Eat Pray Live
Unlike her character in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Dame Judi Dench has no plans to retire just yet. Kate Whiting reports
WAITING to speak to Judi Dench is a bit like anticipating an audience with the Queen. So when I’m finally ushered into the presence of acting royalty, I’m immediately concerned to hear the great Dame coughing.
‘‘ No, I haven’t at all. I don’t know what it is,’’ she says, dismissing my fears she’s suffering from a cold. ‘‘ We were filming [ James Bond’s
Skyfall] yesterday and it was very, very cold. I think I’ve just a bit of a cough. It’ll only last today and then it will be away,’’ she adds, smiling sweetly.
Suitably relieved, we begin the business of discussing her latest film role in John Madden’s comedy- drama
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The director managed to gather together a dream team of venerable British stars, including Dame Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie and Tom
Wilkinson, for the ensemble comedy- drama about a disparate group of retired Brits heading for a new life in India.
As Evelyn, a recent widow whose husband has left her with mountains of debt, Dench has perhaps the greatest ‘‘ journey’’ to contend with as she learns to become both financially and emotionally independent.
Embracing the internet, Evelyn finds details online of a hotel for the ‘‘ elderly and beautiful’’ in colourful Jaipur, run by ambitious manager Sonny ( Dev Patel). Throughout the film, her blogs serve as a narrative for the story.
For Dench, the opportunity to work with Madden again ( after her Oscarwinning turn in Shakespeare In Love and the Oscar- nominated Mrs Brown) had immediate appeal – not to mention the chance for her first visit to India.
‘‘ Have you got half an hour?’’ she asks, giggling, before listing all the things she loved about the country.
‘‘ I can’t wait to go back. Like my character, I became completely infatuated by it. Incredibly charming people, the crew couldn’t have been more colourful, wonderful, welcoming and funny. And we got to see so many things: the traffic, the birds, the colour, the light . . . ‘‘
She even attended a royal wedding that was being held in the hotel where the cast were staying.
‘‘ We weren’t invited, but there were rehearsals, with elephants and white horses, so we stood on a balcony to watch. Everybody started to arrive and all the women came up to the balcony with us, and the men were in this great procession.’’
Smiling, she remembers how the cast were invited to join the wedding party for a cup of tea: ‘‘ We said, ‘ We’re not dressed properly’ but they said it didn’t matter at all. So we did.’’
STRONG BOND: Judi Dench with Daniel Craig in the James Bond movie Casino Royale.