TORONTO: A non-white actor playing the role of David Copperfield in Charles Dickens’ famous literary work of the 19th century Victorian England?
Yes, that is what Slumdog Millionaire actor Dev Patel has done in the latest and rather quirky adaptation of Dickens’ 1840s novel in director Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on Thursday.
With Dev in the lead role, The Personal History of David Copperfield is refreshingly entertaining and hilarious. In fact, the film turns the 19th-century novel into a great 21st-century cinematic experience.
Speaking at the world premiere of the movie on 5 September, Dev said it was a “supreme honour” for him to have played the path-breaking role. Amid laughter, he said he didn’t know who David Copperfield was when the director called to offer him the role.
When the role came to him, he said, he sat down with “those dopey people who didn’t who David Copperfield was. I was the guy who thought he was a magician”.
He said when he met the director he “laid out this incredible story…I hadn’t read the script (but) I was so enamoured by him the way he just extracted comedy from every small moment…I called my team up to say that I can work with this man”.
The Indian-origin actor said playing the role of the famous literary character “has been a wonderful opportunity. Hopefully, the new generation will be able to look at this and find a face that they can relate to…”
Asked by the audience about his thought process when he read the script, Dev said laughing, “There were like so many bloody lines…I was just blown away with the details of the writing and then we spent two weeks rehearsing together. We had adventures of every British actor coming into this tiny hall and I was nervous and all of us were to an extent…it was great…everyone stuck together and Armando (director) has this amazing way of extracting comedy from every line…”
The film director said Dev Patel was his only choice for the iconic role. “Yeah, I have no one else and you (Dev) are in every single scene apart from the 15 minutes,” said Armando Iannucci, who has been praised for his so-called “colour-blind” casting of the adaptation.
He said Dev was his first choice for the role because of his awkwardness and naivety combined strength.
Dev delivers a powerful performance as he traces the life journey of his literary character in the 116-minute movie. The cast of the movie, due out next year, includes Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton, Golden Globe winners Ben Wishaw and Hugh Laurie and Peter Capaldi.