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Armando Iannucci defends colour-blind casting of Dev Patel in David Copperfield film

Director said diverse casting in Dickens film was not a ‘conscious reaction to Brexit’

Ellie Harrison
Monday 30 December 2019 11:16 GMT
The Personal History of David Copperfield trailer

Director Armando Iannucci has defended his decision to cast Dev Patel in The Personal History of David Copperfield.

Patel, who is a British actor of Indian heritage, plays the eponymous lead in the Charles Dickens adaptation, which also stars Peter Capaldi, Hugh Laurie and Tilda Swinton.

Explaining why he chose to cast Patel in the movie, Iannucci said: “It just felt like, why are we not doing this?”

He told The Guardian: “It’s when I thought of Dev as David. He said: ‘Do I have an Indian father?’ No. Although it’s set in 1840, for the people in the film it’s the present day. And it’s an exciting present."

Iannucci added: “It wasn’t a conscious reaction to Brexit, but the conversation has gone very insular in terms of what Britain is and what it doesn’t want to be. I wanted to celebrate what Britain actually is, and it’s much more of a carefree, enjoyable, humorous kind of zesty, energetic place.”

Earlier this month, Patel also discussed the film's diversity.

“I think wonderful things are happening," he told PA. "The fact that I get to be in a film like this is amazing. It’s at the beginning of a movement, if you can call it that. You have got to talk about it to get some momentum, so it’s cool...

“I totally missed this literary classic growing up. It didn’t appeal to me. And what Armando has done with the casting and the world, he has given it a buoyancy and an accessibility to kids like myself. It really is representative of a modern Britain – the one that I grew up in. And it’s about humility, it’s about friendship, it’s about togetherness and accepting where you have come from and embracing that too."

Early reviews of the film are in, with The Telegraph deeming it a “rollicking farce” that “keeps the spirit of Dickens intact”.

The Personal History of David Copperfield is released in UK cinemas on 10 January 2020.

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