As this year’s crop of award season contender films hits theaters in full force, a host of celebrations (read: campaign events) is also under way. Wednesday’s party hosted by Burberry and The Weinstein Co. honored “Lion,” starring Brit actor Dev Patel as Saroo Brierley, whose autobiography about finding his birth mother, “A Long Way Home,” was published in 2014 and adapted for the film, which premiered at this year’s Toronto Film Festival.
This wasn’t the first go-round for Patel and Burberry, who connected when he starred in the Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2008. “We’ve had such a long relationship and they’ve saved me from many red-carpet disasters,” said Patel, while sipping Champagne on the roof of Burberry’s Rodeo Drive flagship in Beverly Hills.
“When I had just started this industry I was working the red carpet in my school blazer and Christopher and the team at Burberry came to the rescue and dressed me for the Oscars, which was a really special time for me,” he said.
Like many people, Patel read about Brierley’s story after it became a press sensation in 2011. “I was completely enthralled by the story. I ended up knocking on writer Luke Davies’ door while he was drafting the script with director Garth Davis. It was an awkward encounter. They were like, ‘OK, you are a sweet guy, but you’re going to have to get back to auditioning very soon.’ Once they finished the script I did Skype auditions then I met Garth in London for a six-hour screen test and I got the role,” he recounted.
Patel called such roles “really hard to come by for minority actors.” “It didn’t require me to be some goofy quirky psychic or funny best friend,” he said of Hollywood stereotyping. “It has some gravitas and some soul. And I’m a real mummy’s boy at my heart and this is an anthem about mothers and sons.”
Also present were Brierley and the eight-year-old actor who plays him in the first half of the film, Sunny Pawar, whom Patel called “our miniature leading man.” All three were decked in Burberry suits, although Pawar added a rocket-ship T-shirt to his ensemble.
Of hanging out with his movie star self (he and Patel have since become good friends), Brierley said, “It’s great because all of this is new to me, so I’m like their protégé. Having everyone together before we do our panel sessions really lifts us.”
Patel was quick to correct him, saying, “No, he’s our spiritual ambassador. He’s the reason we are all here.”