The Unofficial Chronology of Dame Judi Dench's Career 

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Mrs. Henderson Presents

by John Simon -- Broadway.com Online DVD Review

The Weinstein Company -- DVD Released April 18, 2006

As released on DVD by The Weinstein Company, Mrs. Henderson Presents is a pleasant, lightweight entertainment. Literately written by Martin Sherman (author of Bent) and ably directed by Stephen Frears, the film is a stylishly tongue-in-cheek British evocation of old-style Hollywood musicals.

"Inspired" as it says, by actual events, it tells of London's Windmill Theatre, which alone remained open during the Blitz, bringing cheer to civilians and soldiers on leave through some of the city's darkest hours. Its five continuous daily shows could, thanks to being below street level, defy the aerial bombardments. Even a very near miss proved scarcely more disrupting than a white mouse, allegedly released onstage by a prankster, causing the nude living statues to scamper off.

Ah, nude girls! The theater was owned by a rich widow—the heroine here, Laura Henderson—who ran it in conjunction with an experienced showman, Vivian Van Damm, to whom she eventually bequeathed it. And yes, this was the first time in England that, during the Windmill revues, nude girls in immobile artistic poses were permitted by the Lord Chamberlain, presumably as morale boosters.

Around these facts, the film spins a fairly conventional but ingratiating story, interspersed with amiable vaudeville routines and nicely sung and choreographed quasi-period song and dance numbers, including charming pastiche music by George Fenton. The constantly sparring but basically affectionate Henderson (Judi Dench) and Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) evoke memories of those '30s and '40s American movie musicals, as does a somewhat sketchy love affair between a showgirl and a soldier. Andrew Dunn's cinematography should not go without mention.

Yet what truly lifts the film above the routine is the performance of Dame Judi Dench. Though Hoskins and the rest—notably Christopher Guest as a Lord Chamberlain twisted around Laura's pinkie—do fine work, it is the great, shining-eyed actress who deploys a special denchantment.

The very title of John Miller's excellent biography, Judi Dench: With a Crack in Her Voice, pinpoints one of her fortes: a voice that can go from silken soprano to corrugated contralto in a trice, always to sound dramatic effect. Next, a face that without being glamorous has a comforting, foursquare openness, and which Dench can totally transform from expression to expression with utmost ease. And each expression really counts, whether it tickles your funnybone or skewers your heart.

But the most marvelous transition is Judi Dench's smooth progress from sexy ingénue through mature actress to benevolent grande dame without a hiatus, with assurance and endurance very few can match. Of her first professional appearance in 1957, as Ophelia to John Neville's Hamlet at the Old Vic, Kenneth Tynan wrote, "The Ophelia, Judi Dench, is a pleasing but terribly sane little thing." And sure enough, she has parlayed that "terrible sanity" into becoming the sanest, the least actressy, of our era's great English actresses.

In her autobiography, Vanessa Redgrave recalled her classmate Judi Dench at the Central School of Speech and Drama as already "confident enough to speak in her own voice." That voice has since enriched the world's screens and stages in all its cracked magnificence.


A Special Thank You to Betty B, USA, for bringing this to my attention

 


Los Angeles Times Calendar -- Oscar Section --
March 5, 2006

Also for your enjoyment ...   Best Actress Cookies !!!
 

Thanks to Connie E, USA, for scanning and sharing this

 


Battle of the Brits

The Telegraph -- Calcutta, India -- February 27, 2006

Two Brits are up for the coveted Best Actress award — Kiera Knightley for Pride & Prejudice and Judi Dench for Mrs Henderson Presents. Here, Deborah Moggach, the screenwriter of Pride & Prejudice, and Iris director Richard Eyre put their crosses in the box.

Richard Eyre for Judi Dench

As an actress, Judi Dench is luminous. It’s difficult to pin her down but I would say that her most defining characteristic is that she manages to be authoritative and witty at the same time.

That is absolutely integral to her allure. To be such a clear authority figure and to still retain the ability and the power to touch your heart, it’s an incredibly difficult trick to pull off. Judi does this better than anyone else; I would say she is uniquely capable of it.

Even when she’s playing a role such as Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love there’s a kind of roguishness, a larkiness to her, that’s irresistible. There is forever a twinkle in her eye.

I’ve just finished working with Judi on a new film, Notes on a Scandal, from the novel by Zoe Heller, with Cate Blanchett and Bill Nighy. But I’ve worked with her before many, many times on the stage and on film Iris, for which Dench won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and her methods and her abilities are exactly the same in both mediums.

She doesn’t age as an actress; when you think about it, she has been at the peak of her career for about the past 50 years. It’s difficult to do her credit properly without turning her into a dreary shopping list, but Judi is incredibly direct and honest, she works very hard on the set, she’s loyal and diffident, she completely and utterly lacks airs and graces of any kind, and I think this is because her passion is consuming.

In Mrs Henderson Presents I thought she was magnificent. She so clearly exudes a sense of joy in the role, and what struck me again and again was the wit she managed to convey in her characterization. She also has incredible control, but what you see on the screen is just her joy and her wit. Of course she ought to win the Oscar, but I don’t think she will — I think Reese Witherspoon will get it for Walk the Line. But of course it ought to go to Judi. It isn’t even a question.

Click on the link above to read about Kira Knightley

A Special Thank You to Ginny A, USA, for sharing this with us

 


Entertainment Weekly -- Best Actress Section

                  

by Whitney Pastorek

Within the massive coconut cream pie that is Mrs. Henderson Presents, there is a moment when Dame Judi Dench stands before her mirror, clad in a loosely tied dressing gown, and performs a short, sultry, entirely unabashed fan dance in the darkness of her bedroom. When the dance ends, she stares into the glass — her gown slipping from one pale shoulder — and her blue eyes burn with heartbreak. She is ravishing, and it's almost too painfully private to watch.

Though it lasts only seconds, that scene suggests the presence Dench has brought to movies over the past 40-plus years, a presence so strong that Oscar once rewarded her with a Best Supporting Actress statue for just eight minutes of work (playing Queen Elizabeth I in 1998's Shakespeare in Love). No such time-card controversy here — in the title role, Dench steams through Mrs. Henderson Presents like a tiny upholstered battleship. Based on true events, it's the story of a wealthy widow who opened a burlesque theater in London's West End during World War II, and it allows plenty of opportunity for Dench's intelligence, wit, and self-confidence to shine. But Dench is also smart enough to know when to let vulnerability seep through, and it's in those flashes of uncertainty and grief that her Mrs. Henderson is most impressive. Anyone can act sad — it takes a master like Dench to find the sadness in a snappy retort.

Of course, the practical Dame herself would probably tell you that all this awards hoo-ha is nonsense, even as she's staring down the barrel of her fifth Oscar nomination and possibly her second win.

''I just want to go on being employed,'' the 71-year-old actress told EW last year. At the very least, that shouldn't be a problem.

 


Daily Variety -- January 27, 2006

From the section on the SAG Awards, the article was called "Motivation".
The article didn't talk about Dame Judi but did talk about the new actors who have no
training or experience.

Thanks to Connie E, USA, for scanning and sharing this
 


Oscar Nomination -- Best Actress -- January 31, 2006

BBC Online Article -- includes a BBC Online Audio Interview
  
(also includes a link to watch a new trailer from MHP)

Click here to listen to the WAV Audio Clip of the interview with Dame Judi   (3:38 Min)

Note:  When asked if she'll be attending the awards ceremony on March 5th, Dame Judi said
that she's scheduled to start Hayfever rehearsals on Monday, March 6th so it will be up to
director Peter Hall whether or not she'll be able to go to LA ... stay tuned.


Dame Judi Dench has given her reaction to being nominated for the best actress award at this year's Oscars.  The actress told the BBC she was delighted to have been nominated for 'Mrs Henderson Presents', a film she loved making.

Dame Judi Dench, Keira Knightley and Rachel Weisz are leading a strong set of UK contenders for 2006 Oscars.  Dame Judi and Knightley are up against each other for best actress - Dame Judi for Mrs Henderson Presents and Knightley for Pride and Prejudice.  Weisz is nominated for best supporting actress for UK thriller The Constant Gardener, which is also shortlisted for the best adapted screenplay Oscar. 

Dame Judi has her fifth Oscar nomination for playing the theatre-owning heroine of Mrs Henderson Presents.  "It's absolutely wonderful! I'm absolutely thrilled," she said. "It is great to have this kind of recognition.  "I'm so happy to be nominated for something I loved filming every single day."

Dame Judi and Knightley compete against Walk the Line's Reese Witherspoon, Transamerica's Felicity Huffman and North Country's Charlize Theron in the best actress category.

Best costume design
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Memoirs of a Geisha
Mrs Henderson Presents
Pride and Prejudice
Walk The Line

 

The Oscars Ceremony is Sunday, March 5th  --  Full list of nominations

 


BAFTA Nominations -- 2006

Dame Judi for Best Actress in a Leading Role

British actress Judi Dench holds a bunch of flowers after she won her 11th British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) nomination from the British film industry for her part in 'Mrs Henderson Presents' in central London on Thursday Jan. 19 2006. (AP Photo/Yui Mok/PA)

Dame Judi said she was "very pleased" to receive her 10th Bafta film nomination, adding that making Mrs Henderson Presents had been "hugely good fun".

"I knew I wanted to tell the story because I knew about Vivian Van Damme and the Windmill, but I didn't know about Laura Henderson," said Dench of her role as the woman who brought nude theatre to London.

"And then it was working with Bob Hoskins, who I had never worked with before - except radio. It was like being given a wonderful meal - full of the things you love most."

Original screenplay -- Mrs Henderson Presents - Martin Sherman 

The Anthony Asquith Award for achievement in film music --
Mrs Henderson Presents - George Fenton

Costume design -- Mrs Henderson Presents

Awards Ceremony to be held on 19 February at the Odeon Leicester Square, central London

 


 These photos are exclusive to this website.

"Oscar Portfolio"

from V Magazine -- February 2006 ... publication of Daily Variety
Makeup by Efrat for Soloartists.com, Photographed by the Essex House, New York.


 

Thanks to Connie E, USA, for scanning and sharing these

 


The It Girl

Backstage.com Online Article  --  January 09, 2006 -- By Dany Margolies

Judi Dench has got the "it" factor--the magnetism that draws the audience to her and to her characters, the quality that makes everyone who speaks of her say she's their favorite actor. But ask her to explain what "it" is and how to get it, and she seems as mystified as the rest of us. It's luck, she insists--getting into a good drama school in England, working with respected directors, coming to film and television "late" in life rather than being a skyrocketing starlet who burns out early.

She came to the notice of Americans in A Room With a View (1985), playing the flamboyant novelist Eleanor Lavish so expansively that it took the likes of Maggie Smith playing opposite her to keep Dench from stealing the film with the tiniest of roles. Another brief portrayal caught the attention of Academy voters and won Dench a best actress in a supporting role Oscar: that of the trenchant Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love. Oscar noms followed for her work in Chocolat; as the sensual Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown; and as the adult Iris Murdoch in Iris, the story of the novelist who developed Alzheimer's disease. Last year she again worked with Smith; they starred in Ladies in Lavender as elderly sisters who take a shipwrecked young man into their home, Dench's character developing a fascinating love for the stranger.

Currently she is onscreen in Mrs. Henderson Presents. "Inspired by true events," it recounts the founding of London's Windmill Theatre, which entertained wartime London all through the night with vaudevillian acts and tableaux of naked girls. Dench plays Mrs. Laura Henderson--newly widowed, upper class, fulgent with ideas and energy. In some ways it's her best work yet, combining the qualities that we admired most in her previous portrayals--sturdiness, humor, wit--but adding new sadness at the recent loss of Laura's husband, old wistfulness at the loss of her son, a deluded confidence, and a large measure of feminism.

First Her Fear

Dench has an impeccably classic pedigree. She attended London's Central School of Speech and Drama. Immediately before graduation she earned acceptance at The Old Vic theatre, where its then--head Michael Benthall cast the unknown young Dench as Ophelia. Since, she has performed Chekhov, Ibsen, and the entire Shakespeare canon, onstage and onscreen, under the direction of Peter Hall, Trevor Nunn, and John Barton, among many others. She created the role of Amy in David Hare's Amy's View, which played the West End and Broadway. She has had two long-running television series: A Fine Romance and, currently in reruns on PBS, As Time Goes By.

So it's unimaginable but true that she dares not teach, that she relies heavily on her directors, and that she suffers mild stage fright--which she says is essential to a performance. As for teaching, she says, "I would simply die of fright." But, she adds, "I don't think anybody can be told how to act. I think you can give advice. But you have to find your own way through it."

Dench says she learned from watching other people. Names that pop quickly to her mind when asked how she learned film acting are Jim Broadbent, with whom she starred in Iris, and Kevin Spacey, with whom she starred in The Shipping News. "Really classy actors," she says.

She also says her directors are vital to her performances. Notes from them are "life blood" to her. "I need a director terribly badly," she says. "I wade about in mud until I get somebody to give me a hand through it." She tells her directors, "Tell me to go on until I get it to what you call right. Nag me to get it right." And still she'd offer her ideas to her director, "Because that's the way we work now. It's a process."

And then she lets it happen. "And if the director says, 'More of this,' or 'More of that,'--it's like making a cake without a recipe," she explains. "Some things you know about, you know what the ingredients are--maybe not all of them. But it's up to you to put in the amount. It's up to the director to nag you until you get it right."

As part of the process, she likes to incorporate design in developing her characters. "I trained as a designer, so I'm always terribly keen about what I'm going to look like," she says. "I work out the other bits, too, but I need to know what I look like, very early on. And then it's like a template; I'll fill that person out. If I get that out of the way, then I'm all right."

