Dame Judi Dench treats herself (and us) after her TIFF premiere: Govani
As the buzz grows louder about her work in Victoria & Abdul, the Oscar winner savours something else: ice cream and champagne.
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Long may she reign.
While filmgoers were down the street taking in an awesome Judi Dench as she dusted off an old queen’s crown again in the TIFF premiere, Victoria & Abdul, the Dame herself had slipped out after the red-carpet chaos, treating herself instead to some ice cream.
In fact, Dench’s precise instruction, when she arrived on the second floor of Soho House for some me-time, was as follows: she wanted ice cream and champagne (in no particular order).
Living her best life: the A-list octogenarian.
Fortified with cream and bubbly, Dench did manifest later for the actual soiree to celebrate the film, held one floor down, where the buzz was already thickening for Dench’s performance and, in all, the Stephen Frears-directed film that depicts the unlikely alliance (a true story!) between Queen Victoria, in the winter of life, and a young arrival in the form of an Indian clerk, Abdul Karim.
Ruling over India at the time — back when the subcontinent was considered the “jewel in the crown” — Karim enlivens something in the Queen, suffering then from the blues after the loss of her Prince Albert. A friendship ensues. Some comedy, too. Like, well, in one well-received scene when Victoria get a crash course on the mango.
Unsurprisingly, she wants to try one, and is told, “They only grow in India,” to which Victoria responds, “Well, I am empress of India, so have one sent.”
Holding court at the Grey Goose-hosted party under the marquee moose head at Soho — one that has lorded over innumerable celebrities, over the years, at TIFF — Dench happily posed for pics, and talked a bit of shop. She was marvellous.
Telling her about how much I admired her latest project, I then inquired about her experiences filming at Osborne House (the former rural retreat of Queen Victoria on the Isle of Wight), and the Dame deadlocked me with her eyes — her stare is penetrating — and said it had been wonderful. In fact, she told me, “They’ve gone and made me of a patron of Osborne House. They’re throwing a dinner for me.” (To help fund important restoration projects!)
“Does this mean they’ll be giving you keys to the place?” I posed.
“No, no keys,” she smirked.
I looked for the tattoo that Dench has on her right wrist that reads “carpe diem” — she got it for her 81st birthday — but it was to no particular avail. The thespian was in long cuffs.
Will she get an Academy Award nom for this latest Queen Vic undertaking? No sane person would count her out — after all, it would be her eighth nomination, and her third for playing the queen of England (after Mrs. Brown and Shakespeare in Love, with her winning for the latter) — with at least one critic writing recently that she “has a couple of defiant, desk-clearing monologues in the film that just about scream Oscar.”
While the film is a charm-athon, some, too, have been struck by the interesting synchronicity between it, and Frears’ ’80s-era film — a landmark of British cinema then — called My Beautiful Laundrette, starring Daniel Day-Lewis.
That, as cinephiles will recall, was the story of a relationship between a Pakistani-British man and a white former skinhead in Thatcher-era London. And Victoria & Abdul, as others have additionally noted, is, essentially the same film — but just done with courtiers and queens.
To the lobby bar at Bisha it was for a post-mother! screening party, where Darren Aronofsky and others celebrated, courtesy of Ciroc, but Jennifer Lawrence (his current squeeze) was a conspicuous no-show, opting out after its Sunday screening. In a case of classic TIFF six-degrees, Darren’s ex Rachel Weisz (who is now married to a certain James Bond) was celebrating her own movie, Disobedience, just a block over at RBC House, on Duncan.
- Among those spotted at the Fox Searchlight bash at the Four Seasons Centre, Sunday, for their combined slate of films at the Fest: Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Andrea Riseborough and Sally Hawkins, and Sam Rockwell.
- Emma Thompson regaling several reporters while in Toronto about the time, back in 1997, when Donald Trump called her in her trailer in a film to ask her out for a date. Putting a Sliding Doors spin on it, she now wishes she’d gone only because, “I could have done something.”
- Enjoying a sit-down at Morton’s, on Avenue Road, summoned by Sony Classic Movies, a few nights back: Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Stanley Tucci, Timothee Chalamet, and Liam Neeson.
- Jane Goodall giving the fest a shot of virtue at the reception held at Addison’s Residence, on Wellington, following the unspooling, over the weekend, of her eponymous documentary, Jane.