Dev Patel had to relearn a “Monkey Man ”fight one-handed after breaking his hand

'We wanted it to be jagged and ferocious,' the writer-director explains.

Dev Patel packs his action-thriller Monkey Man with all sorts of impressive stunts, but perhaps the most jaw-dropping fight scene takes place in an unassuming kitchen. The scene comes about halfway through the film, as Patel’s hero, Kid, faces off against a whole galley full of bad guys, using nearby knives, kettles, open flames, and even a microwave door to disable his enemies. It’s a frenetic and jaw-dropping feat of filmmaking, and it’s made all the more impressive by the fact that Patel had to relearn the entire fight one-handed after he broke his hand on set.

Patel directs, co-writes, and stars in Monkey Man, and he tells Entertainment Weekly that he endured his fair share of scrapes and bruises during production: Not only did he break several toes before filming began, but he developed an eye infection from having his face repeatedly smashed into a bathroom sink. He also suffered a severe hand injury while filming, shattering a bone and requiring surgery to place a screw in the back of his hand. Despite warnings from his surgeon, Patel immediately returned to filming and quickly relearned the entire kitchen fight scene, this time using just one hand.

<p>Universal Pictures</p> Dev Patel in 'Monkey Man'

Universal Pictures

Dev Patel in 'Monkey Man'

“I broke my hand in this other fight before that, and I was like, ‘Damn, I’m way better in the stunt room’ because I could use two hands,” Patel says, shaking his head. “But with this broken hand, everything changed to one-handed choreo, which was difficult.”

The kitchen scene is a standout sequence, with a whirling camera following Patel as he takes down bad guy after bad guy. All those sweeping camera movements meant that the production team also had to do a little redecorating on set.

“We found this kitchen in this hotel, and it looked like a Wong Kar-wai kitchen, but it was too small,” Patel explains. “So, I begged [the hotel] to let me break this interior wall so we could continue the camera movement through it and create these longer segments. I was like, ‘It’s going to be great! Open plan kitchen!’ And they were like, ‘Uh, okay!’”

Patel adds that because Kid is a nobody, he wanted to give his hero a scrappy, underdog style of fighting. So, he worked closely with the stunt team to differentiate Kid’s fight style from his opponents. (After all, this is a movie where Patel slits a dude's throat with a knife clenched between his teeth.) “The film’s called Monkey Man, and it’s about an underdog,” he explains. “He’s spitting. He’s using his teeth. He’s a caged animal. So, we wanted it to be jagged and ferocious.”

Director Jordan Peele also serves as a producer on Monkey Man, and he praises Patel’s ability to blend his acting skills and martial arts — especially in demanding fight scenes like the kitchen sequence.

“One of the keys to any great action hero, especially one that’s doing martial arts, is how that hero fights,” Peele explains. “And it’s true: You have one of those unique physicalities that is just beautiful to watch.”

“Gangly,” Patel interjects. “Awkward.”

“Call it what you will!” Peele says with a laugh. “But it’s sort of unique in the genre, and it does represent the underdog, but it also has this incredible power and dynamism.”

“Dynamism: I like it,” Patel replies. “I’ll take it, dude. I’ll take it.”

Monkey Man is in theaters April 5.

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