But somehow fear creeps in. "Always," she says. "The more I do, the more frightened I get. But that is essential. Otherwise why would I go on doing it?" The fear may come from her own belief that she doesn't know how to play the part, that her performance is not quite ready, that she wants a particular night to go well because someone special to her is in the audience. And of course she's "gone up" onstage. "Oh, ya!" she exclaims. "First night in [Eduardo de Filippo's] Filumena, with Michael Pennington, I had a whole list of Italian towns to say. And I completely dried on them and came out with a lot of Italian food. And he also went completely awry. One night in The Importance of Being Earnest I cut all the bits about the handbag, and a woman wrote to me and said, 'You've ruined my Christmas.' But mostly I see the absurdity of it, and I laugh uncontrollably. I've got myself into such trouble."

She refuses to conquer her stage fright. At least it's not debilitating. "Not yet," she quips. "But, oh, God, I have the fear. I wouldn't be without it. It makes me laugh. The fear tips over, and I become hysterical. And you get on because you have other actors who are in the same position."

Then Her Courtesy

While she was in school she saw "every single play in London." That way, she suggests, actors can see what works and what doesn't. She tells young actors, if they're going to appear at a theatre, to see the production playing before yours. "You get the measure of the theatre that way, you get the amount you have to project," she says. "Just before I opened in Cabaret, I was taken to The Desert Song, at the Palace Theatre. And the night before I had my audition at The Old Vic, I went to see Two Gentlemen of Verona. I saw Barbara Jefford there. And the next day I knew exactly the kind of right amount to project." As for that audition, Dench remembers it in vivid detail--down to the yellow dress she wore. She expected to earn a walk-on role. She did Miranda's monologue from The Tempest; but Benthall immediately asked her to learn Ophelia's speech, "O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!" for the following day. She returned, did the scene, and remembers being asked to let her upswept hair fall. "You were called 'Miss' or 'Mister' then," she recalls. "'Miss Dench,' he said. 'How tall are you?' I said, '5-foot-2.' He said, 'I'm going to take a huge risk. I'm going to cast you as Ophelia, but you are not to tell anybody.' I told my parents, that's all. And that was my first job. I nearly died of fright. And I'd gone [on the audition] with an actor friend of mine who'd been at Central before me and was in The Vic. He said, 'Did you get in? Are you going to walk on?' And I had to say, 'Yes.'" She indeed had walk-on roles in other productions in rep that season, as well as Maria in Twelfth Night and Juliet in Measure for Measure.

Dench recalls getting terrible reviews, called notices in Britain. "I don't care," she says. "I learned a huge amount. It was very good to get notices like that." She admits to no longer reading them. But early on she cried over them. "It was good to learn so early. They're not going to be kind to you. You have to do it and get on, and then gulp down and get better."

So we're back to that "it" factor, that watchability. "What is it?" she wonders. "If we knew that we could say straightaway to young people, 'Don't you do it [act]. You do it. Not you. You.' But we can't do that, because we don't know. That's what's so exciting. And then you can get somebody who hasn't made much of an impression who suddenly does a part, and you jump out and think, 'Where's that person been?' What's it to do with? I don't know. Luck. Luck finding the right part, the right director, being in the right place at the right time."

As actors of her generation have said, the young generation hasn't had the extensive early experience in theatre as preparation for a career. "We had reps to go and make blunders in," she says. "But, my goodness, there's talent around. Crikey. I was bewitched by Keira Knightley." The young actor stars with Dench in the current remake of Pride & Prejudice. Dench won't predict who will take her place in the next generation. "And they won't take our place; they'll be their own people," she says gently.


January 6, 2006

The Screen Actor's Guild Nominations

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Judi Dench / MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS – Mrs. Laura Henderson (The Weinstein Company)
 


Dench bares her talent as eccentric Mrs. Henderson

Ruthe Stein, Chronicle Senior Movie Writer -- San Francisco Gate Online Review

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Dame Judi Dench relies on a bit of stage business in "Mrs. Henderson Presents" left over from her life in the theater. Every time her free-spirited title character makes a shocking pronouncement, Dench stops as if to add a silent ta-da. Her momentary pause is especially effective when the f-word tumbles out during one of Laura Henderson’s many impassioned speeches.

There really was a Mrs. Henderson, an upper-crust Brit who, bored to death by widowhood, buys the shuttered Windmill Theater in the West End in the late 1930s and produces London’s first nudie revue, an already embedded naughtiness in Paris. Eccentrics are a specialty of Dame Judi’s, and she concocts just the right ? blend of noblesse oblige and derring-do. Her performance is simultaneously broad and intimate -- showing us glimpses of the demons driving Mrs. Henderson -- and is worthy of Oscar consideration.

Although not always up to Dench’s dazzling star turn, the movie is well crafted and draws you into the fascinating lives of several of Mrs. Henderson’s contemporaries, key among them Windmill’s manager, Vivian Van Damm, played with brusque authority by Bob Hoskins. He and Mrs. Henderson fight over everything. Gradually she develops a crush on her employee. Dench is heartbreaking showing her character’s hurt feelings at the discovery that he’s married.

"Mrs. Henderson Presents" has an old-fashioned feel, as if it had been made in the period of its setting. I mean this as a compliment. It’s sure to appeal to those whose TVs are permanently turned to Turner Classic Movies.

Director Stephen Frears, whose eclectic resume includes "My Beautiful Laundrette," "Dangerous Liaisons" and "High Fidelity," brings great detail to recreating England right before and during World War II. The country is still suffering through the Depression when Mrs. Henderson is overcome by the entrepreneurial spirit, and there is no lack of women willing to shed their garments in return for a steady salary.

An innocence and wry, gentle humor run through the movie. There’s quite a bit of nudity, but it’s portrayed almost antiseptically, like viewing a Raphael or Botticelli. Indeed, in order to pass muster with London’s designated censor Lord Cromer (the usually funny Christopher Guest, playing it straight as a proper Englishman), Mrs. Henderson has to agree that her girls will stand utterly still on stage, like a tableaux. At lunch, the lord -- whom she has known since he was a child and dismissively refers to as Tommy -- brings up a concern about revealing their private parts or as he calls them "the midlands." She assures him the lighting will be so subtle nobody will see anything and that anyway "we’ll hire a barber," a line deserving of the pause Dench follows it with.

During a rehearsal, the performers are instructed to disrobe for the first time. They announce they’d feel more comfortable if the male stagehands and Van Damm take their clothes off as well. So everybody goes the Full Monty, Hoskins included. (As an executive producer on the film, he can hardly claim he was forced into it.) Mrs. Henderson chooses this moment to walk in, stares briefly at her manager’s midlands and deadpans, "I see you are Jewish, Mr. Van Damm." Another moment of silence follows.

The tone of the movie becomes increasingly somber as the war starts, bringing blitzes to London. The revue is performed underground, and Mrs. Henderson convinces the powers-that-be that it offers soldiers a safe haven and a morale boost. Predictably, stage-door Johnnies line up afterward to meet the entertainers, and they ponder offering additional solace to these brave young men fighting for their country.

Although technically not a musical, "Mrs. Henderson Presents" is filled with musical numbers, some of them quite accomplished. The loveliest dance is on the roof of the theater when Mr. Van Damm takes Mrs. Henderson in his arms and waltzes her around. Their movements have a subtle sensuality that will not likely be mistaken for a last tango in Paris.

 


Hot & Bothered: You're Never Too Old...

By Andrea Meyer -- IFC News -- December 21, 2005

When the newly widowed Mrs. Henderson remarks that she's bored to tears, her lunch guest Lady Conway suggests taking a lover. "I'm nearly 70," Mrs. Henderson protests. "But you're rich," counters her cheeky friend. "The two cancel each other out."

Unconvinced, Mrs. Henderson settles for the next best thing: a hobby. After dabbling in charity (it's a yawn) and needlepoint (a snooze), Mrs. Henderson does what any rich, energetic, old broad (with a splash of the visionary in her) would do. She buys the out-of-use Windmill Theater and sets out to revolutionize the London stage by putting on a vaudeville in which women appear stark naked.

Stephen Frears' deliciously snappy "Mrs. Henderson Presents" (in theaters December 9), stars Dame Judi Dench as the real-life theater maven and Bob Hoskins as Vivian Van Damm, the man she hires to run the place. Hot, nasty sparks crackle between this odd couple — so much so that Van Damm initially turns the job down, until the smooth Mrs. Henderson bribes him with total creative freedom, an offer no producer can refuse — even if it means having a ball-breaker in floor-length mink as a boss.

After a few rounds sparring with this stout, brassy younger man, Mrs. Henderson realizes she's in love with him. While he's married to another woman and their connection goes largely unacknowledged and unconsummated, the affair is invaluable. It awakens Mrs. Henderson to her sexuality, which she had taken for dead along with her husband and makes the young flesh onstage more alluring. The glowing grand dame teases the dancers about their love lives, even setting her favorite up on a date with a soldier, and in one oddly moving sequence dances suggestively in the flamboyant solitude of her room.

 


Mrs. Henderson Presents - IFILM Exclusive:  Interview with Judi Dench  (2005)
This is the story of Laura Henderson, one of the most prominent and eccentric figures in pre-WWII London society and the founder of the historic Windmill Theater.   3:30 minutes
Also includes an interview with Bob Hoskins as well as other film related features.

Click here for a better quality version of this Interview

 

          Thanks to Christina Dobrzynski -- Online PR/Publicity Manager -- Deep Focus -- 12/15/05



KCET Life and Times PBS Interview -- December 2005

Click here to watch the WMP Video Clip of this Interview
Windows Media Player Required     ( 7:52 Minutes )


Thanks to Connie E, USA, for sharing this

 


Daily Variety -- Eye on the Oscars:  the Actress
December 12, 2005


Thanks to Connie E, USA, for scanning and sending this article



The LA Times
December 9, 2005


Thanks to Connie E, USA,
for scanning and sending this

 


Newsweek
December 9, 2005

Thanks to Cindy Lou F, USA,
for scanning and sending this



2005 Golden Globe Nominations

Picture, Musical or Comedy: "Mrs. Henderson Presents," "Pride & Prejudice," "The Producers," "The Squid and the Whale," "Walk the Line."

Actress, Musical or Comedy: Judi Dench, "Mrs. Henderson Presents"; Keira Knightley, "Pride & Prejudice"; Laura Linney, "The Squid and the Whale"; Sarah Jessica Parker, "The Family Stone"; Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line."

Supporting Actor: George Clooney, "Syriana"; Matt Dillon, "Crash"; Will Ferrell, "The Producers"; Paul Giamatti, "Cinderella Man"; Bob Hoskins, "Mrs. Henderson Presents."

Golden Globe winners will be announced Jan. 16, five days before polls close for Oscar voters. Oscar nominations come out Jan. 31, and the awards will be presented March 5.


Thanks to Diane P, UK, and Connie E, USA for bringing this to my attention.

 


Judi Dench: Haughty, yet bawdy

Thanks to Connie E, USA, for scanning and sharing this

LA Times -- CalendarLive Online Interview

The actress' well-practiced range is deftly displayed in two holiday films.  'Mrs. Henderson Presents'

JUDI DENCH may be one of the jewels in England's acting crown, but she's down-to-earth and funny. Never, ever call her "Dame Judi." Just plain "Judi" is fine with her.

A striking 71, Dench seems to be a force of nature. In less than a decade, she's racked up four Oscar nominations — she won best supporting actress for 1998's "Shakespeare in Love" for her eight-minute turn as Queen Elizabeth — and won the Tony Award six years ago for David Hare's drama "Amy's View."

She has also been M, the formidable boss of James Bond, in the blockbuster action-thrillers that starred Pierce Brosnan as 007.

Dench currently can be seen as the curmudgeonly snob Lady Catherine de Bourg in "Pride & Prejudice" and as theater operator Laura Henderson in "Mrs. Henderson Presents," a historical drama based in fact, which opened Friday.

In the Stephen Frears-directed "Mrs. Henderson," Dench plays the wealthy widow who in the late 1930s bought an old London theater named the Windmill. Knowing nothing about music halls, Henderson hired a colorful character named Vivian Van Dam (Bob Hoskins) to operate it. Their Windmill was successful, but it flagged when other London theaters followed its lead. So Mrs. Henderson decided to turn it into a nude revue. During World War II, it became the only theater in London that never closed — even during bombing raids. It inspired a Hollywood movie in 1945 called "Tonight and Every Night," starring Rita Hayworth. In that version, though, all the chorus girls kept their clothes on.

Are you appearing in the new James Bond film "Casino Royale"?

Yes. We start in February.

Have you worked before with Daniel Craig, the next James Bond?

No, but I worked with [director] Martin Campbell. He did the first Bond I was in with Pierce, "GoldenEye," so that's going to be new and exciting. I think he [Craig] is [an interesting choice]. How wonderful for him…. It's a tremendous responsibility.

Do you like the chance to play more frivolous roles like M?

I love it. It's great fun. It has a huge audience for young men from about 12 to 14.

So you get a lot of boys approaching you?

Yes. That's the only thing they know me from. They say, "Are you M?" Or "Will you sign a photograph for me?" Or "Are you in 'James Bond'?" It's thrilling for me to say yes.

You have both "Mrs. Henderson" and "Pride & Prejudice" out for the holidays.

I haven't been able to see "Pride & Prejudice" yet.

The film has a different ending here than in England, where it ends with Elizabeth getting permission to marry Darcy.

It ends romantically [here], doesn't it?

Yes. You need to see Elizabeth and Darcy have a final kiss.

