Slumdog's Dev Patel wins a role in Last Airbender

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel has joined the cast of M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender, the Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Films live-action movie based on the Nickelodeon animated TV series, Variety reported.

Patel will be featured alongside newcomer Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone and Jessica Jade Andres. Production begins in mid-March in Greenland.

In casting Patel and Ringer, a director accustomed to delivering plot twists to audiences got some surprises of his own. Ringer is a complete unknown who was tapped for the title role off an Internet audition. Patel, meanwhile, steps into a role that Jesse McCartney had all but locked up until the actor's second career as a musician got in the way.

Patel's casting may blunt some of the criticism by fans that Shyamalan has ignored non-white performers in casting the movie, which features a decidedly Asian world with predominantly Asian characters.

Ringer will play Aang, the film's lead, who is the last of a race of people who can manipulate the elements of air. Ringer, a 12-year-old from Texas, landed the part after demonstrating his martial-arts skills in an Internet video that he posted to a Web site Shyamalan set up for open virtual auditions.

Patel will play Zuko, a member of the Fire Nation. Peltz plays the Water Tribe rep Katara, while Andres is the Earth Kingdom's representative, Suki. Paramount is set to release Airbender on July 2, 2010. Shyamalan said he is planning a three-picture story arc.