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Exotic Marigold Hotel Their adventures began in the mind of British novelist Deborah Moggach, who imagined a group of cash-strapped pensioners who find themselves "outsourced" to India, each willing (or forced) to try relocating to an exotic locale at a fraction of the usual retirement price. The book won praise for its characters that, at an age when most people are slowing down and staying close to home, embark on the journey of a lifetime. Producers Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin saw the potential for an unusual and original film experience. "We loved her concept of outsourcing retirement, taking our outsourcing of everyday tasks like banking and customer service one step further," says Broadbent. "Deborah had pondered where she would like to end up in her golden years, and decided living above an Indian bazaar would be endlessly fascinating. The wonderful part is that just when her characters could be entering a greyer period of their lives, a whole new chapter opens up, with a literal explosion of color and brightness, and an opportunity to reinvent themselves." Screenwriter Ol Parker took that scenario and ran with it. "I saw an opportunity to create a romantic comedy for a different generation, centered on people in their 60s and 70s," says Parker, who last wrote and directed the twenty-something romantic comedy IMAGINE ME & YOU. "What was so appealing to me is that as we get older, we tend to not stray out of our comfort zones, I loved the idea of taking this group of people and putting them somewhere where they are completely out of their element. I also enjoyed the idea of a love story about men and women who have had a whole lifetime of experience." To direct the film, Broadbent and Czernin approached John Madden, one of England's most lauded, cinematic storytellers, whose films include the Best Picture OscarÂ® winner SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and the recent thriller THE DEBT. Madden found the premise irresistible: seven people - stranded for different reasons at the point in their lives where opportunities have disappeared - dropped into a strange, intoxicating and threatening new world. It offered the comedy of displacement alongside the melancholy of loss - and the tribulations and joys of trying to grow older with grace and vitality. "The script is funny and rich, and it's not just a comedy," notes Madden. "It also deals with bereavement, loneliness and isolation, and confronts the question of what is really possible as you get older. Can you still start over again? Is it ever too late to change?" The answer for those at the Marigold Hotel might seem uncertain, but it becomes a resounding "No" for most of the characters, although in very individual and unique ways. Madden was excited from the start to pull together an ensemble cast who could bring each of these journeys alive in vivid and human ways. "A lot of my work has been with ensembles, and I'm interested by stories of people in suspension, where
The only thing we had to do was bring them together with an equally skilled ensemble of Indian actors. where they have to invent a new life for themselves. The sheer level of comic talent. where only the present tense matters." explains Madden. leaving her with his secret life of financial ruin. "They were the most extraordinary resource and they brought the story alive. she resolves to teach herself computer skills." he says. the characters were suspended in the enchanted universe of the theatre. cut off from their past. but as daunting as it seems. but when her husband suddenly dies." The Residents At THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL. definitions of age and maturity completely fall away. the Academy AwardÂ® winning leading lady who has a knack for making every character she plays both real and transcendent." sums up Madden. Desperate to find a way out of her son's offer to move in with his family. acting skill and depth of experience was staggering.friendships. "because the characters are made young again by the situations they find themselves in." "In this story. between them. more importantly.as well as in unfinished business that sparks in comic eruptions . liaisons. Dench previously worked with Madden on MRS. she starts to question everything about her past and. She knows that India will be nothing like her life in London. Challenged and overwhelmed by the experience of modern India. everything centers around the needs and wishes of the residents -. and stumbles on the website of the Marigold Hotel. and then watch them collide with this magnificent country. "Since the characters are all of a certain age. and she consoles her incredulous son with the promise of a regular blog. garnering as Oscar nomination for the first and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the latter. rivalries . it was a chance to cast actors who are at the peak of their abilities. "In SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.different rules apply. BROWN and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.which turn out be astonishingly tricky and diverse. They've entered a strange world removed from their former reality.they find that ultimately the only thing that matters is what is happening right then and there. and of the play. caught in different forms of emotional realignment . her now uncertain future. Playing Evelyn is Dame Judi Dench." The fact that the characters are in the latter part of life turned out to be a real advantage. 2 . They include: Evelyn/Judi Dench Marital Status: Newly widowed Financial Status: Inherited her husband's mounds of hidden debt Looking for: A job (and her first real taste of independence) Evelyn thought she had a perfect marriage. in THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL the characters are in an analogous kind of geographical suspension. it offers her hope.
