know what it is” . (It refers to “The Last Airbender” by M. Night Shyamalan, the Razzie Award-winning animated action series adaptation.)

On this production, he was surrounded by a green background and special effects, and the artifice proved too difficult to understand. “I didn’t really thrive in this position,” he said. “I take my hat off to all these amazing actors that make Marvel movies where they’re, like, big loud fans and green screen and tennis balls and so on.”

From now on, authenticity is Patel’s watchword; if he can’t make a movie feel real to him, it’s not worth doing. As an explanation, Patel told me a story about getting the teenager’s role in Slumdog Millionaire, an audition he booked because the director’s daughter, Danny Boyle, was a huge Skins fan. .

Patel was full of manic energy during the audition, using whatever tricks he could think of to make the room laugh. But afterwards, Boyle took the young actor aside and told him that if he was hired to direct the movie, he would have to learn to stand still. Could he leave enough room for the audience to enter the film through his eyes?

“At the time, I was 17,” Patel said, “and I was like,“ Well, that’s not playing. It’s just lazy! ‘ But over the course of his career, he began to understand what Boyle meant: all you really have to do is be present. A movie star knows enough is enough.

That’s why the most exciting thing for Patel now is when he takes on a role that just allows him to be. With his long, meditative scenes set in real-world locations, “The Green Knight” delivered this feeling in spades: even when he was riding on Armani and the blowing rain looked like bullets hitting his skin, Patel wouldn’t have traded the truth of this moment for anything. That’s why he does what he does, when all that’s left is him, the camera, and something powerful and innate that grabs attention. (Horses can sense that sort of thing. Maybe the public can, too.)

“There’s a moment between ‘the action’ and the ‘cut’ that looks like a drug,” Patel told me. “If you’re with the right filmmaker on the right set with the right script, everything just dissolves.” He compared it to the state of flow achieved by great athletes, or even to Kate Winslet at the bow of the Titanic: “And there is a metaphorical DiCaprio behind me,” he said, extending his thoughts. long arms and smiling.


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