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Dev Patel Says Monkey Man Filming Was a Catastrophe, Funding Pulled

March 29, 20243 Mins Read

Dev Patel makes his feature directorial debut with the upcoming action movie “Monkey Man,” which blew the roof off SXSW earlier this month and earned strong reviews, but getting the film made was no walk in the park. During a Reddit AMA ahead of the film’s April theatrical release, Patel told fans that directing, acting in and producing “Monkey Man” was “the most demanding thing I’ve ever done in my life” because “everyday we faced absolute catastrophe.”

“I begged our financier not to shut us down a few weeks before principal photography,” Patel wrote. “We were meant to shoot in India then COVID hit. I lost my initial production designer and [cinematographer] and the film was basically dead, then we pivoted and went to a tiny island in Indonesia where we could create a bubble in an empty hotel for the whole crew of nearly 500 people. It was a grueling nine months of absolute joy and utter chaos.”

“All of the locations we prepped for months at — we lost day of — so we had to adapt last minute,” he continued. “The borders closed also, so I couldn’t bring in lots of supporting characters. I ended up having to put every tailor, lighting guy, accountant etc. in front of the camera. Speaking of cameras, most of our equipment broke and we couldn’t fly in new stuff so we literally shot stuff on my mobile phone, go pros — when a crane broke we ended [up] creating this camera rig from rope which I termed the ‘pendulum cam,’ which swings over a large crowd of people then detaches and the operators run through the crowd whilst it was rolling.”

And the list goes on and on. Patel wrote that there were days when his production designer said the production “literally didn’t have any money” to complete certain sets. “One of our producers ran his personal credit card to buy the glass to cover the table tops” in one of the main action scenes, he wrote.

“Speaking of tables, we only had three or four break away 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,” Patel added. “In a very long nutshell, every obstacle provided us with a new opportunity to innovate. BOOM!”

“Monkey Man,” which Patel also co-wrote, centers on Kid (Patel), who scrapes by with the cash he makes getting beaten in an underground fight club before unresolved trauma from his childhood drives him to infiltrate the social scene of India’s wealthiest and most corrupt. When it becomes clear that the people who murdered his mother continue to inflict casteist and Islamophobic violence on millions of others, he unites with people on the outskirts of society to get revenge on their common enemies.

“The action genre has been abused by the system,” Patel said at SXSW while introducing the film. “You know, a quick buck. Mindless shit. I wanted to give it soul. Real trauma. Real pain. You guys deserve that. I wanted to infuse it with a little bit of culture.”

“Monkey Man” is produced by Jordan Peele, who came on board well after production. The film is opening in theaters April 5 from Universal Pictures.

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