Judi Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
(© 20th Century Fox)
Judi Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
(© 20th Century Fox)
In the new film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Oscar and Tony Award winner Dame Judi Dench plays Evelyn, a recent widow of meager means who responds to a fraudulent ad from India inviting a group of oldsters (played by such esteemed actors as Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, and Bill Nighy) to spend their golden years at the supposedly luxurious Marigold Hotel. TheaterMania caught up with the famed actress at a press conference where she spoke about the film, her busy work schedule, and being recognized for her work in the James Bond films.

THEATERMANIA: Do you see any similarities between yourself and your character, Evelyn?
JD: I'm not like Evelyn, but I understood the emotions that she's gone through. If you act something that you don't have any experience of, you have to draw on it from somewhere. That's why playing Lady Macbeth is a tricky experience, you know. I can sympathize with the fact that Evelyn was a widow, and she was missing her husband, and had a child that she didn't want to impose on. She's an independent soul who still feels she has a bit of life in her.

TM: This is your third collaboration with director John Madden. What keeps you coming back for more?
JD: Well, it's very fashionable to say, "Oh, he's a wonderful director! Oh we all love working with him!" He is a wonderful director, and he is thrilling to work with. After we'd done Mrs. Brown, I sent him a letter, and I said, "John, if you have the part of somebody sweeping up the street, I will come willingly and do it.' And then a few years later he wrote, and he said, "I have got a part that means that you virtually just walk across the back." And that was Shakespeare in Love. So when the opportunity of working with John comes up, I jump at it. Because if you are asked by him he thinks it's really in your compass to play that part. There's no end to what you want to give to him.

TM: You have shot nearly 10 films in the past two years -- including the new James Bond film, Skyfall. Do you ever see yourself retiring?
JD: No, I don't want to retire. I love to learn something new. If you play one kind of a part, what happens is that you get scripts rather similar to that part, when what you long for, of course, is a script that comes in which isn't remotely like the last thing that you've done. Which is, you know, the most wild, way-out thing that you could possibly think of. And that's what I would like to do next.

Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, and Bill Nighy
 in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
(© 20th Century Fox)
Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, and Bill Nighy
in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
(© 20th Century Fox)
TM: Was this film one of those things?
JD: I never had a desire to go to India. But within 24 hours I was completely fascinated and bewitched by the country. So was Evelyn, so that was a very good thing to slot in. There's a line she says, "It's an assault on the senses." And indeed it is. I can't wait to go back.

TM: What exactly do you mean by "slot in"?
JD: As an actor, everything that happens to you is in a kind of storage place. You are not aware of it, but if you should see some terrible thing you are thinking at the same time, "Gosh, I must remember that." You don't show that on screen because it's part of your character, but nevertheless it's something that you carry inside you." I mean you just feel everything that you have experienced somehow and then translate it into the terms of the character that you play.

TM: As one of the world's most recognizable stage and screen stars, do you get stopped in public a lot?
JD: Well, if you play M in the James Bond movies, you get approached by mostly people of my grandson's age, 15 and up. I've been doing the Bond films for 17 years and it's very good street cred. That's very nice indeed, because that's the way that you get an audience for tomorrow. You know, if I can get them to maybe come and see something else -- not necessarily Marigold -- then that's our audience for the future. I think that's important, especially if you want to keep the theater alive.