“At that time she was an indomitable character and quite cross, and she is a bit tired. Then she meets this young man and suddenly has a kind of interest again in things,” says Judi Dench in a new featurette about her role as Queen Victoria in the upcoming Oscar contender “Victoria and Abdul” (watch above). “There are so many things remarkable about this extraordinary friendship. I think it was like a wonderful injection of youth and enthusiasm, and something new to learn. It was vital for her.”
This is actually the second time Dench has played Queen Victoria. She last portrayed the famous monarch exactly 20 years ago in “Mrs. Brown.” “I played her for another film and became absolutely absorbed in the story,” the actress explains. “Then suddenly this came up, and I thought, how wonderful to be able to revisit that.” That previous film explored the controversial relationship between Victoria and her servant John Brown. This new film presents another controversial relationship, between Victoria and Indian clerk Abdul Karim (played by Ali Fazal) in the last year of the queen’s life.
This film brings the story full circle in more ways than one. “Mrs. Brown” brought Dench widespread international attention and earned her the first of seven Oscar nominations. To date she has won once, Best Supporting Actress for “Shakespeare in Love” (1998). “Victoria and Abdul” also reunites her with director Stephen Frears, who directed her to Best Actress Oscar nominations twice before: “Mrs. Henderson Presents” (2005) and “Philomena” (2013). Will this collaboration bring them both Oscar wins? Decide for yourself when the film opens on September 22.
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