The Literary Roles of Dev Patel

Posted by Rose Moore

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Dev Patel shot to fame thanks to the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, and since then, he’s starred in everything from action films to high drama to retirement comedy. Most recently, Patel has found himself at the center of casting controversy, thanks to his portrayal of David Copperfield. Many fans and critics applauded the decision to cast based on sheer charisma and talent, rather than race, but of course, a vocal minority was none too pleased about it.

However, there’s no doubt that Patel’s role has changed the way we look at classic literary characters (hopefully for the better), opening up future adaptations as well. In honor of the film, we’re taking a look at some of his other literary roles.



Slumdog Millionaire

The film that launched his career and swept the Oscars, Slumdog Millionaire is based on Vikas Swarup’s Q&A (2005). Like the film, the novel tells the story of a young man who wins a quiz show but is accused of cheating, and who has to tell his life story to prove his innocence. Covering everything from drama to romance to hilarity, and an underdog story at its heart, it’s no wonder that the book (and film) became such a smash hit.


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This emotional comedy about retirees is based on Deborah Moggach’s Foolish Things (which also inspired the sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Here, Patel plays the enthusiastic (but less-than-capable) Sonny, the manager of a hotel well past its prime, where a group of people come to retire. The film is elevated by the truly stellar cast, including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Bill Nighy, and Patel holds his own among these true greats.



The Man Who Knew Infinity

Patel steps back in time to take on the lead role in this film, based on The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan, by Robert Kanigel. The true story of the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan, an Indian mathematical genius who ended up at Cambridge after a start as a menial laborer in Madras. Inspiring, heartbreaking, and set against the backdrop of World War I, this is an unforgettable story. 




Dev Patel clearly shines when it comes to true, inspiring stories, as Lion is yet another tale of an underdog on an incredible journey—this time, to find his way home. Based on Saroo Brierly’s autobiography, A Long Way Home, this film is the incredible story of a young boy who got lost on a train in India as a child, and despite being adopted by an Australian couple, eventually realized he could use Google Earth to find his way home again.


The Personal History of David Copperfield

As mentioned already, Patel turned heads as David Copperfield, the titular character in Charles Dickens’ famous novel—but not just for the casting controversy. The Personal History of David Copperfield is a fresh and hilarious take on the literary classic, and one that has reminded people of why Dickens’ work is so beloved.



Modern Love

Including Modern Love may stretch the definitions of literary, as this series isn’t based on a book, but on the New York Times weekly column of the same name. This anthology series explores the variations of modern relationships, and in it, Patel appears as a dating app developer looking back over his "one that got away." It’s a small role, but a sweet one to add to his literary repertoire.



The Green Knight

Currently due for release in May, Dev Patel’s latest role is a break from the inspiring true stories that have been his literary adaptation bread and butter. Instead, The Green Knight is based on the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which is in turn based on Arthurian legend. Patel will be swinging a sword as Gawain himself—and challenging expectations yet again.


What are your favorite Dev Patel roles? Tweet @quirkbooks and let us know!