Director John Madden Talks THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a hit far beyond anyone’s expectations, as the physical and spiritual journey of seven very different British pensioners looking for the next chapter in their lives captured the hearts of audiences across the globe. In The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the fact that there is only one remaining vacancy in the Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful leads Sonny (Dev Patel) to want to expand to a new, very promising property, so that he can have more space for fresh arrivals. Once again directed by John Madden and written by Ol Parker, the film also stars Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Tena Desae, Richard Gere, David Strathairn and Tamsin Greig.
Collider: When you started production on The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, could you ever have imagined that you’d be here now, talking about The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel?
JOHN MADDEN: No, that would have been the most bizarre thing that anybody could possibly have said to me. If you’re a director making a movie, you obviously have to believe in it, in every way, because you’re the fuel that everybody else is running on. The material had qualities that I’m especially drawn to, which is a mixture of turns. It’s great working on comedy. I love working on comedy. But the comedy in the first film, and very much in the second one, comes out of a strangely melancholy place because of where these people are in their lives. All of the characters in the first one started out in places of pain, of one sort or another. The fact that it makes you feel every emotion is the key thing. I hope I had a grasp of that, when I was making the first one, but I didn’t know how that would translate. Although I do feel that audiences respond to that. Audiences love being up-ended with a surprise they hadn’t seen coming. If you can make people laugh, and then suddenly make that laugh stop in their throat, that’s a delicious experience. It’s having the rug pulled out from under you, which is not a pleasant experience in love, but in movies, is very pleasant. I think that has something to do with the reason the films work. But, I had no idea. It’s one of the nice surprises this business can give you, occasionally, just as it can give you bad ones.
In the time that you spent talking to the screenwriter about what the film should be, did you guys touch on any ideas or storylines that didn’t end up making it into the film?
All of their stories emerged quite organically. It’s like when you’re working on a scene and you’re trying to figure out how to shoot it. If the camera just naturally wants to go in a certain place and I can figure out, very easily, how to accomplish the story that I want to tell in that scene, that means it’s a good scene and the scene is working. Likewise, if you find the right location, it’s not difficult to shoot. And likewise, if you find the right general lines for the story and they come easily, then something feels right about that. We didn’t have to bend. We had to construct a narrative that had its surprises and reversals and unexpected developments, but they came pretty organically out of the reality of the characters that we had started with. It fell into place pretty naturally, and its held that shape. The destination was always very clear in our minds. The ending was always very clear. We shot it that way and we cut it that way, and that’s the way it is. For better or worse, it’s what we were after. We’ll just have to wait and see if we got it right, in any way.
The film follows this impending wedding of the younger couple while you have an older couple trying to figure out how to get on the same page and have a relationship. Was that role reversal intentional?
What was it like to add Richard Gere to the mix, this time around?
Do you have any idea what you’re going to direct next?
MADDEN: I don’t know. This has been very, very fast, this film. From the moment we first started talking about it to the moment we started the story to pitching that to the studio to going into pre-production to the actors showing up, we were just starting to make it, this time last year. I haven’t really had a chance to step away from that. Something that’s as enveloping as this makes it difficult for me to evaluate exactly what I want to do next. It will probably be something very different. I can’t really talk about any particular thing yet. There are two or three things that I’m involved with, but I’ll just have to wait for a beat and acquit myself from my responsibility to this to see how that falls out. But, I’m excited to do something. I just find it really difficult, when you’ve had a very intense time making something, to just step away. I rather admire directors who can go straight from one thing to another.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is now in theaters.