Dev Patel Doesn’t Want You to Focus on Wall Street Journal’s Kal Penn Mix-Up

Mannie Holmes
Variety

“It feels ironic standing here on this rooftop talking about it, but I hope that this film can start a conversation and shed light on a subject matter that people don’t really talk about: adoption. There are thousands of stray children on the streets of India,” said “Lion” star Dev Patel at the Burberry Beverly Hills flagship store Wednesday night.

The British actor, looking dapper in tailored Burberry, was being celebrated for his performance in the film by the fashion house and the Weinstein Company at an intimate cocktail party alongside co-star Sunny Pawar, screenwriter Luke Davies, and film’s inspiration Saroo Brierley. “Lion,” which follows the story of an Indian boy who reunites with his family after being separated for 25 years, recently launched a campaign to help provide financial support to the thousands of homeless children living in India.

At the event, Patel’s focus on the power of the film continued even after mention of public outcry when the Wall Street Journal mistakenly identified him as appearing in Mira Nair’s “The Namesake.” The article mistook Patel for another actor of Indian descent, Kal Penn.

“I get people’s anger and I also understand the frustration, but I think we’ve got to cut Joe [Morgenstern] some slack,” Patel told Variety. “I feel like he made a mistake and he actually expressed to me how terrible he felt with a heartfelt apology, and I think we need to focus our energy off that and onto the talent aspect, you know, the performances.”

He continued, “I spend most of the press tour talking about stereotypes and I don’t want to. It shouldn’t be second-rate to play an Indian character. No one crucifies Robert De Niro for playing a white man or an Italian man when everyone asks me, ‘Are you annoyed at playing Indian roles all the time?’ Of course not. This is part of my culture, my identity. I guess what the event goes to show is how few of us there are in this industry.”

“You know I mistake Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Gosling,” Patel later joked. “[But] what I’m trying to say is that that interview was a shining review of the film and performance, and I believe that we should lead with love. This film is about unification [and] there’s no point in using anger or aggression when you’re behind your laptop screen because it can start to become a very negative conversation.”

The actor also shared that his relationship with Burberry began after the label came to his rescue for the 2009 Academy Awards, during his rise to stardom in “Slumdog Millionaire. “I was turning up on red carpets with my school suit, my school uniform,” Patel laughingly recalled. Additional guests on hand included actor Robert Forster, British consul general Chris O’Connor, and BAFTA CEO Chantal Rickards alongside org director James Knight.

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