It's funny – when our parents or grandparents hit retirement age and older, we often lose the ability to relate to them. We may think they're stubborn, incapable of change and reluctant to accept anything new in their life. But the heartfelt comedy released this weekend, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, takes this idea and flips it on its head.
Life is never really over until it's over, it reminds us, and everyone, no matter their age, is capable of change.
In that regard, Dame Judi Dench's character has the most exemplary story line of the film. She plays Evelyn, a recent widow in the UK who opts against moving in with her son in order to start the next chapter of her life ... in India ... at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. There, along with six other like-minded British retirees, Evelyn finds purpose and love.
Recently, we spoke with the legendary actress to hear what it was like playing such an interesting character whose story hits close to home (Dench was married to actor Michael Williams for 29 years until his death in 2001; they have one daughter, Finty Williams), and how, at 77, she still has such a zest for life and her career.
When we meet your character Evelyn, her husband has just passed away. Why does she decide to move to India?
The thing about Evelyn is that, from the very beginning, she's not prepared to settle for a life of living with her son and daughter-in-law, and even though they insist, she's not prepared to do that. Evelyn is an independent soul who feels that she stills has life in her – not much, maybe, but enough. Therefore, she takes a chance of saying, "Frankly, I'm not going to come to live with you, that's not for me. I'm prepared to go and take a chance on this." Bollywood Actress Tena Desae On Compatibility & Arranged Marriage
In India, Evelyn falls in love again. Why do you think this happens so late in her life?
I think what happens to her is unexpected and it's really a question—we may put it in romantic terms—but it's really a question of need. She and all the other guests arrive there for different reasons, and they all find something that they need, and I think she needs companionship. She and Douglas (played by Bill Nighy) suddenly realize that they've found companionship together. There's no reason why, if you're 26 or 76, that should change.
What was it like filming on location in Jaipur and Udaipur?
As my character says, "It's an assault on the senses." I've never had a desire to go to India, though some of my family lived there for quite a long time. I always thought of it as one of those countries where, "One day I'll go." But, within 24 hours, I was completely fascinated and bewitched by the country. The beauty of the people I thought was astonishing—the color, the noise, the smell—everything about it is completely staggering. I can't wait to go back. We made some remarkable friends, who are very keen on the mobile. If my mobile were to go off, it'd probably be one of them.
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