A starry knight - up there onscreen. The actor Dev Patel gets a leading-man moment unlike any he's had before.

'' The Green Knight adds a welcome swerve to Patel's resume of straightforward crowd-pleasers : Unlike ''Slumdog millionaire'' or ''The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,'' Lowery's film is artsy, mysterious and a little sexy.

Or, let me put it more  plainly : ''The Green Knight'' understands that Dev Patel is a world class heartthrob now.

The once-gawky actor has grown into a leading man with romance-novel hair, empathetic eyes and a well-kept beard, and though photo shoots of Patel routinely earn big numbers on social media, no movie till this one has really capitalized on his status as an Internet crush.

''I'm certainly aware of all of the fans of Dev Patel's hair and beard - I've seen those memes,'' Lowery said. ''But I don't think people understand exactly what he's going to be doing as an actor, and ''The Green Knight'' just scratches the surface of it.

Lowery's film is enigmatic enough to mean different things to different viewers,  and it's sure to spawn a thousand reddits devoted to decoding its dreamlike logic. But to Patel, the main point of ''The Green Knight '' is clear : Gawain thinks he is entitled to fame even when he has done nothing to prove it's deserved. His quest, then, is a journey toward integrity that comes with some present-day parallels.

''From the moment I met him, I was very aware that he was going to be the thing that makes the film epic,'' Lowery said. '' If we couldn't move to an epic location, If weren't able to find the right vista, I could always fall back on him because he will give us that in a close up.''

''Whether, you're an Instagram model or a YouTuber, there's this thirst to be recognized, to have your legend spoken about, to get the likes,'' Patel said. ''And for me as a young actor in Hollywood, you're dealing with issues of masculinity, ego, success and fame. That's the same quest this young man goes on to be a known knight. All of that, I related to.'' 

Authenticity is Patel's watchword; if he can't make a movie feel real to him; its not worth doing. By way of explaining, Patel told me a story about landing the role of the teenage striver in '' Slumdog Millionaire, '' an audition he booked because the daughter of the director, Danny Boyle, was such a fan of ''Skins.''

Patel was full of maniac energy during the audition, using every trick he could think of to earn laughs in the room. But afterward, Boyle took the younger aside and told him that if he were hired to lead the movie, he'd have to learn to be still. Could he leave enough room for the audience to enter the film through his eyes?

''At the time, I was 17,'' Patel said, ''and I was like, ''Well, that's not acting. That's just lazy! ' ''But over the course of his career, he has begun to understand what Boyle meant : All you really have to do is be present. A movie star knows that's enough.

That's why the most exciting thing for Patel now is when he plays a role that lets him simply be. With its long, meditative scenes set in real locations,

''The Green Knight'' delivered that feeling in spades : Even when he was astride Armani and the rain hurled by the wind felt like  bullets hitting his skin, Patel wouldn't have traded the truth of that moment for anything.

It's the reason he does what he does, when all that's left is him, the camera and something powerful and innate that commands attention. [Horses can sense that sort of thing. Maybe the audience can, too.]

''There's a moment between 'action' and 'cut' that is like a drug,'' Patel told me. ''If you're with the right filmmaker on the right set with the right script, everything just dissolves away.''

He likened it to the flow set reached by great athletes, or even to Kate Winslet on the prow of the Titanic : ''And there's a metaphorical DiCaprio behind me,'' he said, extending his long arms and grinning.

The World Students Society thanks author Kyle Buchanan.


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