No, you don't. I remember my husband [the late actor Michael Williams] saying to me that wearing a high-neck dress at the front with no back is much sexier than wearing a low-neck in front. I think it's a pity to have the T's crossed and the I's dotted.

The best word to describe Lady Catherine in "Pride & Prejudice" is "scary."

She is scary. She is a very aristocratic lady with a great deal of money who was very aware of the class system. She is a monster.

I was surprised watching "Mrs. Henderson" that the Windmill Theater featured nudity.

Oh, yes, that was the thing we all knew about it [in England] — the very risqué show that people went to. It got to be very fashionable. It was very beautifully done, not sleazy. But very daring.

Several of the performers from the Windmill are still alive. Did you get the opportunity to chat with them?

Oh, yes. They are in their 90s. They are absolutely beautiful — each one of them. They are really glamorous. I asked them about [Mrs. Henderson]. She treated them all like daughters, really. She paid for weddings and treats for them and clothes and food. They just became a family.

Were you able to discover if Mrs. Henderson and Vivian Van Dam had a love affair?

I asked the girls about their relationship. They were circumspect. I don't think anybody ever knew if there was any more between them. [Writer] Martin Sherman so brilliantly left that up in the air, so you don't know. I think that's really good.

Had you worked with Stephen Frears before?

Twice before. He is adorable, Stephen. He pretends he doesn't know what to do with a scene, but in actual fact he does. You kind of feel if you are on this ship and it's going through very, very stormy water, you would be all right with Stephen.

Did you live in London during the blitz?

No, we were in Yorkshire. I was just 6 when the war broke out.

Were you ever bombed?

We used to have lots of sirens and things. I remember the bombs actually hitting one night.

Does the Windmill still exist?

It's a lap-dancing joint now. I am not so sure if Laura Henderson wouldn't have quite liked that. She might have suggested it!

 


Judi, Judi, Judi! The Divine Ms. D Delivers

'Mrs. Henderson Presents' 12/9

Alex Bailey -- Newsweek

Dec. 19, 2005 issue - A 69-year-old widowed English aristocrat with a tongue as tart as an adder's and a contempt for the stuffy propriety of '30s London that's facilitated by her sense of noblesse oblige, Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) is based on a real woman. Moviegoers, however, will recognize her as a not-so-distant relative of Auntie Mame. How we love these feisty old renegades! Rather than settle into the conventional pastimes of widowhood, the imperious Mrs. Henderson buys herself a theater in Soho called The Windmill, hires old-pro manager Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins)—decidedly not "one of her own"—and comes up with the shocking notion of putting on musical revues that feature live nude girls onstage—in artful tableaux, mind you, with private parts cleverly concealed.

Filled with musical production numbers, a hint of a geriatric romance between Mrs. H and Mr. Van Damm and patriotic World War II sentiments, "Mrs. Henderson Presents" is a shameless crowd-pleaser. It's not the sort of movie one expects from Stephen Frears, who's made a fine career ("My Beautiful Laundrette," "Dirty Pretty Things") rebelling against this sort of cozily Anglophilic entertainment. That said, he's damn good at it. As he showed in his stylish "Dangerous Liaisons" and his jaunty film noir "The Grifters," Frears can do flamboyant theatricality as well as urban grit. "Mrs. Henderson Presents," which uses the actual song lyrics from the original Windmill Theatre, set to new music composed by George Fenton, makes one curious to see what Frears could do with a full-scale musical.

Screenwriter Martin Sherman is good at writing witty one-liners with a Wildean snap. When you dangle one of these in front of an actor with Dame Judi's formidable technique, the question is not whether she'll knock it out of the park, but how far. Dench, whose movie appearances often come in tantalizing, appetizer roles ("Pride and Prejudice," "Shakespeare in Love"), is here a four-course feast. It's a delight watching her demolish the pomposity of Lord Cromer (a very funny Christopher Guest), the official theatrical censor, whose opposition to her plans she brushes aside with mischievous hauteur. And her odd-couple partnering with Hoskins, whose character hides a few secrets up his natty sleeve, has real charm.

Dench carries the movie, which tends to wobble when she's not around. Once Mrs. H gets her show up and running and the war breaks out, the movie loses focus, trying for a stiff-upper-lip pathos it doesn't quite earn. The film takes a slightly contrived detour as the meddlesome widow decides to play matchmaker, setting up a romance between one of her troupe (Kelly Reilly) and a young soldier. There's also a tragedy in our heroine's past that's meant to give emotional depth to her taste for theatrical frivolity. As if it were needed. Frears and Sherman surely know we love these Mame types for their irreverence, not their piety. As long as "Mrs. Henderson Presents" plays for laughs, it's seriously fun.

 


Liz Smith's Column -- December 11, 2005

AT THE PENINSULA Hotel cafe, 5th and 55th, I had a delightful time with the fabled Dame Judi Dench. Her latest film, "Miss Henderson Presents" opened Friday at both the Angelika and Lincoln Plaza theaters. The date also happened to be Dame Judi's 71st birthday. We had a delicious time laughing, dishing and swapping anecdotes too rowdy for print. Dame Judi is devilish, bawdy but ultimately very beautiful. She proves to us that actresses are not "finished" when they reach "a certain age." She became famous and applauded in her mid-60s for her award-winning films — "Mrs. Brown" . . . "Shakespeare in Love" . . . "Chocolat" . . . "Iris." Now, surely "Miss Henderson Presents" will be on her list of hits. Dame Judi co-stars with the inimitable Bob Hoskins in this funny, touching story of an eccentric rich woman who decides in her widowhood not to collect diamonds or do charity, but to own and restore the Windmill Theatre in London's Soho. The story is inspired by true events of 1937 when World War II was darkening the horizon.

There actually was a real Miss Henderson who, knowing nothing of the theatre, hired Mr. Vivien Van Damm (Hoskins) as manager. He invents a new form he calls "Revuedevilles," and business booms. But his endeavor is imitated, and he's back to step one. It is Miss Henderson who suggests that he put naked girls on stage. Never has anything like this happened in England before. London explodes. One gets to see some lovely naked bodies, Judi in gorgeous period dresses and an astonishingly lovable Hoskins. The film is fun, warm, funny and endearing. Thelma Barlow is just grand as a good friend.

"I love working with Bob. We did a lot of Shakespeare together on the stage. Most people don't think of Hoskins as a classical actor, but he is just that," sparkles Dame Judi as she sips a glass of bubbly. Movie acting was not always something she was fond of, having become one of England's finest Shakespeareans and legit actresses. She starred as Sally Bowles in the original West End production of "Cabaret." But fortunately for the world, Dame Judi capitulated, and like everything else in her fascinating life, she gives all of her loquacious, vibrant mischievous self to her endeavors. Her next is to be the Bond film, "Casino Royale" starring Daniel Craig as 007. You have already enjoyed Dame Judi as Bond's boss, the secret service chief M in a number films. She is also busy now publishing a photo-book called "Scenes From My Life."

 


The Insider -- December 9, 2005

Click here to watch a WMP Video Clip of The Insider -- December 9, 2005
Windows Medial Player Required  ( :20 Minutes)      Dame Judi interviewed at the New York Premiere


Dame Judi Dench stars in the new film "Mrs. Henderson Presents," about a women who buys an old London theatre and turns it into a performance hall that goes down in history for, among other things, its all-nude revues. Here she mocks a strip tease. (Photo by Newsday/Bruce Gilbert)

Fast Chat Judi Dench

New York Newsday --  Joseph V. Amodio -- December 11, 2005

On Central Park South, there is the hustle of tourists, the traffic, a whooop whooop from a police siren. But on an upper floor of the Essex House hotel, overlooking the park, serenity reigns: There is a pot of tea, a sofa and a woman of regal bearing. Soft-spoken, but not in a fragile, Spode teacup sort of way. The royal title, bestowed upon Dame Judi Dench in 1988, is a nice perk for the veteran British actress, well-known on stage (she's played Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth), on TV (BBC Britcoms like "As Time Goes By") and in films ("Iris," "Tea With Mussolini," "Mrs. Brown," "A Room With a View"). She's racked up quite a few awards, including Oliviers, Golden Globes, a Tony and a best supporting actress Oscar (as Queen Elizabeth I in "Shakespeare in Love"). This month, she plays the title role in "Mrs. Henderson Presents," a film set in the 1930s and '40s, and based on the odd, heartwarming (and true) story of a widow who buys a derelict London theater and shocks her friends when she produces nude revues. She sat down for tea with television writer and reporter Joseph V. Amodio.

Had you heard of the Windmill Theater, depicted in the film?

Everybody knew about the Windmill. It was rather a scandalous place, not sleazy but quite risque. They remained open throughout the blitz in World War II. The theater was beneath street level so it was a comparatively safe place to be.

Were there air raids in York, where you grew up?

One. We sat and listened for doodlebugs - you'd just hear them go whshhhhhh - you'd have that awful gap between the sound stopping and then hitting. I remember that. Remember that pretty well.

I don't know how my parents managed. My father being a doctor was given things like rabbits and pheasants . Mother was with the Women's Voluntary Service. They'd go down to the station in York and meet troop trains with huge urns of tea and buns, and I remember her coming back often with tins from Americans or Canadians. There was no label on them. We never knew what they were. You'd just open them and suddenly you'd find - oh, I'll never forget it - pineapple chunks in syrup. We couldn't get that kind of thing. It was incredibly exciting.

After playing the classics, it must be a hoot to portray a character like 007's boss, M ?

It was Michael , I think, who said, "You've got to be a Bond girl." It's hugely good fun. Hugely. In one scene, I'm in prison and I have a little gadget, and I'm trying to contact James Bond and ... save the world. [She laughs.] The night my family saw it they were on the floor laughing. They said, "If it's up to her, there's not a chance - she'll never save the world." Because, you know, I can't work a bicycle pump.

But you can row. That was you actually rowing in "Henderson," yes?

Yes. We learned in the lake district, on Ullswater, as a child. My father and brothers taught me. I love it. But I haven't ever rowed in high heels and a fur coat and hat before.

Did you identify with Mrs. Henderson's ordeal as a widow? Did you draw on personal memories?

Michael died five years ago this January, and the first thing that really struck me about the script was the part about her peeling off from the funeral and just getting into a rowboat and having a real kind of cry where nobody was. I also liked her energy, not wanting to just sit around in a privileged life. Since Michael died I think I've worked constantly. Friends and colleagues are very sustaining. They're the people who get you through it. ... It's no good to be on your own.

Are you and Mrs. Henderson alike?

I think I have her mischievousness. I love practical jokes. I absolutely love them.

You mean THE Dame Judi Dench - really - plays them on people?

All the time, I'm afraid I do, yes. Not on a film set, only in the theater.

Oh?

It's too dodgy on a film set. I'm on shaky ground with filming. In film, you work very, very hard, and you think you've done the scene beautifully and you go home, and either the next day you think, "OH! Good grief! I know what I should've done," or you see the film and think, "Where was that rather good scene?" Well, we know where it is. On the cutting-room floor.

But now with DVDs nothing is lost - all those great moments, and the ones you wish would go away - they package 'em all up.

It's appalling. Absolutely appalling. There are no secrets left.

So you feel more comfortable in a theater.

Much. I just feel incredibly lucky to be employed when there are so many actors and actresses who are not employed. That's why, you know, I sometimes feel desperate, in case I'm not going to be cast again.

That doesn't seem very likely.

Well, that's very nice of you.

 

 


Dame Judi at her comedic best

'Mrs. Henderson Presents' tells the real-life story of a controversial theater owner.

By Peter Rainer | Film critic of The Christian Science Monitor -- Friday, 12/09/05

This must be the season for movies featuring indomitable English widows. Last week there was Joan Plowright in "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont," and now there's the marvelously enjoyable "Mrs. Henderson Presents" starring Judi Dench.

Shortly after her husband's death, to relieve her boredom, Laura Henderson purchases a West End theater, the Windmill. With his cigars and pomaded coif, Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) is the impresario she hires and immediately locks horns with. He wants complete artistic freedom, she wants to meddle. Observing the first round of auditions, she is aghast as one would-be starlet after another is promptly dismissed by Van Damm. (She likens the process to a pagan ritual).

After the Windmill's initial success dwindles, she comes up with idea of doing a show in which the girls onstage appear naked.

It's wartime in London, and between Blitzes the theater does a thriving business in servicemen. Despite its scandalous reputation, the show itself is relentlessly tasteful, in the manner of '40s Hollywood musicals: In order to stay within the bounds of official censorship, the girls pose decorously as tableaux vivants. They're nudie cuties serving the cause of king and country.

Dench's role is so smack dab in her best comic hauteur range that it would be easy to mistake what she does as simple coasting. But though there's real snap and ginger to her presence, the key to the performance is the depth of feeling beneath the imperiousness. Henderson is nobody's fool, but as the film progresses we realize that it is foolish passion she truly craves.

She finds it with Van Damm, who is as no-nonsense as she is. (Theirs is a real-life story). Van Damm and Mrs. Henderson are forever fighting each other because, of course, they recognize how much alike they are. Although Van Damm has a wife, his bickering with Mrs. Henderson mimics a marriage in which the jabs are really love pats. In one particularly ripe comic scene, an assistant interrupts the two of them at full throttle and is informed by Mrs. Henderson that "you must never interrupt a perfectly good argument."