" Graham Broadbent notes that it was Smith's ability to show subtle flashes of the long-buried human compassion and curiosity underneath Muriel's intolerance that gives the performance lightness and poignancy. because I found that being in India you are drawn each day to learning about the people and culture. Once he knew Smith was cast. never stepping out of her comfort zone in any way. It was also an opportunity to work with people I know -. She is quite convinced she will find the whole experience appalling until India slowly starts to unseat her assumptions. and certainly not in England: instinctively xenophobic. That was not hard to act.and a chance for us to all be together for the first time. opinionated. no money and no real plan for the future. and it was also one of the great honors of my life. anywhere. Her journey is one of the most interesting amongst the seven. she forms a friendly relationship with the hotel's lower caste Indian housekeeper. Celia Imrie. One of the world's most famed and distinguished actresses. "She is really the heart of the story. Ironically. as she struggles with the unfamiliar. retired housekeeper who would have happily stayed in her own narrow little corner of the world . "Muriel's journey is very human and Maggie allows the audience to come to love her." notes Madden." Muriel/Maggie Smith Marital Status: A lifelong live-in housekeeper Financial Status: The only thing she needs is a new hip Looking for: The fastest way out of India Muriel is a salty. but that makes the way she changes more interesting. Ronald Pickup. with whom of course she finds she has something in common."In this film. "And like Judi." Continues John Madden: "Muriel is not an uncommon figure. you start to see the very smart and funny woman she can be from within." adds Graham Broadbent." Dench says of Evelyn's journey: "I think she feels she has nothing left to lose when she finds herself with no husband. John Madden . "Despite her sometimes cruel and unbending attitudes. multiple Academy Award winner Maggie Smith. so India starts out as her worst nightmare. screenwriter Ol Parker went to town with the character. "It was tremendous fun to write for Maggie." 3 . "Muriel has a fear of all things foreign and a hatred of going abroad. takes on the crucial role of the woman who becomes the hotel's unlikeliest champion. who has such a way with words. so she comes to India and then fully embraces it. Evelyn is the most wonderfully sympathetic person. Judi plays a woman who is forced to take control of her future when she has never done so in her entire life. because it is about people who don't quite know what's going to happen to them at this point in their lives and yet each discovers a different answer." he says. of course." he says.were it not for a pesky hip that forces her to India for surgery." She adds: "This is a story I really wanted to be a part of. Tom Wilkinson and.Maggie Smith. Penelope Wilton. Bill Nighy.
" he observes. "I found it very interesting because it is a story that has to balance humor with emotion. who garnered Oscar nominations for his indelible roles in MICHAEL CLAYTON and IN THE BEDROOM. where he lived as a child. and to right a wrong which has haunted him ever since. India is full of memories of youth. rediscover who he really is." Unlike his character. 4 . says that "Tom's character is someone who starts out no longer able to tolerate the stifling conformity of the judicial world." he says. friendship and even now. Taking on this comic and subtle transformation is Bill Nighy. For Graham. "He's been a judge his whole adult life. . and now he's decided he's had enough of the law and he goes to India to rediscover his past. but in India. and. After leading a life of conventional success and status as a High Court judge. love." John Madden. he finds himself shedding his repressed identity and becoming a rather different man. just maybe. He's a very rich character who brings a very different color to the narrative." Adds Graham Broadbent: "Tom really responded to something in this character. Taking the role is Tom Wilkinson." Douglas/Bill Nighy Marital Status: Married with children Financial Status: Made the mistake of lending his retirement fund to his daughter Looking for: Ways to appease his wife . rediscover love and most of all. Wilkinson had never been to India before and found it both exhilarating and overwhelming. a change Douglas might be a mild-mannered government official. Every day he brought something extraordinary. so he walks out of that life and returns to India. . What we don't realize at first is that he is actually on a very personal kind of search for someone he used to know. complicated country with such a mixture of beauty and poverty that it is hard to take it all in. someone who holds the key to issues that he needs to resolve to find peace. who has worked with Wilkinson on several previous films. the land where he grew up.Graham/Tom Wilkinson Marital Status: Single and unattached Financial Status: Well-heeled but at a cost to his joie de vivre Looking for: A past he left behind Graham is the only new resident at the Marigold Hotel with previous experience in India. a kindness and gentleness that I don't think people have seen in his roles before. hen-pecked husband and out-of-luck father who lent his daughter the money intended for his retirement. variegated. "It's a huge. The hard part is that it can't become sentimental because that's the enemy of a story like this. "But I think the film gives a realistic impression of all those contrasts. he finds himself with just one burning thing left to do: come to terms with his early life in India. the British actor who rose to global fame after playing an aging rocker in LOVE ACTUALLY and has gone on to roles in such blockbusters as the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series and HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. Wilkinson says that Graham is drawn to India to make a full circle of his life.
