How Dev Patel completed ‘Monkey Man,’ his difficult directorial debut.  (Part-2)  

“I live in LA, and you don’t need to look far to see police brutality or caste systems,” Patel says. He says action film commentary might reach those on the wrong side of history. "How do I get them to watch this and feed them vegetables through an entertaining Trojan horse so it doesn't feel like a political or moral lesson?"  

The coronavirus pandemic-driven shutdown, few crew personnel, and physical issues made the directing debut difficult. “I broke my hand, foot, and shoulder. Everything that could have gone wrong in creating this picture went wrong,” he told SXSW reporters. “And it’s really been humbling.”  

Sharlto Copley, who plays Tiger, says Patel endured an unusual hell during filming. “I’m just filled with gratitude, really,” Copley says. “I keep telling Dev, it's like this grace that helped us through this one.” Netflix dropped the picture after a difficult production. Netflix  

The studio that first acquired it, they didn’t really know what they agreed for,” Patel recalls. “The film is denser and says more. Say page one has a different action scene, and you fight endlessly. It wants to do more.” It was “just sitting there gathering dust,” Patel says. He was about to sell it until Oscar-winning writer and filmmaker Jordan Peele, founder of Monkeypaw Productions, bought it through Universal Pictures.  

He saw me as a filmmaker. He witnessed my suffering, recounts Patel. “He said, ‘I hope you don’t mind. Universal will buy it after I shared it. I literally fell off my seat.” Peele considered “Monkey Man” a throwback to “movies were good” from the 1980s and 1990s.  

This was iconic. Peele says he truly believed it was demanding to be on screen. I could tell this director had worked hard to get it on the screen. Your picture is vast, and its story is intoxicating.” “Monkey Man” premiered to a standing ovation at SXSW. Patel cries on stage in video.  

I cried. I couldn't resist, man. You felt raw up there, and the answer was beautiful, he says. Patel credits a Rabindranath Tagore quotation his father shared with him with letting him release “Monkey Man” to the public after so much time on it.  

"I've spent countless days stringing and unstringing my guitar. The song I came to sing remains unsung. Something like that, says Patel. "I told Dad, 'I got you, man. Sung this song. I must let go. Finally saying, "It's not perfect, but it's me," is the largest leap of faith. It portrays me now and throughout history, faults and all.  

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