It would seem director Stephen Frears is quite the fan of films involving royalty and Judi Dench with 2006’s The Queen and 2013’s Philomena already under his belt. Dame Dench herself is no stranger to playing royalty, winning an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in 1998’s Shakespeare in Love and Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown (1997). So it would seem only logical the pair have come together to create Victoria and Abdul, a drama based on the true story, like that of Mrs Brown, of her special relationship with a servant, this time an Indian man by the name of Abdul Karim. We were there as cast and creative team hit the red carpet for the film’s UK premiere in London’s Leicester Square.
We spoke with a charm-oozing Ali Fazal about the differences between the original home of his stardom, Bollywood, and Hollywood, working with the fabulous Dame Judi Dench and warming up to the idiosyncratic directing style of Stephen Frears.
Dame Dench spoke passionately about showing the human side of the “indomitable” Queen Victoria and the importance of humour in the film.
Director Stephen Frears explained: “You don’t need to say anything to Judi, she’s so brilliant.” He also told us that going to India to cast Abdul was crucial in finding someone with naivety and curiosity about the UK.
We also had the pleasure of speaking with the quite brilliant Eddie Izzard, who confirmed it was indeed him in the film playing Queen Victoria’s rather annoying son Bertie (he looks so wholly different he is almost unrecognisable in the role) and shared his views of why irreverence is key when dealing with royalty on screen.
Paul Higgins gave us the lowdown on the history of his character, Dr Reid, Queen Victoria’s physician, and his experience working with the cast and crew.
Screenwriter Lee Hall, also responsible for the wildly successful Billy Elliot, explained his motivation for adapting the true story for cinema.
And writer Shrabani Basu gave us some insight into the four-year journey she took to research and write the book the movie is based on and the joy of seeing the story reach many more via the big screen, with none other than Dame Judi Dench starring and Stephen Frears at the helm.
By Sarah Bradbury. First published on The Upcoming on 6th September 2017.
Videos: Abyan Mohamed
Photo: James Gillham
Victoria and Abdul is released nationwide on 15th September 2017.