Dev Patel: Films of City Frames

The BAFTA-award-winning actor talks fashion, performing and his role as mentor on Giorgio Armani's latest film project

(Image credit: 2017 Getty Images)

(Image credit: 2017 Getty Images)

How important is it for resources such as the Armani Films of City Frames project to be given to young directors?

It means the world. First of all, it's the platform – to be able to get this much attention for your work at such an early stage is incredible. The [Armani] brand is associated with excellence and precision and so just by association it's a wonderful thing. It makes you want to raise your game; it sets the guys a challenge. But I think to encourage young voices like this [is so important]; I wish I'd had that opportunity so early on. This [project] is beautiful, and for me I find it so inspiring. I come out of it very hopeful, actually.

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It's a difficult industry to get into as a director, is it not?

Exactly. And that's the thing; it is hard and especially when you're young, because it's such a big collaborative art form. If you get your foot in the door when you're young, people can look down on you. So, this project really legitimises a lot of [the young directors] in a big way, which is fantastic; not that they needed it, but it really helps.

You have said that you feel more like a peer than a mentor to these young directors?

I do. The mentor title doesn't sit very well; I do feel like a peer – they're so talented.

(Image credit:

Armani has a long history with film. Let’s talk about the importance of fashion for an actor. Is it something you've become more aware of? Does fashion sit with film?

Completely, 100 per cent: the more I started learning about filmmaking, the more I started to have an opinion on fashion and how I wanted to look and how I wanted to present myself. You're being sent scripts and the first thing you read is 'this is a character, he looks like this, he wears these clothes, this is the type of person he is'. So, to enable yourself to become someone else, costume and clothing are a really big part of that. I did a film with Jeremy Irons called The Man Who Knew Infinity. It was a period piece. We were wearing starched collars, three-piece suits and, you know, we could have cheated a lot of that, but we didn't because it makes you move differently and makes you stand differently; it really helps inform the character in a very big way. It was the same with Lion.

What can you tell us about Lion?

It is the tale of two different human beings – the same boy but in kind of two different avatars. You're following a young boy on the streets of India in these torn, tattered clothes, living a life of poverty, trying to survive and fend for himself in a very suffocating environment. And then midway through the film there's a sort of baptism where I come out of the water and I'm an Australian man, who's kind of lost all links to India. And all those memories he's had, he's tried to suppress so he can function in the world. And the clothing is so different. I’m wearing things that are the closest to who I am as a human being – you know, torn jeans, baggy T-shirts – and that was important for me because that character was the closest I've ever been to myself on the screen. I'm representing someone like myself. It's about an Australian trying to reconnect to his Indian roots. So, you see that visually, through the clothes.

DEV PATEL is mentor to six young film directors as part of the Giorgio Armani Films of City Frames project. To watch the films, go to Giorgio Armani Frames of Life eyewear is available at Giorgio Armani boutiques, and selected optical and department stores globally. In the UK, it is also available from David Clulow:

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