A Conversation with Lillete Dubey
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is the expansionist dream of Sonny (Dev Patel), and it’s making more claims on his time than he has available, considering his imminent marriage to the love of his life, Sunaina (Tina Desai).
Sonny has his eye on a promising property now that his first venture, ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful’, has only a single remaining vacancy – posing a rooming predicament for fresh arrivals Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig). Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy) have now joined the Jaipur workforce, and are wondering where their regular dates for Chilla pancakes will lead, while Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) are negotiating the tricky waters of an exclusive relationship, as Madge (Celia Imrie) juggles two eligible and very wealthy suitors. Perhaps the only one who may know the answers is newly installed co-manager of the hotel, Muriel (Maggie Smith), the keeper of everyone’s secrets. As the demands of a traditional Indian wedding threaten to engulf them all, an unexpected way forward presents itself.
The Fan Carpet’s Amanda Dal had the pleasure of talking to Lillete Dubey ahead of its release on February 26…
Before the interview Lillete said: “It’s a great way to see a film because it’s the first time you’ve seen it and you’re getting a real audience reaction. It’s very different from seeing it on your own. I remember that’s how I saw Monsoon Wedding; I hadn’t seen the film and Mira said ‘do you want to see it?’ and I said ‘no, let’s just see it with the audience at the premiere.’ It was wonderful because of the way they reacted to everything you knew what they liked and what they were enjoying; it’s quite a special kind of feeling.”
How did you get involved in the film?
Well we had an Indian casting director, a lady called Seher Latif, and she called me and said that they were casting for this film. I was telling someone that all of the Indian films I have done, even Mira Nair’s and a couple of other international film’s I’ve done, I’d never been asked to audition because I have always acted in theatre and films that I was offered in India, they were offered to me. So she said ‘but it’s an audition’ and I said ‘okay… what’s the film?’ so she said The Best Exotic etcetera and I said ‘It’s John Madden?’ and she said yes and I said ‘I’m a huge fan of John Madden’s work and if it’s John Madden I would love to meet him and I don’t mind auditioning for it.’ Then of course I heard who all were in the film and I though ‘My God this is like a who’s who of the British stage and screen.’ I mean it was coup to get Dame Maggie, Tom Wilkinson, Celia, Penelope – I mean just a coup – and … And I said ‘ wow what a cast!’ I went for the audition and I met John who was lovely, I loved him from the minute I met him he is one of the most adorable people and very enthusiastic about the film, so auditioned and then I got the part. Well I said ‘this is the first time I’ve auditioned thank god I got it! How very embarrassing.’ So that is how I got into the first one and thoroughly enjoyed it. There are some projects that are a mysterious process and everything comes together in a really nice way, I think it starts with the director. John is one of the most wonderful people you could work with because he is so enthusiastic about making the film and the process is so joyous to him that that permeates the whole set. From the director it comes down to actors to the crew to the production people, that everyone is having a good time making the film and he is a very encouraging director for actors. He keeps saying ‘wonderful wonderful’, of course he keeps making you do it again and again but he is saying ‘that’s fantastic can you do it once more and once more’… if it was fantastic why am I doing it again? But he pushes you to do the best that you can but in a really encouraging way. You feel like you’re doing it well then he ‘you know can we try one more time?’ kind of thing. That’s how I got to the film and of course I was very happy to hear that the sequel was happening. I was curious to see what they would have done with because the first’s idea was so novel and when I read it I was very impressed I thought that it really worked, even if somebody didn’t see the first it would work on its own the second film, you didn’t have to see the first which is a big compliment to it.
This is the sequel, were there any particular challenges going back and repeating the role?