There are many of those. Screenwriter Martin Sherman is at his brittle best in these exchanges, and director Stephen Frears keeps everything clicking. The film is supremely well crafted: Raucousness and wit slide into sadness, and yet you never feel as if you're being worked over by a bunch of slicksters. Frears, like his actors, understands that high theatricality, especially among show people, often camouflages the deepest emotions. "Mrs. Henderson Presents" is about the exhilaration of a life in the theater - a life lived at full pitch. Grade: A

 


Dame Judi Dench at the Four Seasons Hotel. (John McCoy / Staff Photographer)

Tell her a story ... and make it fun

By Evan Henerson, Staff Writer -- San Bernadino Sun Online Interview -- December 8th

Rules to live by when attempting to entice Judi Dench into your cast:
Don't bring a script. Dench won't read it.

Promise her an experience of much laughter no matter how grim the subject might be. No fun means no sale.

Sell the director, the writer and the cast Dench will join. If it's a play, all the better, because despite her multiple awards (including an Oscar for "Shakespeare in Love,") Dench insists that she is, first and foremost, a creature of the stage.

But above all, approach Judi Dench with a good tale.

"Tell me a story," says Dench, who stars in "Mrs. Henderson Presents," opening Friday. "I find that irresistible. That, after all, is the end result: There's the author, and then, sieving it, is the director and the actors bringing it to the audience.

"The thing about not reading scripts and my wanting a director to tell me a story is a risk I need to take. I need that real fear. It's like going nearer and nearer to the edge of something. I don't like reading scripts very much. I like it better for someone to just explain to me what it is about this story."

It was fellow Brit Bob Hoskins - wearing the hat of both co-star and executive producer - who brought Dench the tale of Laura Henderson and the nude revues of Britain's Windmill Theatre in wartime England. Hoskins figured - correctly, as it turned out - that the lure of getting to dress up in disguise as a Chinese servant and in a polar bear costume would sweeten the deal.

"I thought she wouldn't be able to resist that," recalls Hoskins. "I looked at the material and thought, if we can get Judi Dench, we've got a really good film here."

The fact that Henderson was the under-the-radar celebrity behind the Windmill's success was a draw as well. Every bit an eccentric, the widowed and wealthy Henderson bought the Windmill and revived 'round-the-clock revue-style vaudeville acts. Once the performances were copied by rival theaters, and Windmill ticket sales started to slip, Henderson borrowed a page from Paris Moulin Rouge entertainment, getting her tableaux girls to perform nude and persuading the Lord Chamberlin - who censored all dramatic works - that the motionless nudes were comparable to works of art.

"The Lord Chamberlin was censoring scripts when I first came into the theater," says Dench, whose stage career began in 1957. "(Laura Henderson's nude revue) was kind of a one off. Nobody else got that done. I love the fact that, from the moment he opens the door for her, you know she's going to get her own way, to some extent, if not all. Scheming, impossible. All those things, really. It's kind of a gift."

Henderson enjoyed a love-hate relationship with Vivian Van Damm (Hoskins), who she hired to run the Windmill. Banned from the theater, she would wear disguises to sneak in and look after the welfare of the performers. Even amid the din of air-raid sirens, the Windmill was the one theater in London that remained open throughout the war.

"It's a story worth telling," says Dench. "It's very courageous and anti-war, I think."

Dench, 71, who lives outside of London, recently spent a few days in L.A. to attend the "Mrs. Henderson Presents" premiere and pick up the KCET Lumiere award for excellence in film. Having recently completed the film "Notes on a Scandal" with Cate Blanchett, she'll reprise her role as spy boss M for the latest James Bond film, "Casino Royale." She also appears in Joe Wright's remake of "Pride & Prejudice" as the imperious dowager Lady Catherine de Bourg

Next up will be a couple of plays: Noel Coward's "Hay Fever" for director Peter Hall, to be staged in London, and a role in a musical version of "The Merry Wives of Windsor" as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's year-long, "Complete Works" staging of the entire Shakespeare canon.

While she'll congenially discuss Mrs. Henderson, Bond or the cinematic liaisons she still hopes to bring about (including a wish list that includes working with director Martin Scorsese and actor Ed Harris), you quickly get the idea that Dench much prefers being in front of an audience to being in front of a camera.

This despite the fact that her accolades include four Oscar nominations, nine British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards, a Golden Globe and an Emmy nomination.

"When she was young - and this may be an ungenerous thing to say - she always seemed slightly uncomfortable in films," says "Henderson" director Stephen Frears. "Somebody said she was too raw and she was such a woman of the theater that it always slightly showed in the films. I may be talking nonsense, but I'd like to think she sort of gave up on films, and of course became wonderful at that moment."

For her part, Dench recalls being told that she would never make films. "I don't remember who said it, but I just remember the remark," she says. "Do I remember the remark."

She was passed over for a potentially career-altering role in Tony Richardson's film "A Taste of Honey" in the 1960s. Her breakthrough came with former Miramax chairman Harvey Weinstein championing her Oscar-nominated performance as Queen Victoria in "Mrs. Brown" (1997), followed by her Oscar-winning turn as Queen Elizabeth in "Shakespeare in Love" (1998). By the time she "arrived" in film with the two queen roles, Dench was in her early 60s.

"The blessing is you then - if you're very lucky - you work with people who really know the business of filmmaking," she says. "Like Kevin Spacey or Cate Blanchett, who really have got it at their kind of fingertips, who really know the business of it. I just watch them, and I know that thing of 'less is more.' I know that now. And it's something now to do with the fact that I'm so old I can get by with things."

A bit on the modest side? Not in the least, insists Dench.

"I've figured out what to do so far, but it's always the next thing you come to where the man with the bucket of ice cold water is waiting - whoosh! in your face. That's why you work with directors who know what to tell you to do. They say, 'Do it this way or try that or do it again and again and again.' Like the rowing."

Ah, yes, the rowing. In addition to her other exploits, Mrs. Henderson had a penchant for taking a one-person boat out onto a lake. Filmed all at once, that was 30 takes in a single day.

"Stephen will tell you I was towed, and I may have been towed in one or two of them," she says, "But I was not towed in the others. I was either going too fast or too slow or the current was carrying me. I was steaming, but I liked it. I liked it very much, because we laughed."

 


A breast above the rest: 'Mrs. Henderson presents'

by Kim Pierce -- Hatchet Reporter -- Issue date: 12/8/05

Dame Judi Dench and nudity are two subjects that have probably never been uttered in the same sentence before. However, in his newest film "Mrs. Henderson Presents" (BBC Films), director Stephen Frears ("High Fidelity") manages to connect the two, with crowd-pleasing results.

Laura Henderson (Dench) is a recently widowed woman living in Britain during the 1930s. On a whim, she purchases the abandoned Windmill Theater. With the assistance of theatrical producer Vivian Van Damm, (Bob Hoskins, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"), she assembles a cast of eccentric characters lead by Bertie, the charismatic, flamboyantly gay lead singer (cinema newcomer Will Young) and Maureen, the romantically challenged chorus girl (Kelly Reilly, "Pride and Prejudice"). In an attempt to save their rapidly falling profits, Laura and Vivian devise an idea to perform continuous nude reviews in the theater. When the Nazis invade France, the morale of the British troops and the besieged British people is dropped squarely onto the shoulders of the beautiful, scantily clad chorus girls.

The computer graphics and special effects are far less than stellar. In the many scenes that occur during the relentless Germany firebombing of Britain, the audience can practically see the green screen being used - reminiscent of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet on the deck of the Titanic. However, this flaw is the only negative aspect of the film.

The chemistry achieved on screen by stars Dench and Hoskins is very powerful, yet frustrating at the same time. The characters are both so strikingly similar that you keep rooting for the two to end up together. They are also at the front of a truly talented cast. A new face for American audiences, Will Young does an incredible job providing the film's comedic relief, while at the same time providing the emotional depth needed in this chapter of Europe's past. Young also takes the helm, singing and dancing on the film's many music numbers. He successfully holds his own against the seasoned veteran Dench. Also not to be outdone is Kelly Reilly, fresh off her appearance as Caroline Bingley in "Pride and Prejudice." She adds a realistic venerability to her normally witty and rather icy character of the lead showgirl Maureen.

Finally, the dialogue in the movie is incredible, further enhanced by the stellar timing of the talented cast. No one is safe - the French, the Americans and the even the British stars have no problems poking fun at themselves. The good-humored jabs at the stereotypical British reserve provide many of the biggest laughs throughout the film.

"Mrs. Henderson Presents" has one thing that has been missing from many of the recent studio epics: heart. The leading performers and the talented newcomers combine to give witty, courageous performances to reflect this dark period in British history. While it may initially appear to be a chick flick (after all, with the exception of the James Bond series, which Dame Judy film isn't?) it encompasses much more. With the magic combination of tasteful nudity, history and musical numbers, this movie should appeal to a wide variety of moviegoers.

"Mrs. Henderson Presents" will be in theaters on Christmas Day.

 


Judi Dench - Grand Dame of Cinema

Source: Edward Douglas December 6, 2005 -- Coming Soon Online Interview

If there's an actress who deserves the epithet "living legend," it has to be Dame Judi Dench. Still retaining her beauty at the age of 70, it doesn't seem like anything will stop her, and after four decades making movies, she's earned four Oscar nominations in the last ten years. Many people think that her latest role will earn her a fifth.

Dench plays the title character in the new Stephen Frears musical comedy Mrs. Henderson Presents, about a rich widow who decides to use her money to buy a theatre. After hiring the cranky Mr. Van Damm, played by Bob Hoskins, as her theatre manager, she quickly discovers that the theatre business isn't all fun and prestige. Undaunted, she turns the Windmill Theatre into the first continuous musical revue with live nude girls on stage, and it becomes a London hotspot, especially when the city is hit by the German blitz in WWII.

ComingSoon.net spoke to the one actress who could probably read the phone book and keep you riveted.

CS: Supposedly, you and Bob (Hoskins) chose Stephen Frears to direct this film. How did that come about?

Dame Judi Dench: Bob is the producer, so he and Norma Heyman and I met over lunch, and I said yes to the idea after he told me the story. Then, Norma and Bob had a conversation and said, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if Stephen did it?" and he said 'Yes' the next day. It was great. Then I wanted to start the day after.

CS: And this is all before you even had a script?

Dench: Yes, that was before the script came. It was just wonderful. It was everything I expected and more, really, because I knew a little bit about her--I asked around when it arrived--and Martin Sherman is very skilled. He doesn't leave you to do much. If you can learn that script, he's told the story for you. You don't have to embroider it in any way.

CS: Had you worked with Bob Hoskins before?

Dench: We did "King Lear" on radio with Jon Gielgud years before, and I'd known him a bit. We had an ongoing, very funny kind of relationship, because Billy Connolly told me that his first choice for Queen Victoria was Bob Hoskins. (laughs) They sent me this most wonderful photograph the two of them had taken. Bob looked staggeringly like Queen Victoria. So we've had that kind of ongoing thing. You know people say, "Did you work at the relationship?" No, we didn't work on the relationship. The relationship between us happened anyway, the kind of wanting to bounce off somebody. It's also wonderful to get somebody who's in kind of the same world frame as you.

CS: What steps did you take to get into the character and make her your own?

Dench: The script, of course, is the first thing you have to go by, and then I talked to lots of people, found relations of hers. I also talked to some of the women--the nudes--who are still alive, and they're in their nineties. Fantastic! One of them, Miss [Doris] Barry, is 91, and she takes a ballet class every morning. It's so glamorous, and they said that she was actually like a mother to them. It was the kind of family that she'd lost after her husband and son, and she created another family for herself, and they said she used to behave unbelievably badly. But also, at the same time, she used to come in and paid for weddings and for dresses, and paid for all sorts of parties for them, and generally looked after them. And all this thing about her getting dressed up and [sneaking into the theatre]…absolutely a fact. She'd got the best makeup man in London and used to slip in--having been banned from the theater--just to check on how they were.

CS: It seems like you had a lot of fun with this character.

Dench: Yes, well she was a lot of fun! She was outrageous. Stephen liked her because she was so silly; I liked her because she was so mischievous and blatantly rude. I loved it.

CS: How delicate a balance was it between making her a flesh and blood character and letting it slip into caricature?

Dench: I don't know about that. I would just have to believe in Stephen, and he would tell me. But she was so much larger than life than anything we might know, and so outrageously daring and actually very brave.

CS: Did you find any similarities between her and the character you play in "Pride & Prejudice"?

Dench: Two monsters? [laughs]. Maybe. I don't think of them as the same though. I think Lady Catherine de Bourg probably was a monster. [Mrs. Henderson] is kind of outrageously open, a fantastically rude woman, you think, but there are lots of those.

CS: Did Stephen Frears have you do a lot of different versions of the lines in more subtle and heightened tones that he could choose from in editing?

Dench: Usually higher a bit with more joy out of it. You read Martin's script, and for instance when she walks in and sees Lord Chamberlain, you kind of know the moment that she walks in, that he doesn't stand a chance--she's going to get him to say something. Which of course was a considerable thing and why the whole thing happened, because of her relationship with him. Because until then, everything we did was censored. You couldn't appear on stage naked, you couldn't have lines crossed.

CS: How was it playing opposite Christopher Guest as that Lord Chamberlain?

Dench: Heavenly. It was just heavenly. What a funny man. Very, very funny man.

CS: Is this impossible love story between Mrs. Henderson and Vivian Van Damm historically accurate?

Dench: I think she wasn't told that he was married, and I think it pissed her off actually, not to put too fine a point on it. And I think she'd gotten deeply involved in him by then, in her own self. I just think they got on frightfully well the first time they met, and they were infuriated--he was deeply infuriated by her, and why ever not? But that's the stuff of love, isn't it.

CS: And were you actually wearing that bear costume yourself?

