He also looks really hot doing it. The hunky "Lion" star appears shaggy, soaking and shirtless throughout his character Sir Gawain's perilous quest, wielding axes and smooching strangers as he journeys to an uncertain end.
"'The Green Knight' is a film about how Dev Patel is sexy," one film critic recently proclaimed on Twitter, while distributor A24 fueled the dreamboat discourse with cheeky posters reading "Round Table's Hottest Bachelor" and "Hot Summer Knights."
"That is very sweet. I mean, (in the movie) you just see me quite miserable and cold and muddy," Patel demurs. "Those gorgeous costumes by Malgosia (Turzanska) – I think anyone would have looked regal and awesome in that stuff."
"He's incredibly appealing in every sense of the word and yes, he's incredibly sexy. I see no shame in wanting to capture that," Lowery says with a laugh. "I was like, 'I want to see Dev looking as beautiful as he is onscreen and I don't want to shy away from that.' He has such a nobility to him that hasn't been utilized in films because he's such an affable actor who's so quick to break into this boyish smile. It's what made everyone fall in love with him, but in addition to that, there's severity to him that's really captivating."
But "Green Knight" is more than just medieval eye candy. Based on 14th-century poem "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," the epic film begins with the rudderless Gawain, who is poised to inherit his uncle King Arthur's (Sean Harris) throne, but is unsure how to prove himself worthy. Enter the mythical Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), who challenges a volunteer from Arthur's court to wound him. In return, the hulking creature will return the same wound the following year.
Gawain beheads the knight and becomes something of a folk hero in Camelot, despite the creeping dread of his looming fate. But true to his word, Gawain sets out to find the Green Knight a year later, as our hero wrestles with bigger questions about integrity and courage.
"I loved the idea of making a film about a knight going on a quest to seek out his own death, and knowing that is the honorable thing to do," says Lowery, who first read the anonymously written poem as a college freshman. "That was really haunting to me."
Those weighty themes were similarly attractive to Oscar winner Alicia Vikander ("The Danish Girl"), who plays the dual roles of Gawain's sweetheart, Esel, and a mysterious noblewoman he encounters on his trek.
"I'm turning 33 this year and I think this is a very universal story," says Vikander, who's juggled costume dramas ("A Royal Affair"), high-brow sci-fi ("Ex Machina") and popcorn action movies ("Tomb Raider"). "When I think of myself in my 20s, the idea of legacy was that kind of drive: wanting to do things and (considering) what I want to leave behind. Now those things show themselves a little bit differently, I guess. I find myself in my herb garden like, 'Oh, this is the best.'"
The film was shot in the picturesque Irish countryside, where Patel recalls trudging through streams, being tied to a tree for a scene with marauders, and acting against computer-generated giants and a fox. But the biggest challenge may have been his horse: Drawing from classical literature, as well as "The NeverEnding Story," Lowery initially envisioned Gawain would ride a white horse.
But after a few days training on the animal named Sparkle, "we had to upgrade to a slightly larger steed who was brown” named Armani, Lowery says. Sparkle "was just a bit too small. It looked like a Shetland pony under him."
"When they filmed me on her, you could very much see I was a giant and my ankles were kind of scraping on the floor," Patel adds. Armani was a far "more boisterous" beast, but "I would bribe him with apples every day to win him over and we became friends."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Green Knight': Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander on 'universal' fantasy epic