Stephen Frears on ‘Victoria & Abdul’, Directing Judi Dench and His Fantastic Career

     October 4, 2017

With Victoria & Abdul now playing in limited release and expanding into more cities this weekend, I recently had the chance to sit down with director Stephen Frears for an extended video interview. During our wide-ranging conversation, Frears talked about how he got into directing, how Victoria & Abdul came together, his thoughts on test screenings and how they impacted the film, what it’s like directing Judi Dench, how he likes to work with his DP, if he prefers film or digital, if any of his previous films have gone through dramatic changes in the editing room, and so much more. In addition, we talked about Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, his thoughts on deleted scenes, his next project A Very English Scandal staring Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw, and so much more.

If you’re not familiar with Victoria & Abdul, it’s scripted by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) and 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 (Judi Dench) latter years, when she befriended a young clerk from India named Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) and subsequently struck an unlikely and deep friendship that was looked down upon by her contemporaries. The film also stars Adeel AkhtarEddie Izzard, Simon CallowMichael Gambon, Ruth McCabe,Tim Pigott-SmithJulian WadhamOlivia Williams, and Fenella Woolgar.

victoria-abdul-posterCheck out what Stephen Frears had to say in the player above; below is exactly what we talked about and the official synopsis.

Stephen Frears:

  • What got him into making movies and what got him his big break?
  • Did he ever want to write his own screenplays?
  • Did he realize while making Victoria & Abdul it would be such a crowd pleaser?
  • How long was his first cut?
  • What are his thoughts on test screenings?
  • What did he learn from testing Victoria & Abdul?
  • When did he first hear about the story?
  • How hard is it for him to get financing for his films?
  • How he only agreed to make Victoria & Abdul if Judi Dench was involved.
  • Has his directing on set changed at all during his career?
  • How does he typically work with his DP?
  • How many takes does he like to do?
  • Jumping backwards…did any of his films ever have dramatic changes as a result of test screenings?
  • We both talk about Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and the changes that film went through in editing.
  • When was the last time he shot film and which format does he prefer (digital or film)?
  • Talks about working with Audrey Tautou on Dirty Pretty Things.
  • Which of his previous films do people always want to talk about?
  • Talks about the way he works with Judi Dench on set.
  • Talks about his next project A Very English Scandal and what it’s about. Will star Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw.
  • How does he feel about deleted scenes and extended cuts?
  • What are his favorite films?

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