" As for working with Dench. "and I was enticed by how vivid these characters are. "He's a comic natural . he has to try to make the guests believe that it can become all that he has promised.by the management. he is trying to persuade his very traditional mother that he can succeed. After all it is only Sonny's can-do attitude that keeps the residents from fleeing the moment they arrive! The need for an actor with just the right blend of believable charisma and comic chops led to the casting of Dev Patel. The filmmakers knew the casting of Sonny ." Patel was taken with his character's contradictions. Wilton. the residents are attended to with a charming sense of aplomb . To complicate matters even further. whose starring role in the international hit SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE brought him to the attention of the world. by their sarcasm and their wisdom." says Madden." Patel also had a personal connection to the story. Nighy. long time. with amazing physical presence and fantastic instincts. and he has the assurance of someone who has been doing this for a long. this turns out to be the one-man operation of Sonny Kapoor." What makes Sonny's hopes for the hotel more than just delusions of grandeur is that they are based on a very real dream. "In a nutshell. "He had a life in England that didn't suit The Management At the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. "there's a strong emotional attachment for Sonny to the hotel because it is connected to his father." he describes. It was amazing for me just 5 . and now.a sort of Jacques Tati figure. but who nevertheless failed." he notes. he is extremely eager to please. as he did in everything in his life. Sonny is the most disorganized person you'll ever meet in life. "That's why Sonny comes up with the idea of creating a place for old people that is beautiful and idyllic.and that's an understatement. and at the same time. "He photo-shopped the brochure for the Marigold Hotel to make the place look idyllic. Wilkinson. Smith. Despite the boasts of the hotel's lavish brochure.to turn his father's failure into a meaningful achievement. We were all bewitched by him."India gives a second chance to all of the characters. "Dev is a spectacular talent. For Sonny. who was desperate for it to be a success. he is in love with a modern girl his traditionalist mother doesn't approve of." says Nighy of his attraction to Douglas. Imrie and Pickup." Patel explains.who comes up with the ingenious idea of "outsourcing British retirement to India" without anticipating the pitfalls .and panic -. "My mother has actually worked as a caretaker for the elderly. an endearingly ambitious youngster who nevertheless is in completely over his head. I fell in love with the script because every character shines in his or her own different way and you believe in each of them." Adds Judi Dench: "He's a born comedian. At the same time. he says: "It was phenomenal .would be key to the story's whole chemistry. even if that is not yet the reality.
one of the most romantic of India's states." says Graham Broadbent. "Mrs. resulting in instant culture shock. For Desae.in the middle of Rajasthan.and most of all. revealing her comic skills as a young woman whose forbidden relationship with Sonny puts her into compromising positions. the experience was similarly profound. "It helped that Dev was already a little afraid of her!" Dubey immediately empathized with Mrs. She is an urban. Sonny's girlfriend." she confides. "Everyone was very approachable. a kaleidoscopic place replete with ornate temples. your life is never the same. and newcomer Tena Desae. who calls the shots with her three sons. very warm. which had a profound impact on every one of them. a typical 21st century Indian girl who works in a call center. as Sunaina. of course. Tena held her own against this highly experienced cast. because I come from Delhi originally. E. as the cast and crew began to experience their own passage to India. middle class mother. and since most of our characters hadn't either. but John gave me the confidence to be free. In the script. a lot of fun. The surroundings the residents find on arrival are certainly every bit as lush and exotic as one could imagine ." comments Kapoor.' and for the cast this was also the case. Kapoor's exasperation with her son. Even the smallest scenes were great lessons for me. Dubey is a well-known screen and stage actress in India and Madden notes. very humble. including Lillete Dubey as Sonny's mother. The major thing you notice is the graciousness of the people and the way we were welcomed in the most wonderful way. all alongside the dizzying pace of rapidly modernizing cities.to watch them. the experience was one of a kind." Patel also enjoyed working with the many Indian actors in the production.M. who disdains the modernization of Indian culture. The Sights The allure of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel starts with its location . Desae makes her English language debut in THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL. Ol Parker and John Madden had made the most of the natural tension that arises from transplanting people set in their ways to a place that requires a whole new way of being. Says Bill Nighy: "Most of us had never been to India before. ancient kingdoms and colorful saris. Her chemistry with Patel allowed their relationship to come alive. Forster noted that 'once you've visited India. Kapoor is a character I know well. very encouraging . elegant but a bit old-fashioned. "When you see Dev and Tena with each other you root for them to stay together. I was nervous with this weighty cast. But the real surprises were yet to come.but equally overwhelming and incomprehensible to life-long British residents. There's both shading and a lot of humor to her." 6 .