Dench: Yes! People say to me, "Were you wearing it?" and why would you think I wasn't? Of course I went up with the Tiger Moth [an airplane of the time], and I kept thinking I wanted to shout out, "I am up there in the air!"

CS: So Stephen just came up to you and asked "Dame Judi, can you put on a bear costume?

Dench: Nobody called me "Dame Judi," that's the first thing, and I was in the bear costume long before I was asked to be in it. You know, the irresistible thing to say is "Would you do a little dance?"

CS: You've been able to find a fine balance between strong and vulnerable in a lot of the characters you play. Can you talk about how you find that balance?

Dench: Well it's how it's written, and all you have to do is somehow understand the life she's had. She's been in India with her husband, she's had a very happy marriage with him, and loses her son in the first World War. You know, that would make you pretty vulnerable. In fact, I would have thought too vulnerable to embark on the project she did. Then, you suddenly think, "Christ, she must have been tough," and indeed, she was that, too. She didn't sit back, but spent her money on a project she actually knew nothing about: buying a theater. As her friend said, "I didn't mean you should buy a theater; you can buy lots of jewelry and things." And she said, "Well I bought a theater and now I have no idea what to do with it!" "You should get someone to run it!" And then she's totally absorbed in it. She was really a very remarkable woman in her day.

CS: Earlier this year, you were in "Ladies in Lavender" with Maggie Smith, but that didn't get much attention. Was that another labor of love for you?

Dench: Yes, it was a labor of love. Charlie [Dance, the director] hadn't made a film before, but we were both in David Hare's play "The Breath of Life," and he said, "I found this short story and I'm going to adapt it and make it into a film." So we said, "yes" and we had a glorious time. It was a wonderful summer, September, in fact. We had a heavenly time doing it.

CS: Besides the Bond movies, you've veered more towards period pieces or movies set in the past. Would you ever consider doing something more modern?

Dench: I've just done something very modern indeed--I've just done "Notes on a Scandal", which will be out next year. It's Zoe Heller's book adapted by Patrick Marber and directed by Richard Eyre and with Cate Blanchett.

CS: But you do enjoy period pieces though, right?

Dench: I do, but that's my background, really, being at Stratford. I enjoy all that Shakespeare, but it's really whatever comes along.

CS: What periods do you find most interesting or enjoyable?

Dench: That's impossible really to say, for me. I just like to be involved in the thing at the time. It's very rarely I've not been involved or not enjoyed the actual period it's in.

CS: How do you feel about all of the Oscar talk that's been surrounding your performance in this movie?

Dench: Getting the gist of it, you can say. I think you've got to have your feet planted firmly on the ground, especially in this business, and you must not believe things that are said or written about you, because everything gets out of proportion one way or the other. You've got to somehow stay in a very even keel. If that were to happen [for "Mrs. Henderson"] that would be a very good thing. If it weren't to happen, it's not going to be any less of a good thing, it's just a fact. I just want people to see this and understand the story about this extraordinary woman. I feel very passionate about her.

CS: There was a time where you thought you wouldn't make it in film, but now you're on top of the heap and still going strong. Did you ever think this might be the case at this point in your life?

Dench: No, I never thought it would end this way. It's entirely thanks to Harvey Weinstein, because "Mrs. Brown" was made for television, and Harvey saw it and presented it as a film. Then, I came over here after a 38-year absence and people asked, "Apart from M, and Mrs. Brown, what have you done?" and I thought, "That's 48 years straight past me!" [laughs]. The theater is the thing I love doing most.

CS: So Martin Campbell is back directing Bond, and he's brought you back on as M, even though this is supposed to be a restart. Any idea how that's going to work?

Dench: I don't know anything, except that I'm going to be in Prague and the Bahamas. That's all I know. I haven't seen the script.

 

Thanks to Jennifer J, USA, for bringing this to my attention

 


Mrs. Henderson Presents

AV Club Online Review -- December 7th, 2005

No one does haughty imperiousness like Judi Dench, who slings witticisms from on high like lightning bolts from Zeus, but with a certain bored apathy, as if she can barely be bothered to insult those below her station. In her two bravura scenes in the recent Pride & Prejudice, Dench goes toe-to-toe with one of the most headstrong women in literature and proves a perfectly intimidating match. As a bored and slightly blinkered old widow in Stephen Frears' Mrs. Henderson Presents, she couldn't be more ideally cast, especially in the frothy opening half, when she boldly sets about reviving a theater in London's West End with just a wave of her hand. When called upon, Dench can also deliver serious gravitas, but after a few reels of pleasantly insubstantial behind-the-scenes theatrics, the specter of World War II is too much for Frears' airy period comedy to bear. The movie seems as closed off from reality as Dench's aristocratic heroine, and the dropping of Nazi bombs pierces its brittle shell.

As the film opens in the late '30s, Dench's powerful husband has just died, and she's already grown tired of playing the grieving widow. A friend suggests embroidery as a hobby, but a single pinprick sends her off to a more ambitious endeavor: rebuilding a theatre to entertain the downtrodden masses. To that end, she hires Bob Hoskins, whose brusque temperament and stubborn single-mindedness creates an affectionate friction between the two. They initially open the continuously running "Revuedville"—a musical revue with elements of vaudeville—but when receipts start to sag, Dench retools the show into an all-nude revue.

That causes an uproar, of course, with Christopher Guest's snooty Lord Cromer brought in to approve the baring of breasts, provided that they be displayed in tableaux as if in a museum. Poking fun at uptight British civility has long been a monocle-shattering comedic staple, and Mrs. Henderson Presents gets by for a while on its genial naughtiness. But when the war intrudes and Dench reflects on the loss of her son in World War I, the frivolity abruptly ends, and the movie perishes along with it. A stirring speech to the troops seems certain to secure Dench another Oscar nomination, but considering the wispy artificiality that surrounds her, she could just as well deliver it from the award podium.

 


Dench lights up ‘Mrs. Henderson Presents’

Actress becomes a likely best actress Oscar nominee with this performance

REVIEW -- By David Germain -- Associated Press -- Dec. 6, 2005

Judi Dench could sit motionless on an overturned bucket surrounded by dancing emus, bodybuilders juggling small kitchen appliances and a tableau of naked nymphs, and she still would be the most interesting thing in sight.

OK, the nude women might occasionally steal attention from Dench, as they do now and then in Stephen Frears’ wonderful comic drama “Mrs. Henderson Presents,” based on the true story of a 1930s British society dame who started a stage revue featuring women in the buff.

As she showed again with her few scene-stealing moments in this fall’s “Pride & Prejudice,” Dench is one of the most emotive, dominating actresses on the big screen. A haughty glance, a dismissive flick of her pinky finger, and Dench simply makes everyone around her go flat and fuzzy.

Imagine Dench at her most caustically imperious yet crankily lovable for a full film and you’ll have a sense of the enormous entertainment value of “Mrs. Henderson Presents.”

Toss in Bob Hoskins as Dench’s blustery friend, foil and straight man, and the film presents a can’t-miss duo trimmed out by a hearty supporting cast and the blend of spirited black humor and pure class that Frears (“Dangerous Liaisons,” “The Grifters,” “High Fidelity”) again proves himself a master.

The film opens on a black day for Laura Henderson (Dench) as she buries the husband whose companionship clearly defined her life. Laura wonders how she’ll fill the days, weeks and years stretching before her, and her perky fellow widow Lady Conway (Thelma Barlow) advises her to take on good charitable works — and have some fun spending the fortune hubby left her.

Quickly bored by the bland altruism of other upper-crust ladies, Laura catches sight of a rundown theater for sale, the Windmill, buys it on a lark and begins renovations without a clue as to what she’ll do with it.

She hooks up with bullheaded manager Vivian Van Damm (Hoskins), whose immediate clashes with Laura signal the start of a symbiotic love-hate relationship.

After initially packing in crowds with London’s first ’round-the-clock performance schedule, the Windmill tumbles into hard times, and Van Damm advises Laura to close the theater, which is bleeding money.

But Laura hits on the notion of luring crowds back by slipping nude women into the act. Her campaign to win government approval for such a daring display results in priceless exchanges with the Lord Chamberlain (Christopher Guest, so comically starchy it’s hard to believe this is the same man whose Nigel Tufnel bragged in blind idiocy about an amplifier with a volume knob that went up to “11” in “This Is Spinal Tap”).

Laura and Van Damm’s nude revue becomes a runaway hit and a morale booster during World War II for soldiers and citizens enduring nightly Luftwaffe bombings.

At this point, the screenplay by Martin Sherman turns a bit manipulative, particularly regarding one of the Windmill’s nude stars, Maureen (Kelly Reilly), whose wartime straits feel like a contrivance to inject crisis into a story that lacks strong personal drama.

Yet Reilly and other co-stars’ peppy performances, the vibrant song-and-dance routines and especially the cheeky interplay between Dench and Hoskins — who both have strong Academy Awards prospects — make “Mrs. Henderson Presents” an absolute crowd-pleaser.

If the film lacks meaty interpersonal conflict, Frears and company more than compensate with a breathlessly paced piece of pure entertainment whose theatrical effervescence is a fitting tribute to the stage revues of Laura Henderson.


'Mrs. Henderson Presents'

by Jorge Morales -- The Village Voice  -- December 6th, 2005 2:35 PM

An unassuming backstage yarn, Mrs. Henderson Presents overcomes several obstacles—not the least of which are its torpid title and inevitable comparisons to Topsy-Turvy—to win our jaded hearts with its effortless charm. Blame Judi Dench. She plays the title character, a dotty dowager in Depression-era London, as a rude and obstinate snob, equal parts endearing and appalling, engaging in the sort of behavior that passes as eccentric among British upper classes but would be diagnosed as psychopathic in anyone else. (She reacts equally to good and bad situations by interjecting, "Well, isn't that delicious?") Bored by widowhood and her Gosford Park friends, she suddenly decides to do what any of us would in the same situation: She buys herself a vaudeville theater.

The real-life Mrs. H. hired a music hall veteran, Vivian Van Damm, to run the company; executive producer Bob Hoskins plays him here as second-fiddle sparring partner, Tracy to her Hepburn. Their Revuedeville fizzles, and to spice up the act, Van Damm has his showgirls go the full monty, requiring special dispensation from the censorious Lord Cromer (dry, miscast Christopher Guest). Director Stephen Frears widely avoids cheap sentiment, even when the story veers into the Blitz and Hoskins's Van Damm starts speechifying about resilience like a tin-pot Churchill. But this is Dame Judi's show. However extraordinary an actor she may be, she cannot conceal the obvious fact that she's having the time of her life here. Isn't that delicious? go to next article in film ->

 

 


The Bob and Judi show

The New York Daily News -- December 4, 2005

In "Mrs. Henderson Presents," set during World War II, Judi Dench plays Laura Henderson, the Windmill Theatre's eccentric owner, and Bob Hoskins is Vivian Van Damm, the manager of the girls who pose without clothes there. Ellen Tumposky chatted with the two actors in London.

Q: Do you each have childhood memories of the war?

JUDI DENCH: I was in Yorkshire. We were a family of five and I used to be sent sometimes to get the rations for the week and I was easily able to carry them back. It was like one egg and a tiny bit of tea.

BOB HOSKINS: When there was a threat of air raids in London, they sent my pregnant mum to Bury St. Edmunds [in East Anglia]. When I was two weeks old and the bombs were at their height, they sent us back again - and I spent the first three years of my life under a kitchen table.

Q: Did either of you go to the Windmill?

HOSKINS: I went with my parents to a family show there when I was 5. You'd be sitting there with kids running up and down the aisles.

Q: Had you ever worked together before "Mrs. Henderson Presents"?

HOSKINS: We did a radio play of "King Lear" with John Gielgud. We were very young.

DENCH: We were children.

Q: Bob, when you were originally approached about doing this movie, did you think Judi would do it?

HOSKINS: I thought immediately, if we got Judi, we got a winner here. And as soon as I got the script and saw she had to dress up as a Chinese lady and as a polar bear, I knew we had her. She couldn't resist that.

Q: Judi, do you identify with Laura Henderson?

DENCH: I identify with her in that I understand that kind of lust for wanting to do something new, that whole thing of not sitting back after her husband died and her son was killed. She throws herself into something she actually knows nothing about. And that kind of abruptness, rudeness, swearing ...

HOSKINS: You know how to do that.

DENCH: Yes. But I just love that kind of zest she had for living.

Q: What was your view of the real relationship between your characters?

HOSKINS: I think he fell in love with her the moment he saw her. She was so rude, he thought she was wonderful.

DENCH: Nobody knew whether they had an affair or not, but they loved each other's company.

HOSKINS: There's a moment when she comforts him when his relations have been rounded up [by the Nazis]. I think that carried on. She's a very comforting lady.

Q: Did you discuss how you were going to portray their chemistry and humor?

DENCH: No. You can't manufacture that actual feeling. If it happens, that is just ace.

Q: Any tricky moments during filming? You had to row, dance, fly in a plane ...

DENCH:  Dancing was quite tricky, wasn't it?

HOSKINS: We thought we were just going to shuffle around. When it came to it, Stephen [Frears, the director] said, "No, no, it's a wide-angle shot - I want to see it." Judi's got the smallest feet on earth - I was desperately trying not to tramp all over them. I thought, "They're made out of porcelain, they'll crack."

DENCH: I knew how to row, but I had never ... ridden, rod, whatever you do.

HOSKINS: Rowed

DENCH: Rowed ... rowed in high heels and a fur coat and a hat before.

Q: Was your nude scene nerve-racking, Bob?

HOSKINS: No, not really. Everybody kept coming up to me and saying, "You going to do it, Bob?" I said, "Well, it's in the script, yes." [They said] "Oh, well, if he's going to do it, I'll do it. If Quasimodo's going to take his kit off ..."

