If you ask a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender about the show's live-action history, they will most definitely play dumb. The show has plans to revisit live-action with the help of Netflix, but it goes without saying these days that M. Night Shyamalan missed the mark with his take. And now, one of the movie's stars is opening up about his feelings of being miscast at the time.
The discussion came from Dev Patel who brought Zuko to life. The actor, who had his big break years ago in Slumdog Millionaire, said he felt game for the role when it was offered. But once he arrived on set, Patel realized he wasn't the right person to bring the exiled Fire Nation prince to life.
"After Slumdog [Millionaire], I didn't really get anything. When that came around, it was a total no-brainer on the page," he says. "You know, may he rest in peace, Andrew Lesnie, the DoP of Lord Of The Rings. You've got M. Night and Frank Marshall and all these big names. I'm a big martial arts fan, so I was like, 'Oh, wow.' I was probably miscast, and the film didn't hit the mark. It was a really hard process for me because... It was such a bigger machine than what I was used to from Skins, that I felt a bit adrift at sea," the actor told Total Film in a recent chat.
"I could see that the studio was worried that I wasn't really performing well. It was quite a torturous experience in that sense where you know you've maybe possibly been miscast in something, and you're not right for it, and I didn't have any confidence, and I didn't know how to apply what I now know are my good tools as a performer, and the truth I can bring to a part. And it kind of showed."
The actor went on to say that he learned a lot about himself while on the set of The Last Airbender. And most importantly, he learned what not to do as he watched the notoriously mismanaged set unravel.
"It made me realise that I want to be involved in films where you can really feel connected to the material; it's more tangible, and you can sit with the filmmaker and have a conversation," he says. "I need mentorship. I need teaching, and someone that can guide me through the process of a movie. That's what I found later on in my career with other filmmakers, and that's what's made me improve. You learn a lot from it in a way, from films like that. But for me, there was a lot of trauma [surrounding] that whole experience," Patel revealed.
This transparency is a surefire consolation to fans of Avatar, but few things can take the sting of Shymalan's film away. The live-action adaptation is regularly listed as one of the worst adaptations in film history, and the fandom as a whole has disavowed it. And while Patel is glad to have learned some much-needed lessons on set, well - he would probably rather move on from his time as Prince Zuko.