Brits lend clout to Hollywood
Dench and Wilkinson mum on Skyfall, Lone Ranger secrets
LOS ANGELES — Despite their arthouse cred earned in such outings as the upcoming The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Tom Wilkinson and Judi Dench are among an elite group of British actors regularly called upon to lend their dramatic heft to Hollywood blockbusters and franchises.
Dench has just finished shooting her part in Skyfall, the seventh in a series of James Bond adventures featuring this grande dame of stage and screen in the role as 007’s boss M.
She, like the rest of the cast and crew, has taken a vow of secrecy about the plot of Skyfall, due in theatres in October. But director Sam Mendes ( American Beauty, Road to Perdition) has revealed that the story will delve into the past relationship between Dench’s MI6 chief and her secret-agent protege Bond, played by Daniel Craig for the third time.
Rumour is that M’s life might be imperilled in this adventure.
Dench’s reply: “You never know, do you?” Why would they kill her off? “Why would they?” Told that the filmmakers are wrong if they think audiences go to Bond films only to see Craig or his predecessor, Pierce Brosnan, she does not disagree. After all, “I am the one looking after these naughty boys.”
She is far more forthcoming when gushing over Javier Bardem, who is back to the old bad-guy ways that won him an Oscar for his crazed killer in 2007’s No Country for Old Men as a character called Raoul Silva.
How is the Spanish actor to work with? “That is a hard question to answer,” says Dench, obviously smitten. “Have you got a fortnight? It’s heaven. He is a beautiful, beautiful man. Very full of selfmocking. I loved working with Penelope Cruz,” Bardem’s wife and her co-star in the musical Nine. “I’ve worked with the whole family now. Although not quite. There is still Leo, who is 14 months.”
Wilkinson is no slouch, either, hanging out with a headdress-donning Johnny Depp as Tonto and Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski as they shoot The Lone Ranger in the New Mexico desert, with The Social Network’s Armie Hammer donning the hero’s mask.
When Dench asks if he plays a villain in the Old West adventure, out next year, he pulls the same silent act as she did. “I’m not allowed to disclose that.” There is a reason for his reluctance. “The character I am at the beginning is not the character I turn out to be. So there you are. That’s the shorthand.”
Is he having a ball? He grimaces. “It’s hard work. It’s too hot for me in Albuquerque.” Alas, he doesn’t even get to ride a horse.