DENCH: He got out of his clothes very, very quietly. The next minute after looking at him fully dressed, I glanced over, and he had no clothes on at all. Thrilling.

Q: The lighting was a little dim in the scene.

HOSKINS: Thank God for that, thank you. I don't do full frontal in full floodlight, love. Not this old wrinkly.

Originally published on December 4, 2005

 


Listen to Dame Judi and Stephen Frears interviewed on the Leonard Lopate Show
December 1, 2005   MP3 Format   ( 35:42 Minutes)

Leonard Lopate Show Webpage

Judi Dench
12/01/05

What have you read or seen recently?

Heroes by Tom Stoppard at the Wyndham’s Theater in the West End

What's in your CD player right now?

Fauré’s Requiem

What's the last great book you read?

Richard Eyre’s diary, National Service

What's one thing you're a fan of that people might not expect?

Driving very fast
 


A Big Thanks to Anca, USA, for bringing this to my attention

 


Hello Magazine -- 24 NOVEMBER 2005

Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins trod the red carpet surrounded by feather-clad showgirls as they promoted their new film on Wednesday. At the premiere of Mrs Henderson Presents in London's Leicester Square the pair were joined by celebrities such as Ian McKellen, Charles Dance and EastEnders actress Tracy-Ann Oberman.

Oscar-winner Judi plays a courageous but eccentric wartime widow who revamps a Soho theatre, where she devises a show featuring naked girls. The saucy production only gets round the censors if the dancers stand completely still in an artistic tableau. Her pairing with Bob's character - the rough-diamond impresario she hires to run the place - has won over film critics.

The performance of former pop idol Will Young, who has a role as a camp singer called Bertie, has also been applauded.

Like her indomitable screen persona, the 71-year-old appears to have no plans to lead a quieter life. Questions over whether she is headed for retirement clearly irritate the veteran actress. "I say, 'Slow down?' What for? Tell me that," she fumes. "What is it exactly I should be slowing down for? But people go on asking me all the time."

Since losing her husband, actor Michael Williams, to cancer in 2001 the actress has been resolutely single. The Mrs Brown star gave a hint romance is not entirely off the agenda, however, as she has recently been courted by a much younger man. "He gave me some beautiful earrings, but he was half my age. Charming, absolutely charming."

 


Dame Judi tells of widow admiration

Film veteran Dame Judi Dench joined movie newcomer Will Young on the red carpet for the Leicester Square premiere of their new film.

Dame Judi, 70, and singer Will, 26, star alongside Bob Hoskins in Mrs Henderson Presents.

Dame Judi plays a widow who decides to buy a theatre - where she devises a new show with naked girls. Based on a true story, the Lord Chamberlain grants them a licence at London's Windmill Theatre, as long as the girls do not move. But the actress said she did not approve of too much nudity in the movies, adding: "Sometimes nudity is gratuitous. We just live in a society where everything goes.  Nudity wasn't allowed on stage in 1957, now you can do anything. Maybe I would like to go back to that time."  Dame Judi, who looked stunning in a green velvet coat and long black dress, said she admired Mrs Laura Henderson, the woman who bought the Windmill Theatre following the death of her husband. She said: "I wanted people to learn about this person. She was particularly brave and courageous."

Former Pop Idol star Will, wearing a knee-length blue jacket, said being in the film was "fantastic".  I would like to do another film, something like this film, that I believe in."


Click here to watch a BBC Entertainment Online Video Interview
Dame Judi, Bob Hoskins and Will Young discuss MHP -- Real Player Required

Mrs Henderson Presents, the story of how the first nude vaudeville shows came to London, opens this week. Dame Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins and Will Young star in the film about London's Windmill Theatre. Emma Jones reports.


BBC Radio 5 -- Five Live Interview -- November 18, 2005

Dame Judi Dench (12 min) -- Broadcast on Five Live - Fri 18 Nov - 14:06
The esteemed actress talks to Simon Mayo about her new film, "Mrs Henderson Presents"
Click on the link above to access the "Listen again" feature.

Click here to listen to the MP3 Format Audio Clip
   (12:00 Minutes)
 


BBC Radio 4 -- The Film Programme -- November 19, 2005

A special interview with Dame Judi Dench

Click here to listen to the MP3 Format of this Programme
  (24:02 Minutes)

Francine Stock talks to Oscar winning actress Dame Judi Dench whose films include 'Mrs Brown', 'Iris' and 'Shakespeare in Love'. Her latest film 'Mrs Henderson Presents' is based on the true story of Laura Henderson who in the 1930s bought the Windmill Theatre in Soho and put naked girls onstage in a non-stop revue. Directors John Madden, Richard Eyre and Stephen Frears also discuss their experiences of working with the actress.

'Mrs Henderson Presents', certificate 12A, is released in cinemas on 25 November 2005.

Click on the BBC Radio 4 link above to access the "Listen Again" feature for the next week.

 


BBC Radio 4 -- Mrs. Henderson Presents

Promotion for Mrs Henderson in the UK continues with BBC radio appearances by Bob Hoskins & Judi Dench. Bob appears on Front Row on www.bbc.co.uk/radio4 at 7.15pm (UK time) on Thursday 17th, and Judi appears on The Film Programme at 5.30pm on Saturday 19th. Both shows will be on Listen Again for seven days after broadcast.

Thanks to Phil, UK, for bringing this to our attention

Record this Programme on your own PC               Time Conversion


 


Marrakech film festival raises curtains today

Morocco TIMES 11/11/2005 | 6:23 pm

The 2005 Marrakech International Film Festival (MIFF) will open this evening in Morocco's ‘red city' with a special tribute to the Moroccan actor Hamidou, and the US Director Martin Scorsese.

The opening of the event will be highlighted by the broadcast of Stephen Frears' film entitled “Mrs. Henderson presents” and the closing will feature Enrico Oldoini's film “Tredici A Tavola.”

The festival will feature 124 films, 16 in competition, including 10 first or second features, from 15 different countries.

The jury is made up of the French director, Jean-Jacques Annaud, the president of the jury, Abdelkebir Khatibi (Moroccan writer), Deepa Mehta (Indian director), Stefania Rocca (Italian actress), Hend Sabri (Tunisian actress), Leonor Silveira (Portugeese actress), Idrissa Ouedraogo (director from Burkina Faso) and Mary Sweeney (American screenwriter, producer and editor).

The 5th edition of the festival will hold a panorama of Spanish Cinema. This panorama will show 41 feature films emblematic of the Spanish film production of the past fifty years.

The “carte blanche” will be given to Yash Chopra, an Indian director who has won many awards in cinema festivals.

This year, the Festival will be held in five locations. Le Palais des Congrès, which includes the two "Salle des Ministres" and "Salle des Ambassadeurs", is the Festival's true center. It will be restricted to international and Moroccan professionals, who will be able to discover film in and out of competition, tribute films, "special favourite" films, and Spanish Cinema Panorama.

 


Excerpt from an email that I received November 8, 2005 from:

Christina D.
Online PR/Publicity Manager
Deep Focus
http://www.deep-focus.net

On behalf of the Weinstein Company, we wanted to let you know that we have received the trailer for  MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS, and we thought it might be of interest to your readers. MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS is a dramatic comedy that takes place in London during the days of the second World War.   The movie features onscreen veterans Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins along with Will Young and Christopher Guest. It will release on December 9th, 2005 in New York and LA and will expand to the top 20 Markets in the US on December 25th.

The new trailer can be viewed through the below link: 

http://www.aoltrack.com/r/fe09b769e4c665f1e4dfa86379741ec6/


Stayed tuned for more promotional items to be supplied by Deep Focus ...


A Special Thank You to Christina B. for contacting me and sharing this information

 


'Mrs Henderson Presents' screening offer

We've got 200 tickets to give away to a special preview screening of this critically acclaimed new film.

TimeOut.com Online Offer -- November 2 2005

'Mrs Henderson Presents' Set in pre-World War II London, this is the true story of one of Britain's most prominent society figures, Laura Henderson (Judi Dench), founder of the historic Windmill Theatre.

The film follows her quest to win back the music hall audience lured away by 'talking pictures', and she is aided and abetted by her equally formidable theatre manager, Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins).

'Mrs Henderson Presents', directed by Stephen Frears, also stars Christopher Guest and Will Young, and is released on November 25 by Pathe.

We have 200 tickets for a special Time Out preview on Sunday November 20 at 11am at the Cineworld Haymarket.

Simply send a SAE, marked 'Mrs Henderson', to Time Out Online, 251 Tottenham Court Rd, London W1T 7AB by November 14. The first 100 readers selected at random will each receive a pair of tickets.

 


BBC Online Article -- October 25, 2005

The Libertine and Mrs Henderson Presents have received the greatest number of nominations at this year's British Independent Film Awards.

They have eight nominations each, with Johnny Depp competing for the best actor prize for his Libertine role.

Nominations for Mrs Henderson Presents, starring Dame Judi Dench, include best film and director for Stephen Frears.

The Constant Gardener, which stars Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes, is nominated in seven categories.

Winners will be announced on 30 November.

Coronation Street star

The Libertine stars Depp as 17th Century poet John Wilmot, who received posthumous acclaim after living a debauched life.

It earned Laurence Dunmore a best director nomination and best supporting cast nominations for Tom Hollander and Rosamund Pike.

Bob Hoskins, Dame Judi Dench and Kelly Reilly are shortlisted for their performances in Mrs Henderson Presents, set in a London performance hall which staged the first all-nude revues.

The film also earned a most promising newcomer nomination for ex-Coronation Street star Thelma Barlow, who plays Lady Conway.

And it also stars singer and former Pop Idol winner Will Young.

Conspiracy movie The Constant Gardener is an adaptation of John Le Carre's best-selling novel, and Fiennes, Weisz and their co-star Bill Nighy are all shortlisted for acting prizes.

Pride and Prejudice star Keira Knightley will be named personality of the year, while Broken Flowers star Tilda Swinton will be given the Richard Harris award for outstanding contribution to film acting.

The awards, which recognise independent film-making in Britain, were established eight years ago.

Winners be chosen by a jury including actress Amanda Donohoe and Bullet Boy star Ashley Walters.

Founder Elliott Grove said; "It is, by anyone's standards, a very powerful year for British cinema."

 

Best British Film, Best Actor - Bob Hoskins; Best Actress - Judi Dench: Best Newcomer - Thelma Barlow; Best Supporting Actress - Kelly Reilly; Best Director - Stephen Frears; Best Screenplay - Martin Sherman; and Best Technical Achievement for costume designer - Sandy Powell.
The 2005 BIFA Awards will take place on Wednesday November 30 at The Hammersmith Palais

 


Mrs Henderson Presents

musicOMH.com Online Review -- October 19, 2005 --  Danuta Kean

UK cinema release date: 25 November 2005

Ooh er, that Laura Henderson, she may be a toff, but she knows how to give our boys a good time. Mind you, there ain't nothing dirty about what she's putting on at the Windmill. It's art, like posh people look at in galleries. If they can look at nudies, why can't we? Anyway, her girls might be naked as the day they was born, but they're nice girls from respectable families. No bit of old rope on that stage. Besides who would begrudge letting the boys get an eyeful before they go off to fight for king and country? We all need a laugh with Hitler's bombs falling on our 'eads.

Which sums up Mrs Henderson Presents about the Windmill Theatre in Soho where the very Upper Mrs Henderson (Judi Dench) and her decidedly non-U stage manager Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) got away with running nude shows in the 1930s and '40s because her friend the Lord Chamberlain advised them to skirt Britain's draconian censorship laws by offering tableaux of famous paintings. As long as the women did not move it was art not erotica - though I do not recall many paintings in the National Gallery featuring Annie Oakley or fan dances.

In Mrs Henderson Presents director Stephen Frears, with Hoskins as co-producer, present a slice of social history as musical comedy. The emphasis is on the latter - what it tells us about British attitudes to sex, nudity or war could be written on the back of a Donald McGill postcard.

Martin Sherman's script is full of titters in the tradition of the theatre's famous sons, notably Frankie Howerd. Judi Dench gets all the best lines, but who can blame Sherman? Dench's timing and delivery is on the money, reminding British audiences that before the Oscars, she was best known here for the sitcom As Time Goes By.

Period detail is everything in a film like this and Frears and his team, including award-laden costumier Sandy Powell, deliver it. Grimy Soho streets, posh Belgravia drawing rooms and winsome musical numbers featuring Pop Idol graduate Will Young bring to mind an innocent age and the lighter moments of another Hoskins period piece, Pennies From Heaven.

Sadly here Hoskins is uncharacteristically weak, thanks to the air of refinement he tries to lend Van Damm through a strangulated RP accent. It is distracting and undermines his performance. Thelma (Mavis Wilton) Barlow's Lady Conway presents a similar problem, while Young as camp pretty boy Bertie - no typecasting there - suggests he should not rush to give up the day job.

To be fair an actor of Dench's caliber is always in danger of outshining the rest of the cast, and she does so here. Only Christopher Guest and Kelly Reilly rise to the challenge. But see it for Dench. She is bright, funny and twinkle-in-the-eye wicked. A joy to watch. You can tell she is having fun. And who can blame her after playing all those dead queens and troubled writers?

 


Weinstein Slate In a Shuffle -- Reuters -- October 14, 2005

As it prepares to release its first set of films, Weinstein Co. continues to revise upcoming release dates says Reuters.

- Stephen Frears' "Mrs. Henderson Presents" is moving from limited release at Christmas to an exclusive Los Angeles-New York bow on December 9th.

