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Bill Nighy professes love for Judi Dench at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel premiere

08 February 2012

Just a week before Valentines day, it appeared that love was in the air at the premiere for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Mayfair last night, as the celebrated Bill Nighy professed his love for co-star Dame Judi Dench.

Nighy stars as Dench's subtly touched upon love interest within the film, yet it isn't the first time the Pirates of the Caribbean star has been more than merely a friend on set with the Dame.

"I've worked with Judi on several occasions, and I've been her lover before, so I've had the honour of not only working with her on four times, but also being her love interest on three occasions, so I'm in pretty good shape," he said.

"I had to ride a motorcycle, with Judi sitting on the back. Every morning I used to wake up and think 'oh my god I hope I don't hurt Judi Dench' it would mean I could never go home again, and I love her. But I did okay - 16 takes and she's still in one piece."

The feature, which highlights the difficulties that older people must face when retiring in London, takes a more positive view at the alternative, and a relocation to India. Yet despite the optimism, Nighy admits to fearing what lies ahead of him.

"I'm not really scared of getting old but I'm scared of dying. I wake up every morning thinking 'oh my god, I'm going to die and decompose and my eyes will become nothing'," he said.

"I'm getting old, but so far so good. I don't want to die, but I don't think there's much I can do about it."

Despite a declaration of his love for Dench, the infallible and highly respected actress was instead singing the praises of the director John Madden, reuniting with the esteemed filmmaker for the first time since the Oscar nominated Shakespeare in Love.

"You feel that John always knows what he's doing, and it's just delightful working with him, delightful.

He came round and told me the story in the garden and when he walked through the gates I would have done the film before having heard it, but then hearing the story made it even better," Dench said.

Madden, however, was evidently more interested in seeing how many times he could fit the word 'exhilarating' into one sentence.

"I can't deny it was an exhilarating film to make. Difficult, but exhilarating," he continued.

"It's quite an unusual film because it's very funny and real but it's also got pain and emotion in it, I think that's a very exhilarating thing for an actor, to be able to surf and navigate those kind of things, and for a director I have to say too. "

Yet perhaps not so 'exhilarating' for Ronald Pickup playing Norman - the lonely pensioner, out in India searching for a love interest, as the actor admits to feeling uncomfortable seeing himself on the big screen (particularly the 'naked dancing' scene in which he is the protagonist).

"Watching yourself is very difficult. Because all you see are the things you don't want to see about yourself. It can be painful because what's up there is there forever," he said.

"I don't particularly like getting old but it has certain freedom's."

There was however one leading cast member not in attendance - that of Maggie Smith, who plays the fascist Muriel, seeking hip replacement surgery. Yet there was one other member of the cast, flying the flag for the Downtown Abbey brigade - Penelope Wilton.

"This is a film about people who want to try and find another life, and it's more than just about growing old, it's about people trying to find a way of dealing with not having a great deal of money," she said. 

Bill Nighy Photos | The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Film Page