Friday 20 April 2018

Royalty at Marigold Hotel premiere

Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith attend the premiere of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at Odeon Leicester Square, London
Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith attend the premiere of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at Odeon Leicester Square, London
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attend the premiere of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Dame Maggie Smith attending the royal and world premiere of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Two of cinema's great dames have rubbed shoulders with royalty at the world premiere of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith were each greeted with kisses on both cheeks by the Prince of Wales as he and the Duchess of Cornwall met the film's stars at the Odeon cinema in London's Leicester Square.

The street outside the famous venue was decked in drapes and flower garlands of yellow and pink, and an orange carpet replaced the traditional red hue in reflection of the film's Indian setting.

Dame Judi and her co-star Celia Imrie did not disappoint with their outfits.

Dame Judi wore a multicoloured embroidered robe that would not look out of place on an Indian empress, while Imrie wore pink and orange in a nod to the colours of Rajasthan, where much of the film was shot.

Other cast members at the event included Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle, Shazad Latif, Lillete Dubey and Tina Desai, along with director John Madden and producer Graham Broadbent.

Fans were given garlands as they eagerly awaited the arrivals.

But those desperate for a glimpse of silver foxes Richard Gere and Bill Nighy were left disappointed as neither could make the film's opening.

The first film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, was something of a surprise hit.

Made on a budget of just 10 million dollars (£6.5 million), its stellar cast and exploration of the lives of a group of British pensioners living in a retirement hotel in India has raked in more than 135 million dollars (£88 million) since it was released three years ago.

The sequel builds on their burgeoning relationships and examines the complexities of finding love and self-discovery later in life.

Dame Judi said it had been "glorious" and "just lovely" to work with the cast again, and spoke warmly of the film's theme of finding fun and life in later years.

She said: "It is a very good leaf to take out of a book, and that is not to give in and not to think you can't do something because you are a certain age, or so I keep telling myself."

Dame Judi said she had not had to reach far into her acting range for her character, Evelyn, to fall in love with Nighy's Douglas.

And despite keeping quiet over her predictions for the Oscars this weekend - aside from keeping her fingers crossed for the British contingent - she had a few words of wisdom for those who might pick up a gong.

"Have a bit of stamina, don't thank your mother, your agent, your children and your dog," she said.

Imrie, whose character Madge juggles two wealthy suitors - including Gere's Guy Chambers - said she had too many favourite memories of filming to choose one.

She said: " I think India is one of the greatest stars of the film, and how clever to bring it out in a cold, February evening, because you will be transported when you see it, to the heat and the colours and the smiles.

"It is a dream job and to have it twice, two bites of the cherry, I couldn't be luckier."

Speaking about starring opposite Hollywood legend Gere, she said : "He said the sweetest thing, that when I was playing Madge I put 15 years on his career because of my reaction to him, which I thought was rather charming of him."

Imrie felt the film could be life-affirming for older people, saying: "I think this film has got a lot to do with changing people's minds, actually.

"It will give people a lot of hope and optimism to go forward and not care what people say, start new adventures. It's marvellous, it's so positive, I love it."

And she is keen to have more excitement in her own life, after suggesting recently that she might like to make a surge for Hollywood.

"Why not? I want adventures every day," she said.

Madden was beaming as he walked the orange carpet.

He felt part of the appeal of the film was down to there being a triumph over the unexpected.

Madden said: " Some films just work, some films just click. You can't start a film with a set of ingredients and say, 'we'll do it like this'. They either come alive and get to some sort of truth that transcends what you are trying to do, or they don't. And this one did.

"India is a huge factor in the appeal of the film, the fact that it dealt in a truthful way and I suppose a funny way with the realities of growing older and what that means.

"I think the film surprised people because I think they thought it was a certain kind of a film, and then it turned out to have perhaps a little more depth than they thought it was going to and a kind of melancholy, which is interesting.

"To me comedy is only worth something if it comes out of something real, and I think that became part of the word of mouth that was transmitted."

Madden said he had heard that Charles and Camilla had enjoyed the first film, and hoped its sequel would also get the royal seal of approval.

He joked: "I hope I am not subjecting them to an unbearable night in the cinema."

For actor Shazad Latif, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a far cry from his most famous role of Tariq Masood in spy series Spooks, in which he played a technical wizard who stared at screens all day.

Latif said the experience of acting with "great heroes you grow up with" was wonderful, and that he absorbed titbits of technique from watching them.

He said: "When you're on set you do what you do and are professional, and when you go home you're like, 'I'm pretty sure I just did a scene with Judi Dench and Maggie Smith'."

For all the colour and glamour on the orange carpet, none could quite match that of the duchess as she met the stars and crew.

Camilla wore a deep red velvet dress by Anna Valentine, and sparkled in a ruby and diamond encrusted necklace.

After she and Charles went in to see the film, Tina Desai, who plays the young fiancee of hotel owner Sonny (Dev Patel) said she had discussed the duchess's "extremely exquisite" jewellery with her.

She said: "I think she was more concerned about how heavy my lehenga (Indian skirt) is, which is some 10kgs. I told her I was struggling to breath in it because it has been tied on so tight, so I got her sympathy on that."

Desai said the Charles and Camilla had been "extremely warm and gracious", and that the prince had been very interested in the Bollywood film industry.

The royal couple have both visited India numerous times in the past, last travelling to the country together in 2013.

The premiere raised funds for the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund, the leading charity for the UK film, cinema and commercial television industries which supports employees and their families in times of hardship.

:: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is released on February 26.

Press Association

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