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

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Eguide Movies -

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.

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