 


Mrs Henderson Presents Movie Review

FutureMovies.co.uk Online Review -- October 11, 2005

Judi Dench is A National Treasure and should be protected in some way, a preservation order or one of those little fences that stop deer eating young trees. Like Morgan Freeman, she brings with her an air of authority– watching her you relax, knowing that you’re going to be in good hands.

Mrs Henderson Presents is the semi-true story of Laura Henderson (Dench). A wealthy widow, Mrs Henderson has lived a pampered life, but now that her husband is dead, she needs something to do. A friend suggests collecting diamonds, or taking a lover, but Mrs Henderson goes one better – she buys a derelict old theatre in Soho, and sets about refurbishing it. As she doesn’t know anything about running a theatre, she hires Vivian Van Damm (Hoskins) to do it for her.

Van Damm is an old pro, and he suggests running continuous revues as a mark of difference. It works, and the Windmill’s ‘Revuedeville’ is initially a huge success. However, imitiation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that, other theatres soon follow suit, and in the search for innovation Mrs Henderson suggests they try nudes on stage. All in the best possible taste, of course… and her society connections help her to pull it off. The tableaux are a sensation and, as war approaches, also something of a comfort for the young troops preparing for battle on the western front.

But with bombs falling on London, the government threatens to close the theatre, and Mrs Henderson must fight tooth and nail to keep her precious theatre open.

A light and sunny film, Mrs Henderson Presents begins with a death. Judi Dench is all stiff upper lip and graciousness at the funeral and can only give vent to her grief in the most private of places – she rows out into the middle of a river and howls, only to stop as a rowing crew go past. This is the world of Mrs Henderson. A world where private feelings are private and even very old friends and colleagues call each other by title and surname. Mrs Henderson herself gets away with not doing a lot of these things because she is rich and well-connected, but she knows that breaking down at her husband’s funeral is simply not done.

There’s a surprising amount of death in the film altogether, set as it is in the early days of the Second World War, and haunted by the memories of the first. Mrs Henderson only wants to entertain, to make people happy, but in her eagerness to do so she sometimes causes a great deal of pain. When she tries to be a mother to the girls at the theatre, especially Maureen (Reilly), it goes disastrously wrong. Hoskins’ Van Damm is actually much closer to the girls, partly because he’s there with them, day in and day out, and it’s he who really keeps them going. The film pays tribute to the British spirit of the blitz. The intrepid Mrs H is always up on the rooftops during some of the most severe raids, and its she who is determined that the theatre should never be closed.

But its also very funny, sweet and charming, with Dench and Hoskins clearly enjoying themselves hugely. Always a pleasure to watch, they allow the young cast their moments in the spotlight, and Kelly Reilly in particular shines.

It’s a good story, well told and well acted, and the kind of film, like Calendar Girls, that you could enjoy with your gran. Will Young has a small part, but don’t let that put you off – he mostly sings and dances in true music hall style while Judi and Bob – and Kelly Reilly – run off with the acting honours.

Thanks to Ellen G, USA, for bringing this to my attention

 


Chicago International Film Festival

PICK OF THE DAY ... from the Chicago Tribune

`Mrs. Henderson Presents' 3-1/2 Stars (Stephen Frears, U.K.). During World War II, London's Windmill Theater thumbed its nose at Hitler by presenting a decorous tableau vivant brand of topless revue. This charming backstager from director Frears, working with a script by Martin Sherman, is a flavorsome affair of real feeling and much juicy acting, toplined by Judi Dench, playing the theater's owner, and Bob Hoskins as the theater manager. 7 p.m. Fri., Landmark Century Centre Cinema (LM); 6:45 p.m. Mon., AMC River East 21 (AMC).--Michael Phillips

 

Thanks to Ellen G and Anca for bringing this to my attention

 


Excerpt from the San Francisco Gate TIFF Review ...

But the biggest shock was seeing Bob Hoskins in his birthday suit in "Mrs. Henderson Presents." (Note to those planning to attend opening night of the Mill Valley Film Festival: You won't go wrong with this film or the darkly funny "The Matador," starring a fully-clothed Pierce Brosnan. You never get to see the actors you want in the nude). "Mrs. Henderson" tells the charming and true story of a London music hall that entertained World War II soldiers with nude tableaux. To circumvent laws against public nudity, the performers couldn't move a muscle, so they resembled paintings. Starring as the company manager, Hoskins takes off his clothes at a rehearsal to make everyone feel comfortable. Judi Dench, as the moneybags behind the venture, walks in unexpectedly, takes one look at her manager and says, "I see you are Jewish."

 


Film review: Mrs. Henderson Presents

Wednesday, September 14, 2995 -- Reuters Online Review

By Michael Rechtshaffen

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The ever-dependable Stephen Frears, who brought his "Dirty Pretty Things" to Toronto three years ago, returns with another keeper.

"Mrs. Henderson Presents," starring Judi Dench as a bored, wealthy British widow of the 1930s who buys a rundown Soho theater and shakes up the staid British establishment by introducing nudity, is an absolute delight from start to finish.

Frears, a filmmaker who never likes to repeat himself, is very much at ease delivering what will likely be his most commercially successful picture in years, complete with wittily acerbic dialogue, pitch-perfect performances and terrific production numbers. Of course all those naked women won't hurt, either.

Inhabiting a role she was born to play, Dench is the certifiably eccentric, tart-tongued Laura Henderson, a woman of considerable wealth and social stature who has just buried her husband.

Refusing to go gently into widowhood, she heeds the advice of her friend Lady Conway (Thelma Barlow) and finds herself a hobby. But needlepoint just won't cut it, so instead she decides to buy a shuttered property on Great Windmill Street in Soho with the intention of turning it into a theater.

Well aware that she's in over her head, she hires an out-of-work impresario by the name of Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins, in one of his most rewarding roles in years) to get the place up and running.

These two very strong-willed individuals don't exactly get on famously, but they make a go at it and The Windmill Theater achieves some early success.

But it proves to be short-lived. Losing great sums of money, Mrs. Henderson turns to Paris' Moulin Rouge for inspiration.

By posing naked actresses in tableaux, like living art, she's able to get around the draconian censorship laws upheld by the prudish Lord Cromer (Christopher Guest) and have a major hit on her hands.

While there have been other films to feature the Windmill Theater (Rita Hayworth played a Windmill girl in the 1945 film, "Tonight and Every Night"), this is the first to tell the real-life Laura Henderson's story.

Thanks to a gorgeous script by Martin Sherman ("Bent," The Boy from Oz"), it makes for some splendid entertainment which, at the same time, doesn't shrink away from the darker impulses generated by the onset of World War II.

Sherman's words and Dench's delivery are a match made in movie heaven, while Hoskins makes for an equally committed sparring partner. There's a palpable Hepburn-Tracy vibe to their lively exchanges.

Also in their element are Guest and Barlow, while Kelly Reilly is memorable as a spunky Windmill girl and "Pop Idol" winner Will Young makes an appealing big screen debut as Bertie, the theater's resident male ingenue.

Director Frears orchestrates the film's shifting moods with a refined fluidity, a quality echoed by composer George Fenton's period arrangements and Eleanor Fazan's musical numbers.

Further setting the agreeable mood is costume designer Sandy Powell's inspired wardrobe choices and the atmospheric production design by Frears' frequent collaborator Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski.

The Weinstein Co. Pathe Pictures and BBC Films present in association with Future Films Ltd, Micro-Fusion and The Weinstein Co. a Heyman Hoskins production.

Laura Henderson: Judi Dench
Vivian Van Damm: Bob Hoskins
Bertie: Will Young
Maureen: Kelly Reilly
Lady Conway: Thelma Barlow
Lord Cromer: Christopher Guest

Director: Stephen Frears
Producer: Norma Heyman
Screenwriter: Martin Sherman
Executive producers: Bob Hoskins, David Aukin
Director of photography: Andrew Dunn
Production designer: Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski
Editor: Lucia Zucchetti
Costume designer: Sandy Powell
Music: George Fenton

 


Toronto Toasts Hoskins, Henderson

Bob Hoskins, Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Frears

A few years ago, it was Robert Downey Jr. and Mel Gibson in The Singing Detective. Now comes another memorable TIFF musical couple conducted by Stephen Frears.

By Pam Grady -- FilmStew.com Online Article -- September 12, 2005

With the Toronto International Film Festival now in full swing, the streets around the city’s upscale Yorkville neighborhood feel as if the circus has come to town. The only thing missing is the dancing bear, and that can be found at one of the festival's galas, Mrs. Henderson Presents, as Dame Judi Dench dons a polar bear outfit for a number. It is in fact, according to executive producer and co-star Bob Hoskins, one of the reasons she readily agreed to make the movie.

The streets outside the four-star hotels and the theaters are clogged with limos, paparazzi, and fans hoping for autographs. On Saturday night at Michelle's Brasserie at the Sony Classics party, Breakfast on Pluto director Neil Jordan and his star Killian Murphy mingled with the Capote crew, including director Bennett Miller, actor-turned-screenwriter Dan Futterman, and stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener (looking radiant but very un-Harper Lee-like in a Youth Against Fascism t-shirt). In the lobby of the Four Seasons, the likes of Harvey Keitel, director Sydney Pollack, and dreamboat flavor of the month Orlando Bloom mill about, while – his promotional duties done for the day – Bob Hoskins walks unmolested down Bloor Street away from the Hotel Intercontinental back to his own temporary hacienda.

Of course, the really big stars only seem to come out at night, making it easy to conclude that they might be vampires – a logical enough assumption, especially when one stops to consider all those middle-aged celebrities with taut, unlined skin who insist that they have not taken advantage of the best plastic surgery money can buy. Perhaps, instead, they've visited a certain lab in Transylvania. Got blood?

Mr. Hoskins remembers. One of the real crowd pleasers of the festival so far is Hoskins' film, Mrs. Henderson Presents. Before its gala premiere at Roy Thomson Hall, the actor describes himself and director Stephen Frears as 'terrified' at what kind of reception the movie would receive. It is an unusual film for Frears, his first musical, a period piece of the type usually more closely associated with a director like James Ivory, and a subtle antiwar film that has as much to say about our own times as the World War II era in which it is set. The fact-based drama tells the story of London's Windmill Theatre, the Depression-era venue that was the first to bring a nude revue to the English stage and which remained open even during the terrible years of the Blitz, thanks to the indomitable wills of its benefactor, Laura Henderson (Dench), and its manager, Vivian Van Damm (Hoskins).

Hoskins and Frears needn't have fretted. The film is so good that people actually applauded at the press and industry screening earlier in the day, something that almost never happens. But Hoskins was eager to hear the reaction of everyday movie buffs and he is over the moon with the enthusiastic response from the Roy Thomson crowd. "To feel the reaction that it got, from people, from punters, yeah, yeah, yeah we've done it. Yeah! It was lovely. It was great," he beams.

At age 63, Hoskins is too young to remember much about World War II. He tells me that his mother left London to get away from the bombing before he was born, but returned with her infant son in tow two days after he was born. He spent much of his first three years crouched under a kitchen table, which offered thin protection from falling bombs. "That's probably why I'm shaped liked I'm shaped," the diminutive, pleasingly plush actor jokes. "I grew up under a table. I could only grow out instead of up."

What he recalls more vividly is the postwar era, the rationing that continued for many years after the fighting ended and the National Service that called up every Englishman when he turned 18. That stopped shortly before Hoskins' own eighteenth birthday, a fact to which he attributes much of the cultural youth revolution -- from The Beatles to Carnaby Street -- that shook up the 1960s.

"For the first time ever, apparently, there were young men on the streets with money in their pockets at 18 years of age," he observes. "Rock 'n' roll was going the business. It changed England. The only thing you had to worry about was getting your girl pregnant, and they brought out the Pill. Talk about opening Pandora's box! They threw away the lid away. It was wonderful. It was a great time to grow up in."

Still, Hoskins insists, he never quite fit in. "In that sort of '60's time, when everybody was sleeping around, I was the type that sort of, 'Before you go, would you like to tell me your name? Will I ever see you alone? Probably not.' I was more sort of an amateur, a couples' fellow, you know what I mean?” he laughs.

Actually, I think that is called charm, a quality Hoskins has in abundance. It is certainly one of the qualities that animates Mrs. Henderson's Presents, and while he says that he always knew they would have a movie if Dench agreed to play the title role, she is only part of the equation. He is part of it, too, and the two performances together give off quite a warm glow.


Mrs. Henderson Presents

By Michael Rechtshaffen -- The Hollywood Reporter -- September 13, 2005

Bottom line: A thoroughly entertaining crowd-pleaser.

The ever-dependable Stephen Frears, who brought his "Dirty Pretty Things" to Toronto three years ago, returns with another keeper.

"Mrs. Henderson Presents," starring Dame Judi Dench as a bored, wealthy British widow of the 1930s who buys a rundown Soho theater and shakes up the staid British establishment by introducing nudity, is an absolute delight from start to finish.

Frears, a filmmaker who never likes to repeat himself, is very much at ease delivering what will likely be his most commercially successful picture in years, complete with wittily acerbic dialogue, pitch-perfect performances and terrific production numbers. Of course all those naked women won't hurt, either.

Inhabiting a role she was born to play, Dench is the certifiably eccentric, tart-tongued Laura Henderson, a woman of considerable wealth and social stature who has just buried her husband.

Refusing to go gently into widowhood, she heeds the advice of her friend Lady Conway (Thelma Barlow) and finds herself a hobby. But needlepoint just won't cut it, so instead she decides to buy a shuttered property on Great Windmill Street in Soho with the intention of turning it into a theater.

