How Dev Patel Saved Monkey Man From Certain Death – Daily worlds news


Summary

  • Dev Patel’s directorial debut, Monkey Man, faced numerous obstacles and setbacks, almost being canceled multiple times.
  • Patel’s resilience and determination, along with help from Jordan Peele, allowed Monkey Man to be completed and acquired by Netflix and then by Peele’s Monkeysaw Productions.
  • The film’s deeper themes, cultural significance, and Patel’s commitment to showcasing Indian heritage set a new standard in cinema.

Three years in the making, a pandemic in-between, almost being canceled outright, and a director who broke a hand and a foot but showed more grit than any filmmaker in recent history to realize his film. As that film’s main star, co-writer, co-producer, and director, Dev Patel faced obstacles at every turn and could have been forgiven for thinking his directorial debut was cursed. Rather than fold his cards and accept defeat, the star, aged just 33 now, has already shown in his relatively short career what a tour de force he is.

The son of Indian Gujarati Hindu parents, Patel was barely 15 years old when he rose from the ranks of a virtually unknown British actor and earned an Academy Award nomination for his first feature film, Slum Dog Millionaire. Despite all his success and prodigious talent, almost a decade later, when he finally took the opportunity to get behind the camera for the first time, it seemed like the film Gods were against him.

The production of his action-thriller, Monkey Man, proved problematic almost immediately and came very close to being canceled on multiple occasions. However, showing as much resolute determination as many of the characters he’s famous for, Patel did whatever it took to ensure his film got made. Here’s the incredible story of how Dev Patel saved Monkey Man from what would have been a certain production death without him.

Monkey Man

2.5/5

Release Date
April 5, 2024
Runtime
1hr 53min

Read Our Review

Monkey Man Is an Action-Thriller with a Sociopolitical Soul

The plot of Monkey Man seems pretty straightforward. In essence, it tells the story of Kid, a young nobody from a meager background in India where the poor and helpless are trampled on by those with power. When the exploitative leaders of Kid’s hometown cause his mother’s death, the young man whose entire community has been tormented by their corrupt actions, becomes hellbent on exacting revenge.

While the story rings familiar and probably even clichéd, it distinguishes itself by how it’s made, and the deeper themes embraced along the way. Amid a deeper story that uses sociopolitical commentary as a substantive undercurrent, Patel uses a spiritual underpinning based on the Hindu monkey God, Hanuman, as a linchpin to add more gumption to every punch it throws. For his efforts, Patel’s hard-hitting directorial style and storytelling prowess have been almost universally praised so far. As reported by Deadline, after Patel himself explained his aim with the film to audiences, it became a lot clearer why it’s not just an average action flick.

I think the action genre has sometimes been abused by the system. I wanted to give it real soul, real trauma, real pain and you guys deserve that. And I wanted to infuse it with a little bit of culture.

However, given all it’s already achieved, the film’s true success comes from the tale of how Dev Patel saved its production, with a huge helping hand from Jordan Peele to reach its true potential.

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The Production History of Monkey Man, Explained

After coming up with the story and co-writing the film with Paul Angunawela and three-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter, John Collee, Patel initially wanted his previous collaborator, Neill Blomkamp (District 9) to direct it. However, Blomkamp suggested he direct it himself, and Patel decided to take on this challenge, although he’d never directed a feature film before. While filming was initially due to begin in India back in 2020, it was almost immediately struck by postponement and nearly canceled outright due to the COVID-19 pandemic rearing its infamous head.

Filming was forced to move to a small island in Indonesia and was basically on life support by that point. According to Patel, the island provided the opportunity to create a “bubble” for the crew of 500 people. However, things were far from smooth thereafter, with Patel, his cast, and crew, reportedly facing obstacle after obstacle. Among them, shooting locations became inaccessible, and the production was shot, even requiring Dev and other producers to spend out-of-pocket to ensure that even basic production needs could be fulfilled.

With equipment breaking all the time, the inability to fly in new hardware, and a chaotic set requiring the director himself to get in the trenches to keep everything going, Patel somehow managed to claw the film forward — although it also required having to beg the financier not to shut it down. When shooting itself was actually managed, the intensity of the action scenes and Patel’s commitment to them led to him breaking his hand during filming.

How Dev Patel’s Resilience Saved Monkey Man From Certain Doom

The true testament of Patel’s relentless determination during what must have often felt like a Sisyphean task stemmed from the fact that he found a way to adapt to every obstacle and overcome them. Whether that meant roping in every available person, or even placing “every tailor, lighting guy, accountant, etc” in front of a camera to stand in as makeshift supporting characters, Patel pulled off an amazing feat of filmmaking just to finish the film.

Far from the luxuries of big-budget productions, or even an adequate supply of props for that matter, Patel was forced to reuse his. Patel recently spoke of how he and other crew members were forced to piece together breakaway tables between shots. In the process, he also provided insight into just how arduous and chaotic it all was, but also just how determined and positively devoted he was to ensuring the film got made.

“Speaking of tables, we only had three or four breakaway tables, so once I would perform a huge bulk of stunts, I would scream “Cut!” and then immediately all of us would get on our hands and knees looking for all of the broken pieces of wood to glue the tables back together for the next shot… in a very long nutshell every obstacle provided us with a new opportunity to innovate. Boom!”

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A Helping Hand From Jordan Peele Rewarded His Resilience

After what must have certainly felt like a nightmare experience, Dev Patel, the producers, and his crew’s determination all paid off. Against nearly impossible odds, Monkey Man was completed on March 12, 2021, and later acquired by Netflix, which bought the rights to its worldwide distribution. However, after seeing what a superb film he had created, the brilliant Jordan Peele bought the film from Netflix through his production company, Monkeysaw Productions.

Given Monkeysaw’s distribution deal with Universal Pictures, the film was given a new score, and Peele’s helping hand helped it toward a worldwide theatrical release instead. After its worldwide premiere at South by Southwest on March 11, 2024, the film received a 95% rating and critics are already raving about it. With it, Dev Patel has firmly proven once again why he’s one of the most dynamic movie stars working today — now with the mantle of a director too, something else he can proudly add to his repertoire.

The Deeper Significance of Monkey Man

An eclectic mix of action, suspense, a divine undertone, and plenty of cultural underpinnings for Hindus and non-Hindus everywhere to enjoy, the film’s reputation is growing by the day. Like Slumdog Millionaire once did before, Patel’s contributions to cinema remain far more culturally significant than just being mere movies. Aside from his films often tackling systemic issues like prejudice, crime, exploitation, and power, they’re also deeply important for what they add to the cinematic landscape.

Instead of the often monolithic films that have dominated for decades, Dev Patel’s films are often infusions of his heritage. Through them, he breaks boundaries and opens that heritage up for all new audiences to appreciate the rich tapestry of divine, spiritual, and philosophical underpinnings that Indian culture and Hinduism, not just as a religion, but as a way of life, have to offer the world.

Here’s how he described that goal of his in his own words during a Reddit AMA session.

I so desperately wanted to be viewed as more than just a goofy sidekick in these sorts of films. I hope this film acts as a sort of gateway drug to our culture – not just mine but i guess i hope its a message to the industry that WE – the CONSUMERS want fresh, new and vibrant perspectives.

Monkey Man hits US theaters on April 4, 2024.



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