Prior to 2007, Dev Patel was just another London teenager, albeit one with a passion for acting and tae kwon-do. But after landing a role on the controversial television series "Skins" (E4, 2007- ), he caught the attention of director Danny Boyle, who was desperate for a non-traditional leading man of Indian descent for his new film. The picture, "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008), was a charming comedy-drama about a young resident of the Mumbai slums who earns a shot at improving his life via the game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" Patel's endearing performance helped to make the film a hit with festival audiences around the world; it also signaled the emergence of a comic talent whose full screen potential had yet to be tapped.
Born in Harrow, a suburb of London, England in April of 1990, Patel began training in tae kwon do at the age of 10, and worked steadily towards achieving a black belt in the discipline. According to the web site for Rayners Lane Academy - the school where he received his martial arts training - Patel netted an impressive collection of trophies and medals in both national and international competitions, including a World Championship title. Tae kwon do appeared to consume much of Patel's interest until his mid-teens, when he began to explore acting. He landed his first job on the teen-oriented comedy-drama "Skins." Aggressively promoted by its network as an answer to such adult-themed American series as "Gossip Girl" (The CW, 2007- ), the series focused on the lives of several Bristol teens as they navigate the difficult transition between adolescence and adulthood. Patel's character, Anwar, was a Muslim from a strict family who rebelled against them by indulging whole-heartedly in alcohol, drugs and casual sex. After attempting to form a relationship with a somewhat unstable young woman, he abandons his studies to move to London in order to seek his fortune on his own terms. A sizable hit with younger audiences, as well as a hot button issue with parents due to its content, "Skins" received a nomination for Best Drama Series from BAFTA in 2008.
While working on "Skins," Patel was brought to the attention of director Danny Boyle, who was struggling to find a young Indian actor to play the lead in his new film. Based on a real-life event and penned by Simon Beaufoy ("The Full Monty," 1997), "Slumdog Millionaire" told the story of an illiterate teen from the slums of Mumbai who lands a chance to compete on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," despite adversity from nearly every angle. Boyle had originally hoped to cast an Indian national in the lead, but found most of the leading men there to be near-perfect physical specimens and completely inappropriate for the role. He eventually found his leading man in Patel after his 15-year-old daughter showed him an episode of "Skins."
Patel was soon cast and underwent a rigorous three-month period of societal training in the actual slums of Mumbai. There, he spent time with young men of the same age as his character, and studied the day-to-day challenges of the slums' residents. Patel was also required to train with a choreographer for the film's Bollywood-style conclusion, which finds the cast breaking into a massive and ebullient production number. After being acquired by Warner Independent Pictures and Fox Searchlight for American distribution, "Slumdog Millionaire" premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in August 2008. It was quickly hailed as the first great success of the festival, and took home the People's Choice Award at its conclusion. The film later opened in November to strong reviews, many of which singled out Patel's determined performance as its emotional heart. The actor emerged from the flurry of media attention humbled by the praise and eager to gain further experience in films and television.