Dev Patel Says Monkey Man Production Was DIY-Heavy and Absolute Hell

Ever since Monkey Man’s first trailer debuted a few months ago, all eyes have been on Dev Patel’s directorial debut. That it’s coming to theaters at all feels like a stroke of luck, given that it was first meant for Netflix. But as it turns out, its entire existence was a saga in and of itself.

Recently, Patel held a Reddit AMA to answer questions about his film, and he freely called it “the most demanding thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Usually, an actor says that in regards to the physical demands, but this was something different: every day was “absolute catastrophe” in some way. The COVID pandemic hit just before production was meant to start in India, both the original production designer and cinematographer bowed out, and he had to beg the film’s financier to not shut them down before principal photography. And that’s just how things started!

From losing shooting locations to equipment breaking, Patel said Monkey Man production was “a grueling nine months of absolute joy and utter chaos.” Solutions were found and workarounds made—scenes were shot on his phone or with GoPros, and they used rope to create a camera rig after a crane had broken. After shooting scenes where tables were broken, the crew would immediately gather all the broken wood and glue the tables back together. Patel put it best when he said “every obstacle provided us with a new opportunity to innovate. BOOM!”

Elsewhere, Patel opened up on his approach to Monkey Man’s fight scenes. When asked, he called himself “very detailed” in the script for the beats of each fight, and said they brought that detail onto screen “with brutal ferocity.” He attributed that to fight choreographer Brahim Achabbakhe, a stuntman whose filmography includes Man of Tai Chi, Ganapath, and Bang Bang. Patel’s Kid is “like a caged cornered animal,” he explained, so fights needed “a sense of desperation as to what it would truly be like in a life or death situation. […] He will use anything to survive.”

One thing made clear in the Monkey Man promos: Kid gets messed up, and Patel certainly felt some of it by the end. “The hardest part of choreography is taking a hit,” he admitted. “I would wake up with the worst neck pain; it was like whiplash.”

Monkey Man hits theaters on April 5, and the rest of Patel’s AMA—which includes his desires to be in a romcom and action movies that influenced this film—can be read here.

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