Himesh Patel is making his feature film debut as the star of “Yesterday.”
In the romantic comedy, directed by Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis, Patel plays an aspiring musician who wakes ups from an accident to find that he is the only person in the world who remembers the Beatles. It doesn’t take long for him to become an international sensation by taking credit for the Fab Four’s greatest hits.
The significance of being a leading man of South Asian descent in a major studio film is not lost on Patel, who is most known for his work in the British soap “EastEnders.”
“We do need to see that more,” says the 28-year-old Patel. “But what I’m proud of with this one is that…it wasn’t like they went ‘Okay, this is great but we need to cast someone of a minority ethnicity in this role.’ It was just the fact that they cast the net wide because they looked at the role and quite intelligently went, ‘Well this role doesn’t have to be played by a white heterosexual male. It can be played by anyone so let’s just kind of see.’”
Patel sat down at the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood for this week’s episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast.
Patel auditioned for the role by performing Coldplay’s “We Never Change.” His callback included performances of “Yesterday” and “Back in the U.S.S.R.” After landing the role, he spent two months in music boot camp taking guitar, piano and singing lessons.
Ed Sheeran signed on to appear as himself in the movie after Coldplay frontman Chris Martin declined the gig.
“Ed was like, ‘Of course I’m gonna do it,’” Patel said. “This film’s kind of like a familiar story. A guy from Suffolk who becomes the biggest star in the world.”
And then there’s Benedict Cumberbatch. While he isn’t in the movie, in one scene, Lily James, who plays Patel’s manager and love interest, cracks a joke about Cumberbatch becoming a sex symbol. “I’ve been told that he has a very good sense of humor,” Patel said. “I’m sure he’ll find it very funny.”
Promotion of the movie has included performing at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas during Universal’s CinemaCon presentation in the spring, on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” as well as at the iconic Tower Records building on the Sunset Strip.
While he has no plans at the moment to launch a music career, he wouldn’t mind a shot at a superhero movie. Patel lists “The Dark Knight” as one of his favorite movies.
“Let’s find a brown superhero,” he said. “Let’s do it.”
“Yesterday” is in theaters on June 28.
Listen to the full interview with Patel below. “The Big Ticket” can be found out iHeartRadio or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.