Dev Patel has said that inclusive casting will lead to films being “richer, more interesting and relevant” as his new movie opened the BFI London Film Festival.
The Slumdog Millionaire actor plays the title role in The Personal History Of David Copperfield, which is based on the book by Charles Dickens and features a race blind cast.
He told the PA news agency: “There is so much opportunity in the UK, this is just one example of how if you just cast the best guy for the role then the film will be richer and more interesting and relevant for it.”
He added: “I’m just very grateful for the opportunity, it was a beautiful journey to go on and I never thought it would come into my orbit and I would get to wear this costume and be with these actors so I count myself very lucky, I just want it to be extended to the rest of the community.”
Patel stars alongside actors including Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Benedict Wong, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Rosalind Eleazar in the film, which was directed and co-written by The Thick Of It and Veep creator Armando Iannucci.
Crediting his casting to Iannucci, he said: “Just to be able to step into the world of Dickens in Victorian England is a real honour, it’s a treat, and I hope it opens the doors and sends a message to the industry to cast more minority actors in roles like this.
“I think Dickens has always been funny and relevant and topical but I didn’t know the story of David Copperfield, I thought he was the illusionist when I went for the meeting with Armando, mainly because the story didn’t reach out and grab me and I couldn’t relate to it.
“And now I think with the casting there will be kids from where I come from in north-west London or wherever, that will find a face on that screen that will speak to them and that is really exciting.”
Game Of Thrones actress Gwendoline Christie, who plays Jane Murdstone, said: “I was very happy that Armando had decided to be more inclusive and adventurous with the casting, that is what really brought it up to date.
“In our entertainment we need to have our world reflected and (we need) a more inclusive attitude in our arts and I hope that this encourages that.”
Laurie, who plays Mr Dix, added: “What I hope is within a minute or two, or even earlier, seconds of the film starting, you don’t even think about it, because it’s just not relevant.
“They are people and they are making their way in the world, some of them struggling harder than others and are dealing with misfortune and cruelty and all sorts of obstacles put in their way and it doesn’t really matter, and I think Armando’s goal was just to find people who he thought could fill those roles and bring them to life.”
The Personal History Of David Copperfield is released in UK cinemas on January 10 2020.
The BFI London Film Festival runs until October 13 and will include premieres of highly-anticipated movies such as The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Marriage Story and The Two Popes.