Yes, you have to kind of plug in again to the character and remember because she is the same character. I kept telling myself I must to see the film to see how Mrs Kapoor was and then I never saw it actually. Then I thought I’ll just play her naturally because something new happens to Mrs Kapoor in the second film, a different dimension in her life which was very empty, but it happens to the same character, the frame work is the same, she is the same person. So it happens within the framework of that person, she doesn’t become a different person, so even if she gets involved emotionally or otherwise with someone romantically the spine of the character has to be the same. How would she be? And I think Ol wrote it very well because it is a very mature story, there is very little dialogue it, and it’s all in the subtext. It’s not like they’re talking a lot, it’s just under the surface, which is very interesting. It’s not there in you’re face, you don’t see anything right there, they’re not at each other or something. It is all very subtle and I like that very much about the way it was written. It fitted her character for me. She was this person who was not very overt and it was difficult for her after all these years to suddenly do something like this but it also liberated her, she found herself in a different way. It was really quite beautiful the way it was written, I really quite liked it.
What do you want the audience to take away from this film?
The film for me, from the first film to this film, has one theme or one idea that I think is infinity appealing, I think that is what hooks people to this film whether it is the younger couple, the middle-aged or the much older people, which is that life is full of infinite possibilities and that you are never too old or never too young, you can turn a corner and something unexpected and surprising can happen. It can be good, it can be bad also sometimes but the possibility that new things can happen is what keeps us going in life. I think that you are really old when you have nothing to look forward to; when you feel everything is over; nothing more new can happen in your life; it is just going to be one day after the other and you know exactly how everyday is going to play out. I think you feel sad and you feel old. The minute you tell yourself ‘so what if I’m 80 or 75 or 85 doesn’t mean something new can’t happen, anything can happen! And I’m open to the possibilities of something happening’ then keep your self open because life is full of surprises; it’s full of unexpected things. It’s not just romance, Judi finds herself and finds fulfilment in a job, a woman who has never worked ever in her life before suddenly finding that she useful and that she has something to contribute. That is something that makes a person feel not old, that there is still purpose in their life and it’s not necessary romance, it could be anything. To me that is the theme of the movie that really hooks people and that’s why they feel optimistic. They’re happy to live to an old age because they think anything is possible nothing is closed just because you’ve reached a certain age. It starts with the premise that the nest is empty, retirement has happened and it looks like now what more could there possibly be in life to look forward to? But then oh hello, lots of things can happen, unexpected things if you open your mind to it. That’s what delightful about the film for me.
Do you have any memorable moments form set?
Many many moments, like the moment when I first met Richard. I was feeling very unwell, I had had dinner and he had not come to set that day he was not well. It was 2:30 in the morning and I eaten something and had thrown up and was not feeling too good. So I’d come to set and I was sitting there and suddenly John said ‘there is someone here to meet you.’ I turned around it was Richard. You know it was Richard Gere, this guy I was going to play romantically with and I was feeling so queasy. He was so sweet and he came to give me a hug and a kiss and I said ‘No no no, please. I’ve just thrown up’ and he said ‘ you know honey I’ve had a lot of reactions but that’s a first.’ So we started like that and we got on really well after that. I couldn’t help it, I was feeling odd in the tummy and he was coming to give me a kiss when I had just thrown up. He was such a sport because he laughed so hard. There were many funny incidents like that. It was a lot of fun making this film. The dance sequence for instance was something I thought that these guys would be really like … it’s full on but in Bollywood movies they’re really full on but then there’s Judi and Bill and Richard and all these people doing these moves. I was finding it so funny and I was thinking do they really want to do this? It was 2:30 and Judi still hadn’t given her shot and she was standing there all dressed up looking all excited like a girl and everybody said ‘ are sure you want to do this Judi?’ and she said ‘I want to! I am dying to dance!’ She loved it, she was completely into it and so was Bill and so was Richard. So, it was quite amazing for us because I never thought I would see people like them doing these Bollywood numbers.
Really Good fun?
You can see it in the film that you definitely had a great time.
I always feel that the audience picks it up; it’s like osmosis. When you’ve had a lot of joy making the film they can sense it and that energy comes through. The energy of making of it comes out when you see it, that creative energy, and some films have it. Monsoon Wedding had it as well, it was film we had so much fun making and people just got into the mad energy of a wedding in India.
THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL IS OUT THURSDAY FEBRUARY 26