Friday, May 11, 2012

Degrees of Separation: The Cast of THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

Today BMFI welcomes The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the new comedy from Shakespeare in Love director John Madden about a group of British retirees in India. Keep reading to learn more about the impressive cast--including Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, and Dev Patel--and their past cinematic collaborations.

Degrees of Separation: The Cast of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
By Nina Zipkin, BMFI Intern

In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the new film from Fox Searchlight (the studio behind Little Miss Sunshine and The Descendants), a group of British retirees leave England behind and decamp for Jaipur, India, after seeing advertisements for the titular hotel.

When the newly minted expats arrive, they find that the lap of luxury they were expecting was oversold in the brochure, due to the young, upstart manager's (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire) excellent Photoshop skills.

The duped pensioners are played by some of the United Kingdom’s most talented thespians. These acting luminaries have had long and storied careers, and many have worked together in the past. In anticipation of the film’s release, here are some the works that have boasted several Marigold Hotel stars on their cast lists.

Tom Wilkinson and Judi Dench
In the 1998 Academy Award Best Picture winner Shakespeare in Love (also helmed by Best Exotic director John Madden), Tom Wilkinson played Hugh Fennyman, Will Shakespeare’s financial backer when he mounts a production of “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter.” Dame Judi Dench won her first Oscar for her definitive, yet brief (less than ten minutes!) performance as Elizabeth I.

Wilkinson and Dench shared the screen again a few years later in The Importance of Being Earnest, when they played Dr. Chasuble and Lady Bracknell.

Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith
Wilkinson was also the narrator of the 1999 adaptation of David Copperfield that starred a young Daniel Radcliffe as David and Dame Maggie Smith--who also stars in Best Exotic--as Betsy Trotwood.

Wilkinson as the good Reverend with Anna Massey (Miss Prism) in The Importance of Being Earnest

Bill Nighy and Judi Dench
In Notes on a Scandal, Bill Nighy played the husband of London art teacher Cate Blanchett, who was the object of her co-worker’s obsession. Judi Dench’s role as the quietly unhinged spinster history teacher garnered her a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson
Nighy and Wilkinson played generals both named Friedrich (Olbricht and Fromm, respectively) in Valkyrie, the Tom Cruise action vehicle about the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Bill Nighy with Terrence Stamp in Valkyrie. The film also co-starred Tom Wilkinson.

Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith
Nighy also put in an appearance as Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in which Maggie Smith, of course, played Professor McGonagall.

Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton
On the BBC's worldwide phenomenon Downton Abbey, Penelope Wilton plays Isobel Crawley, a former doctor’s wife whose life changes when her son becomes the Earl of Grantham’s heir. Maggie Smith plays Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, Queen of the One-Liner. Smith and Wilton’s particular brand of early 20th century genteel-yet-withering snark (they agree on very little) is a sight to see.

Penelope Wilton
Wilton was Mrs. Gardiner and Dench was Lady Catherine de Bourgh in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Incidentally, that script was written by Deborah Moggach, who wrote These Foolish Things, the novel on which Marigold Hotel is based.

Wilton and Nighy played the mother and stepfather of Simon Pegg’s Shaun in the zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead. They again reteam as husband and wife in Best Exotic.

Celia Imrie
Celia Imrie, who plays a retiree looking for love in Best Exotic, starred in Calendar Girls with Wilton. She also played Lady Glenmire on an episode of Cranford, a miniseries about a small town in the 1840s facing the changes brought about by the industrial revoltion that starred Dench as Ms. Matty Jenkyns.

Kate Ashfield, Simon Pegg, Penelope Wilton and Nick Frost in Shaun of the Dead.

Judi Dench and Maggie Smith
In 1999 Dames Judi and Maggie starred together in Tea with Mussolini, a film about a group of formidable female expatriots in in 1930s Italy called the Scorpioni. Smith played an aristocrat and Dench an aspiring artist.

The ladies again teamed up for the drama Ladies in Lavender, in which they played two sisters who find affection for a young, mysterious foreigner.

Maggie Smith and Judi Dench in Ladies in Lavender
They also worked together in the 1985 Merchant Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View. Smith was Helena Bonham-Carter's very proper chaperone and Dench was Eleanor Lavish, a freewheeling novelist.

Dev Patel
Although Dev Patel, of Slumdog Millionaire fame, hasn't worked alongside any of these actors before, Simon Beaufoy, who wrote the Slumdog script, penned The Full Monty, which also starred Mr. Wilkinson.

The chemistry that these actors share together on screen is more than battle-tested. And if you enjoyed any of the films listed above, any one of them could be used to handily win you a round of six degrees of separation.

Nina Zipkin is recent BMFI intern and Bryn Mawr College graduate. You can read her thoughts on pop culture and more on her blog at

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