Reprising role of Queen Victoria about learning
In such a Sept. 11, 2017 photography, Judi Dench, a cast member in the film “Victoria and Abdul,” poses for a portrait during the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto. (Photography by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Judi Dench, superstar of the film “Victoria and Abdul,” poses for a family portrait Sept. 11 during the Toronto International Film Event.
“I’ve had one of those pep-up beverages,” Dench, beaming as she rests down for a recently available interview. “I feel somewhat sparky.”
Caffeinated or not, Dench, 82, remains completely energized. As Stephen Frears, the director of her latest film, “Victoria & Abdul,” marvels: “She’s the largest female star in Britain” — a affirmation that takes a moment to realize how true it is. “It’s extraordinary at her time.”
Dench’s eyesight had deteriorated lately due to macular degeneration, so scripts have to be read to her. But that’s done little to slow her down or dim her ferocious, mischievous brains. On her behalf right wrist is a tattoo of her personal motto, “Carpe Diem” (“Seize the Day”). She got it done on her behalf 81st birthday.
“The process of learning is quite difficult,” she says of her sight. “I could do it. I simply have to change in a different way. You need to do what you can, don’t you?”
It’s a soul of undaunted inquisitiveness that Dench stocks with her latest identity, Queen Victoria. In Frears’ film, which Concentrate Features opened in limited release Fri, Dench comes back to the monarch she memorably performed 20 years back in her big-screen breakthrough, John Madden’s “Mrs. Dark brown.” Dench has acknowledged that film — and the indie distributor who chosen it up for countrywide release (Harvey Weinstein) — with birthing her film career.
“Victoria & Abdul” shares some DNA with “Mrs. Dark brown.” The second option chronicled Queen Victoria’s camaraderie with the Scottish servant John Brown (Billy Connolly) following the loss of life of Victoria’s much loved man, Prince Albert, in 1861. “Victoria & Abdul” takes place about 15 years later and concerns another unorthodox romance Victoria struck up, one only relatively recently discovered.
Words and diaries uncovered in Shrabani Basu’s 2010 publication unveiled the depth of the Queen’s a friendly relationship with Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal in the film), a 24-year-old Indian clerk when he arrived in 1887, four years after Brown’s fatality. Regardless of the staunch disapproval by the royal court of your Muslim being Victoria’s close confidant, he became her professor, or munshi, and remained near to her side until her death in 1901.
Though Victoria was the Empress of India, she recognized little of the colony Britain was occupied ruthlessly exploiting. Karim educated her Urdu and Hindi, and exposed her to curry. Victoria even stipulated that Abdul was to be one of the main mourners at her funeral.
“I certainly never likely to be playing her again,” says Dench. “Suddenly all the work I had formed done on that returned and filled up the character. You may have a character and you have to learn the details of them, it’s like colouring them in. All that had been done, so that stood me a good stead. I did feel I understood about her previous life.”
“I am hoping there’s something in the long run of (‘Mrs. Brown’) that you can join up with this,” Dench adds.
It’s not hard to see a commonality between your Victoria of both motion pictures and Dench. It’s the queen’s “dependence on living” and “vital enthusiasm” that she most adores about her. “I wish to learn something new every day,” says Dench. “I try to. I learn new words. I really like it.”
“Victoria & Abdul” is Dench’s 5th film with Frears, who previous directed her in 2013’s “Philomena,” which gained Dench her 7th Oscar nomination. (Her sole win was for her Queen Elizabeth I in 1999’s “Shakespeare in Love.”)
Frears, the veteran director of “The Queen” and “Dangerous Liaisons,” said he would only make “Victoria & Abdul” if Dench agreed.
“I didn’t know if she’d,” says Frears. “It is possible she flipped it down. We structured a reading, so we lured her in to the trap.”