Dev Patel On Success, Style And The Importance Of Saying 'No'

A quick chat with the Oscar and BAFTA-nominated star of Lion

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In the midst of the highly polished chaos of Academy Awards season, Dev Patel's name has begun to accrue a real sense of traction when it comes to talk of The Big One (an Oscar, that is).

Having graduated from Channel 4 teen drama Skins with a little-known film called Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, the 26-year-old Londoner is now up for Best Supporting Actor at both the BAFTAs and the Oscars for his impassioned performance in Lion; the improbable-but-true tale of a young man who uses Google Earth to track down his biological parents, two decades after being rescued from the slums of Kolkata by a kindly Australian family.

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Not only that, but with a new haircut and some increasingly slick get ups, Dev is fast becoming one of the most stylish men in a crammed field of stylish British actors - something we have noted with pleasure.

Speaking from his home in LA, Esquire caught up with Patel to talk life advice, lucky socks and when to say no.

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What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

There's this quote from an Indian Philosopher called Vivekananda, and it says: "We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think."

As a guy who's battled a lot of self-esteem issues, that feeling of being an outsider, I've tried to carry that quote with me. I began to purposefully reflect some positivity and see if I was treated differently and, so far, it's worked out pretty well.

You're a well-dressed guy. How would you describe your personal style?

I'd say I have two versions of myself away from screen. One is the torn t-shirt and the kind of scraggly hair for when I'm rocking around the house. Then there's the whole press look, I suppose, which is cool because you have an opportunity to put on a great suit and feel like a gentlemen. I know some people say they hate it, but I love that feeling of being able to dress up for a big occasion.

Dev being stylish

What do you look for in when choosing a suit?

I have a great relationship with some brands, like Burberry for instance. They know my taste, they know how I like my suits cut, because I'm a pretty gangly guy. I like things being tapered to within an inch of their life! But apart from that I like to keep it as a simple as possible really. I stick to navy and grey, pretty much.

What item should every man have in his wardrobe?

A good pair of socks, first of all. I lean to the quirky side with them; something with a pattern. And then a nice watch on your wrist. I think it can dress up any look.

I was given a pair of Lion socks by my best friend to wear on the red carpet, for luck, and then I got an email from another friend who was in pieces laughing about how there was this thread online with people mistaking them for snail socks and all sorts of things, but I digress... Buy a good pair of socks.

Is there an item of men's clothing that you just hate?

The long t-shirts that come down to the knees. They've got tears in them and stuff. I just can't get my head around those.

Any extravagances?

I don't really cook, so I'd say it's probably eating out way too often. That and my house, that's the most expensive thing I've ever bought. When it comes to typical material things I'm not too fussed.

What do you think is the most admirable trait a person can have?

I'd say to lead with sincerity. Maybe I should answer with something cooler, but I think you should know when to care about something. We shouldn't have to pretend to be unfazed all the time.

Do you have a proudest moment?

Not so much a moment as a realisation, really. It's fair to say that Danny Boyle put me on the map, but it was in the process of making Lion that I realised that I could say no to things.

You have to be 100 per cent committed to what you do, and you don't have to accept everything that comes your way. I think that's applicable to a lot of scenarios in life, and it's something I believe comes with a bit of maturity and I'm proud of that realisation.

What film means the most to you?

I'm going to say A Prophet. It's a French film by Jacques Audiard. I know it might sound a bit pretentious, but it is brilliant. Also Enter the Dragon. There's a bit of contrast for you!

Finally, where's one place that everyone should visit?

I'm being biased here, but I'm going to say the backwaters of Kerala, in India. I've just got back from there and it's incredible. There are these totally still lakes that look like something from the Garden of Eden. Or how I imagine they look, anyway,

You can catch Lion in cinemas now.