With Victoria & Abdul now playing in limited release and expanding into more cities this weekend, I had the chance to sit down with Judi Dench and Ali Fazal for an exclusive video interview. Directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity) and scripted by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), the film is based on journalist Shrabani Basu’s book Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant. The film tells the true story of Queen Victoria’s (Dench) latter years, when she befriended a young clerk from India named Abdul Karim (Fazal) and subsequently struck an unlikely and deep friendship that was looked down upon by her contemporaries. The film also stars Adeel Akhtar, Eddie Izzard, Simon Callow, Michael Gambon, Ruth McCabe, Tim Pigott-Smith, Julian Wadham, Olivia Williams, and Fenella Woolgar.
During the interview, Judi Dench and Ali Fazal talked about how the film is a crowd-pleaser, what it was like working with Stephen Frears and the way he likes to offer suggestions on set, how they first heard about the true story, and Dench shares a great story about working with Clint Eastwood.
Judi Dench and Ali Fazal:
- Did they know the film would be such a crowd pleaser?
- How the film gets different laughs depending on the country.
- When did they find out about the story?
- What was it like working with Stephen Frears?
- Judi Dench talks about working with Clint Eastwood and the way he directs.
Here’s the official synopsis for Victoria & Abdul:
Academy Award winner Judi Dench (“Shakespeare in Love”) reunites with Academy Award-nominated director Stephen Frears (“The Queen”), and returns to the role of Queen Victoria, in “Victoria & Abdul.” The screenplay of “Victoria & Abdul” is by Academy Award nominee Lee Hall (“Billy Elliot”), based on journalist Shrabani Basu’s book Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant., which brought to light the long-hidden history of Victoria and Abdul from their own diaries and journals. The extraordinary true story of the amazing and unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and a young clerk, Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), who becomes her teacher, her spiritual advisor, and her devoted friend. In 1887, Abdul travels from India to present a ceremonial medal as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee but surprisingly finds favor with the elderly Queen. The unprecedented and unlikely relationship causes a battle royale within the royal household, pitting the Queen against court and family. “Victoria & Abdul” humorously explores questions of race, religion, power, and the farce of Empire through the prism of a highly unusual and deeply moving friendship.