'Hotel' reunites 'Shakespeare' director with stars Dench, Wilkinson

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International  |  May 3, 2012 at 3:54 PM
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NEW YORK, May 3 (UPI) -- British actress Judi Dench says she was thrilled to work with director John Madden on a third film, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," after their successful collaborations "Mrs. Brown" and "Shakespeare in Love."

"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," Dench told United Press International at a recent press conference in New York.

"He's a man who does his homework. Absolutely, he knows exactly the way that he is going to shoot something, so in that area, you feel very safe," the 77-year-old actress said. "You could just put yourself entirely in his hands. And that's a very good feeling, indeed. And he won't settle for something if he hasn't got it. He will go on. He's completely good-natured. Completely a good-natured man. And he's hugely good fun, and has a great sense of humor. So he's ready to laugh with you, at you, whatever. So that's very good."

Dench said she was eager to work with Madden again after they made the 1997 feature "Mrs. Brown" together.

"After I'd done 'Mrs. Brown,' I sent him a letter, and I said, 'John, if you have the part of somebody sweeping up the street behind you, behind the scene ... I'll come and do it. And 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.' And it wasn't much fun walking in the back in a big dress," the actress recalled.

Dench ultimately won an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in "Shakespeare in Love," a literary romantic comedy in which her "Marigold" co-star Tom Wilkinson had a supporting role.

"So, the opportunity of working with John, when it comes up ... I would jump at it," Dench said. "Because it's terrific to be asked by him, and if you are asked by him, he thinks it's really in your compass to play that part. So, there's no end to what you want to give to him."

"Much as I love him, if he offered me the job of walking round the back, I wouldn't do it," Wilkinson, 64, chimed in.

"You wouldn't do it?" Dench laughed. "You could miss playing Elizabeth I."

Wilkinson, who worked with Madden on the 2011 film "The Debt," said there is one simple reason he keeps going back to work with the director.

"He offers you good roles, that's why basically you do it," Wilkinson told UPI. "The fact that he is a wonderful director and a very nice man and a friend is sort of neither here nor there. It's just that he offers me some roles that I would like to do and he invariably creates a very helpful environment around the camera and, on the set, he allows you to work well in a relaxed way."

Co-starring Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" opens in U.S. theaters Friday. The touching, intelligent fish-out-of-water comedy is about British senior citizens who head to what they believe will be an affordable, but luxurious retirement community in India in hopes of starting new lives. Once they arrive and find their building isn't quite as advertised, most of them are surprised to discover how easily they adjust to their simpler surroundings, enjoying love and adventure along the way.

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