For Celia Imrie.Judi Dench was equally moved by the people she met. elephants. with grand verandas from which the tribal chief's harem could survey the world. bikes and trucks streaming down its narrow streets. It had these wonderful cool dark interiors. but there is a joyousness that comes at you. a royal palace turned equestrian hotel that is attached to the tiny village of Khempur just outside the scenic lake district of Udaipur.. and a profound sympathy and openness. "It had that something special that could ultimately draw the characters in. it was a reawakening. and an unmistakable charm. and loved the surprises of each day in India. It's an experience unlike any other in the world . and it was probably the most difficult to cast. and a slightly mad quality. shocking and full of every aspect of life.once home to Raj rulers but now a frenetic metropolis jammed with an ever-increasing traffic mix of cars. "There is so much that strikes you when you first arrive. who had traveled through India 20 years ago. with glimpses of saturated light and the teeming life outside its walls." Adds Ronald Pickup: "I can only quote something Judi Dench said on our fourth or fifth day here . a country both poor and rich. . to try to capture all of that energy and teeming humanity on the screen." 7 . Visually it's overwhelming: extraordinary fabrics and colors everywhere.' It's a place full of contrasts and it does change you. the building had a magic about it. Everything is crumbling and dilapidated and noisy and chaotic." One of the first tasks in India was to find the best. but what Ben and I talked about was trying to capture the texture of Indian life the way you actually feel it. They knew that they wanted to set the hotel at the edge of the city of Jaipur . who had just shot THE DEBT with the director." explains Graham Broadbent. "The palace was built around a courtyard. ravishing. As for the hotel itself." she muses. Crucially. Those can certainly be found.one that is at times thrilling. but rather give the audience a more realistic sense of what these new arrivals might see and feel. "There wasn't anything I didn't enjoy about every single day there. camels. "There are images of India that we associate with tourist guidebooks. the colors and the atmosphere are all so overpowering and oozing with energy. especially compared to the drab English winter our characters have left behind. 'India is a constant assault on your senses and on everything you've taken for granted. and settled on Jaipur because the culture. "It's not often in life that you can return to your digs in the evening after a day of work and find elephants walking by." she muses. with such energy." he explains. enthusiasm and joy everywhere. the filmmakers ultimately chose Ravla Khempur. They did not want to shoot a postcard-style India.. "It is an enchanting place in every way. most exotic environs for the actual Marigold Hotel. with lots of different levels and vantage points.aka "The Pink City" -." says John Madden. "We explored different areas of India. ." explains Madden." Madden collaborated with cinematographer Ben Davis. "The hotel is a character itself. and an incredible sense of life.
but that is not his taste. MacDonald recreated a lively. and that's how we decorated the hotel." Filming also took place in the center of Jaipur. he takes her to the Step Well. mismatched local textiles. and went to the local town and moved shopkeepers and their wares to Khempur. camels. facing his past and embracing his future. you can visualize the quirkiness and eccentricity of the hotel. a 10th century watering spot surrounded by ten stories of pale golden stone steps. the colours.The task of decorating the hotel with all the ambition and naivetÃ© of Sonny Kapoor fell to production designer Alan MacDonald. on the crowded city buses and in the highrise call center. creating a visual maze in which one never ascends or descends by the same route." laughs the designer. Lots of interesting furniture inspired by colonial India. with everything distressed and weather beaten. so I put together a living collage in layers. the textures. a blessing on the cast." he explains. a local holy man performed a puja. goats and cows. Around the hotel. who caters mainly to Indian tourists. as filming navigated around some major Indian festivals and holidays that took place during production. His aspiration is to have a boutique hotel. was so pleased with the rooms built for Madge and Evelyn on the balcony. "Once you understand Sonny. from which a vast expanse of the city can be seen. Only delicate diplomacy allowed the cast to avoid playing their first scenes with red bindi marks on their foreheads without offending local traditions. When young lovers Sonny and Sunaina meet. 8 . including a bagpipe welcome and a fireworks display that illuminated the surrounding lake and the whole city. "Outside the real building was just a dirt track. and Norman's eyrie on the roof." The owner of Ravla Khempur. adding bikes. the Marigold market. "My research in Jaipur showed me that everything is mixed up in India . Jaipur-style market. whose films include Stephen Frears' THE QUEEN and CHERI. On the outskirts of the city. They also accepted invitations to a royal wedding. Director and cast were invited by the Maharaja of Udaipur. replete with elephants and rock stars mingling with the high society of India on the grounds of the Rambagh Palace Hotel. to attend his lavish Diwali celebrations. that he decided to keep the structures in place and use them for his guests. "He is a living culture clash. Before shooting began. all mixed together with modern plastic bits and pieces. around the City Palace. crew and even on camera equipment. We built shop fronts. MacDonald says Sonny was his inspiration throughout. The shoot quickly took on Indian rhythms.the architecture. But it was on the streets of Jaipur that both cast and filmmakers received endless inspiration. so first we laid a road. There is a sense of chaos and order at the same time. and then we built a bustling Indian market from scratch. His Royal Highness Arvind Singh Mewar. locations included the Kanota Fort which stood in for the Viceroy Club where both Madge and Norman hope to meet new partners.
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