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Dev Patel Says He Faced ‘Absolute Catastrophe’ While Shooting ‘Monkey Man’: Movie Was ‘Basically Dead’

Dev Patel’s directorial debut “Monkey Man” was a massive hit after premiering at SXSW, with many hailing the crowd-pleasing martial arts film as a work of action spectacle on par with “John Wick” and “The Raid.” But as the movie continues to rack up rave reviews ahead of its theatrical release on April 5, Patel wants fans to know that the road to completing it was a grueling one.

In a recent Reddit AMA, Patel shared details about the logistically complicated shoot in Indonesia and how the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to derail the entire project.

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“I begged our financier not to shut us down a few weeks before principal photography,” Patel wrote. “We were meant to shoot in India, then COVID hit. 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 grueling nine months of absolute joy and utter chaos.”

He went on to explain that international travel restrictions and an increasingly tight budget required him to work with less resources than he anticipated. The limitations resulted in Patel creating his own makeshift technology and shoehorning crew members into acting roles.

“All of the locations we prepped for months at — we lost day of — so we had to adapt last minute,” he wrote. “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.”

While Patel expressed relief that the finished product turned out so well, he hasn’t lost sight of how brutal the process was.

“The most demanding thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he said of the film. “Everyday we faced absolute catastrophe.”

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