This week one of our favorite Afternoon Tea actresses returns to the big screen, when The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opens up here in the U.S.
Dame Judi Dench stars in the film, alongside a host of other familiar faces, including Downton Abbey’s Penelope Wilton and Dame Maggie Smith, Worricker’s Bill Nighy, and After You’ve Gone’s Celia Imrie.
The premise of the film is that a group of British pensioners are seeking a new life in India. In it Dame Judi and Bill Nighy’s characters continue the hesitant relationship they began in the first film. In real life the actors are also very good friends, having worked together numerous times over the years. The love of Dench’s life, however, is David Mills, a conservationist she met four years ago when he asked her to open the badger enclosure at his wildlife center in Surrey. Although the couple have no plans to marry, the widowed Dench, who turned 80 last December, has openly expressed her feelings for Mills. “It’s wonderful to be in love”, declared Dench. “That state when you’re glad to see somebody and they make you laugh and you just like being with them.”
Nighy on the other hand has been single since 2008 when he separated from his partner of 27 years, actress Diana Quick. Not that he’s complaining. “I have a fine time alone," he says. "I have my routine at the end of the day. I get home, I put the kettle on for some tea because the kettle is near the front door, then I go into the living room to put on the iPod, pick up my book and my cup of tea, and sit by the music so I can zap any tracks that don’t suit my mood.”
The ability to make a good cup of tea is of prime importance to Nighy, who is a self-confessed addict to Yorkshire tea. “Nothing else can really hit the spot”, says Nighy. Tea, therefore, was one of the things the actor made sure to pack when travelling to India. The other thing was a huge jar of Marmite, which turned out to be too large to get through security so Nighy ended up collecting 30 tiny allowable size jars from all the cafes in the terminal, into which he dispensed the contents of his one large jar.
While Nighy was taking things over to India, Dench on the other hand made sure she had plenty of space in her luggage to bring things back. The first time she went she brought back lots of brightly colored clothes, which as soon as she returned to London she realized were completely out of place. “Those Indian clothes do look so wonderful in the sun”, says Dench, “but then when you get back to London and wear a bright pink three-quarter-length on a rainy day it just looks ridiculous.” This time round, Dench bought “rugs for the family” and “lots of wonderful bags made of old material.”
There are plans in the works for a third Exotic Marigold film, which will hopefully reunite the cast once again. All of them are very old friends. Nighy for instance has known Imrie since she was 16 and Dench and Smith met almost sixty years ago when they were just 19. Now sixty years on, Dench and Smith are having as much fun as they did when they were young and seem just as busy. Dench is living proof of her new film’s message: that life doesn’t stop at 50, or even 60 or 70. “I don’t think it matters about your age at all," says Judi. "What matters is your determination not to give up or to stop learning things. I don’t want to be told I can’t do something. I’ll just have a go at it.”
If you get a chance to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, drop me a line and let me know how you like it.
And don’t forget to see Dame Judi Dench weekday afternoons at 3pm, in As Time Goes By on Afternoon Tea.
To contact Heather:
Address: Afternoon Tea
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