Monkey Man: Dev Patel says filming the movie was an “absolute catastrophe” every day

Dev Patel says Monkey Man production was an “absolute catastrophe,” with lost locations, no money, and using the crew as actors.

Next week will see the release of Dev Patel’s directorial debut, Monkey Man, but the action movie had a rough road to theaters, with Patel saying that the production faced “absolute catastrophe” each and every day.

During a Reddit AMA (via Variety), Dev Patel called Monkey Manthe most demanding thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Just weeks before principal photography was slated to begin, Patel had to beg their financier not to shut them down. “We were meant to shoot in India then COVID hit,” Patel said. “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 gruelling nine months of absolute joy and utter chaos.

During production, Monkey Man faced about every hurdle imaginable. “All of the locations we prepped for months at — we lost day of — so we had to adapt last minute,” Patel explained. “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.

Money was also scarce, and the production even had to rebuild break-away tables from scraps of wood. “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 said. “In a very long nutshell, every obstacle provided us with a new opportunity to innovate.” It all seems to have paid off, as Monkey Man received rave reviews following its premiere at SXSW.

The official logline for Monkey Man reads: “Inspired by the legend of Hanuman, an icon embodying strength and courage, Monkey Man stars Patel as Kid, an anonymous young man who ekes out a meager living in an underground fight club where, night after night, wearing a gorilla mask, he is beaten bloody by more popular fighters for cash. After years of suppressed rage, Kid discovers a way to infiltrate the enclave of the city’s sinister elite. As his childhood trauma boils over, his mysteriously scarred hands unleash an explosive campaign of retribution to settle the score with the men who took everything from him.” The film will hit theaters on April 5th.

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