Well aware that she's in over her head, she hires an out-of-work impresario by the name of Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins, in one of his most rewarding roles in years) to get the place up and running.

These two very strong-willed individuals don't exactly get on famously, but they make a go at it and The Windmill Theatre achieves some early success.

But it proves to be short-lived. Losing great sums of money, Mrs. Henderson turns to Paris' Moulin Rouge for inspiration.

By posing naked actresses in tableaux, like living art, she's able to get around the draconian censorship laws upheld by the prudish Lord Cromer (Christopher Guest) and have a major hit on her hands.

While there have been other films to feature the Windmill Theatre (Rita Hayworth played a Windmill girl in the 1945 film, "Tonight and Every Night"), this is the first to tell the real-life Laura Henderson's story.

Thanks to a gorgeous script by Martin Sherman ("Bent," The Boy from Oz"), it makes for some splendid entertainment which, at the same time, doesn't shrink away from the darker impulses generated by the onset of World War II.

Sherman's words and Dame Dench's delivery are a match made in movie heaven, while Hoskins makes for an equally committed sparring partner. There's a palpable Hepburn-Tracy vibe to their lively exchanges.

Also in their element are Guest and Barlow, while Kelly Reilly is memorable as a spunky Windmill girl and "Pop Idol" winner Will Young makes an appealing big screen debut as Bertie, the theater's resident male ingenue.

Director Frears orchestrates the film's shifting moods with a refined fluidity, a quality echoed by composer George Fenton's period arrangements and Eleanor Fazan's musical numbers.

Further setting the agreeable mood is costume designer Sandy Powell's inspired wardrobe choices and the atmospheric production design by Frears' frequent collaborator Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski.


Thanks to Patricia M. for sending me the link to this article

 


UK Film Release to be November 25, 2005

Wait for the Flash movie to play on the Home Page -- you'll get a brief glimpse from the film then
click on the Coming Soon tab and then the Mrs. Henderson Presents title to go to that section ...
stay tuned for more ...

"Why don't we get rid of the clothes."  Laura Henderson (Dame Judi)

"Pardon?"  Vivian Van Damm  (Bob Hoskins)

"Let's have naked girls ... don't you think?"  Laura Henderson (Dame Judi)


http://www.pathe.co.uk/


Thanks to Jules and Julie for bringing this to my attention.

 


Toronto International Film Festival

Friday, September 9th, 6:30 PM

Excerpt from a Canada.com online article ...

The annual cinema bash and shmooz-fest, in its 30th year, runs from Sept. 8 to 17 and will feature 335 films from 52 countries ... Other films being unveiled at the festival include Stephen Frears's musical comedy Mrs. Henderson Presents, which stars Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, and The Myth, a new vehicle for action star Jackie Chan.

 

Thanks to Jules for bringing this to my attention.

 


MSNBC.com Online News ... May 26, 2005

Excerpt ...

While the Weinsteins’ new company will be christened with a new, permanent name sometime over the summer, it has set the following release dates:

“Mrs. Henderson Presents,” another Disney co-financed project, directed by Stephen Fears and starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, will open exclusively Dec. 25.

On paper, “Transamerica,” “The Promise” and “Mrs. Henderson” all look like titles that the Weinsteins will promote for year-end awards consideration.

 


          February 9, 2005

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Miramax Films has paid about $10 million for rights to "Mrs. Henderson Presents," British director Stephen Frears' period film about an eccentric widow, played by Judi Dench.

Set in London on the eve of World War II, the film stars Dench as a woman who buys a theater and turns it into the Windmill, famous for its nude revues. Bob Hoskins also stars.

The Miramax deal covers distribution rights for North America, Latin America and Germany. The studio previously distributed Frears' films "The Grifters," "The Snapper" and "Dirty Pretty Things."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

 


          A Pile of Rubble Topped by Nudes. Now That's a Musical!

         

The director Stephen Frears at work on the London set of his latest project, "Mrs. Henderson Presents."

By JAMES ULMER -- New York Times

Published: January 23, 2005

LONDON

LIKE the much grander musicals of Hollywood's Golden Age, the script of the small British song-and-dance movie still sitting on Stephen Frears's desk had all the right stuff. Its quirky, true story: how a bored English society woman in the 1930's opened the first theater showing nude musical revues - London's answer to the Moulin Rouge - and made it a hit, even during the blitz. Then there was its classic premise: a comic peek behind the theatrical curtain.

There was also its stellar cast, led by Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, a trove of popular period songs and an award-winning production team to score, art direct, costume and choreograph the modest project, whose fate now awaited the director's verdict.

But after several days, none was forthcoming. So the film's producer, Norma Heyman, who had made Mr. Frears's "Dangerous Liaisons" and surely appreciated the nuances of its title, nevertheless ventured to phone him up:

"Well, did you like it?" she recalled asking.

A supremely grumpy voice replied, "Yes."

"So how do you feel about it?"

A long pause, and the voice answered: "Trapped."

Cornered by an opportunity he deemed "too good to pass up" and the gamble of untried terrain, Mr. Frears, a connoisseur of contradictions in his movies and his life finally said yes to another risky liaison. With a humble nod to the legendary Arthur Freed, the man behind MGM's golden chain of movie musicals, he began production last October on his first musical, "Mrs. Henderson Presents."

It's a neat twist in a 40-year-career built on unexpected turns, jumping between independent and studio projects, feature films and television movies, and British and American themes. After his early and celebrated British art-house romps, "My Beautiful Laundrette" and "Prick Up Your Ears," Mr. Frears hopped over to the high-born, higher-budget antics of "Dangerous Liaisons" (his favorite film), then to the American crime caper "The Grifters" and, later, to the Western-inspired "The Hi-Lo Country," the comedy "High Fidelity" and last year's unsquinting look at London's underbelly, "Dirty Pretty Things."

Along with his fellow British realists the directors Ken Loach and Mike Figgis (to whom he shuns comparisons), Mr. Frears's blend of spirited anarchy, social pessimism and wry affection for the underdog helped inspire the new wave of American independent film in the 1980's. But then he answered Hollywood's siren call to direct two ill-fated movies, "Hero" (1992) with Dustin Hoffman and "Mary Reilly" (1996) starring Julia Roberts, and found himself battling mushrooming budgets and producer rosters. Clearly, no book had prepared him for the Hollywood mosh pit.

With "Henderson," Mr. Frears, 63, is reconnecting with the best elements of his past work: a wickedly witty script, a smaller budget (around $20 million) and top-flight talent.

Dame Judi plays the wealthy and eccentric Laura Henderson, who, at 70, converted an abandoned Soho cinema into the historic Windmill Theater and hired the formidable theater manager Vivian van Damm (Hoskins) to run it. The quarrelsome pair soon opened "Revudeville," a mix of musical revues and vaudeville acts, with the sly Ms. Henderson often crashing rehearsals (Van Damm had banned her for being too nosy) by donning multiple disguises, including that of a polar bear, a black man and a Chinese princess.

Still, success eluded their struggling enterprise until they started putting nude models into the musical numbers, dodging the city's Draconian censors by ensuring that the showgirls didn't move a muscle on stage. With these wildly popular "tableaux vivants," the Windmill became a magnet for American G.I.'s during World War II and was the only theater to stay open during the bombing of London in 1940.

"Mrs. Henderson Presents," already one of Britain's most anticipated films, features Britain's 2001 Pop Idol, Will Young, in his film debut, as Bertie, the Windmill's star performer, and Kelly Reilly as the Windmill showgirl Maureen. The executive producers of the film, a Pathe Pictures-BBC Films production, are Mr. Hoskins and David Aukin. Ms. Heyman said she expects the film to have its premiere this fall at the Venice or Toronto film festival. And though no American distribution deal has been struck yet, she said many major Hollywood distributors have expressed interest.

Despite a script by the Tony-nominated writer Martin Sherman ("The Boy From Oz"), a score by the five-time Oscar nominee George Fenton, and a production team that includes the Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell ("Shakespeare in Love") and the choreographer Eleanor Fazan ("Onegin"), Mr. Frears was stunned by the challenge of recreating The Windmill's period song and dance numbers.

"I suppose fear is a rather good thing," he observed on the "Henderson" London set at Shepperton Studios last month. "Alan Parker once told me you can wing a movie, but you can't wing a musical. So yes, I did feel trapped."

Until, that is, he and his team discovered a book and saw a documentary on the world of Arthur Freed. From the 1940's to the early 1970's, Freed's ability to lure top actors, directors, choreographers and composers to work cheek-by-jowl in his MGM production offices delivered such classic musicals as "Singin' in the Rain," "Meet Me In St. Louis" and "Gigi." The Freed Unit created Hollywood's first and greatest musical repertory company, and counted Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Gene Kelly and Busby Berkeley in its fold. That model gave Mr. Frears the key he had been searching for.

"Freed had figured out that you must have all these creative people working together in the same room," the director said. "You can't do it right unless they're all present and thinking the same way. So I got everybody into the same place - the writer, composer, musical director and choreographer - and worked it all out. Thank God we read that book."

With "Henderson," then, Mr. Frears has paradoxically created a very British and independent film musical by cribbing from the Hollywood studio handbook. "We even studied the outline of the Freed Unit's floor plan," he said.

A visitor to the "Henderson" production unit can sense Freed spirit, too. Between shots, Mr. Frears darted like a pollinating bee between the adjoining offices of his creative team (à la Freed's plan), landing in the screenwriter's office without knocking (just like Freed) and interrupting a visiting journalist to discuss script changes ("You're not listening, are you?"). Like Freed, he also commands immense loyalty from his cast and production heads.

"I've learned that Stephen will absolutely not give up until he sees the shot he wants, even if it means my rowing a boat up a river 30 times," Dame Judi reported in her dressing room. "He's wonderfully ruthless and anarchic. I wouldn't have it any other way."

Occasionally Mr. Frears takes boyish glee in provoking his actors, too. Seeing Mr. Hoskins struggle with a way to portray the irascible van Damm, he instructed the actor to "just play me." "So I played this grumpy old sod that's a pain in the bum!" Mr. Hoskins said impishly. "It was the best director's note I've ever gotten."

Mr. Frears had the last laugh, however, when Mr. Hoskins and many of the film's dancers had to bare their behinds and their full fronts for one humorous scene. "All these young gorgeous creatures and there was Old Wrinkly in the back," the actor sighed.

"Yes, the nude bits are funny," agreed Mr. Sherman, who based the film's tableaux on the Windmill's original programs from the 1930's and 40's. "But these girls weren't strippers. England during the war didn't have burlesque houses like America did, so nudity didn't have that onus. It was more innocent."

In one of the film's 12 musical tableaux, "The Babies of the Blitz," a pile of rubble on the Windmill's stage is topped by gorgeous nudes, while on the streets outside, Nazi bombs strip London bare. It's a vintage Frears image in which, once again, he has found a contradiction to savor: "You see, if you undercut all the sentimentality about the War with a little comedy" he began, then rose to attend to his actors onstage.

With five shooting days left, would he miss this film and the members of his Frears Unit?

"I'm so knackered that I'm longing for this to finish," he replied with a slightly trapped expression, "and yet I'm dreading it ending, too."

 


Daily News Article -- November 12, 2004

 

A Special Thank You to Diane P, UK, for scanning and sharing this

 


The Express

September 9, 2004

STARS LINE UP IN A NEW MOVIE TO TELL HOW AN AGEING SOCIALITE BECAME THE GODMOTHER OF TODAY S LAP-DANCING CLUBS; THE MERRY WIDOW WHO HAD A NAKED AMBITION

By Simon Edge
Courtesy of:  The Unofficial Chronology of Dame Judi Dench's Career Website

WHEN Laura Henderson's husband first took her to the theatre shortly after their marriage, she could hardly believe her eyes. "I was horrified, " she recalled in later years.

"The girls showed their legs, in open-work black silk stockings. I was shocked." That was in the 1880s, when a glimpse of ankle was viewed as dangerously sleazy and the sight of so much flesh at the Gaiety in London must indeed have been an eye-opener for a sheltered Victorian of 22.

Little did young Mrs Henderson know that as an elderly widow she would run a theatre which would become world-famous as London's answer to the Moulin Rouge, sidestepping Britain's draconian censorship laws to put nude models on stage for the first time.

Becoming the owner of Soho's Windmill Theatre when she was nearly 70, she founded Revudeville, a non-stop variety show that launched the careers of Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, Michael Bentine, Kenneth More, Tony Hancock, Nicholas Parsons and Bruce Forsyth, as well as offering "adult" entertainment of a particularly British kind where girls in nude tableaux were permitted to stand on stage provided they did not move.

There were no dirty jokes, no striptease acts and Mrs Henderson still had enough Victorian morality to impose a strict ban on the boys entering the girls' dressing room and vice versa. In a part of London later known for far sleazier establishments, the tiny venue just off Piccadilly Circus became a national institution. It was the only venue not to shut during the Blitz of 1940, afterwards adopting the slogan "We Never Closed".

When Laura Henderson died in 1944 one newspaper wrote: "The spark that burned to change a dusty, echo-haunted building into a palace of glamorous Eves, where long-limbed girls in wisps of costumes, beautiful nearnudes, danced and sang, went out last night."

Her theatre's wartime spirit was celebrated in a 1945 Hollywood film, Tonight And Every Night, starring Rita Hayworth as a Windmill showgirl, and the place was also the subject of the British films Murder At The Windmill, starring a young Jon Pertwee as a police detective, and Secrets Of A Windmill Girl, featuring Pauline Collins.  Courtesy of:  The Unofficial Chronology of Dame Judi Dench's Career Website

None of those films featured Laura Henderson herself but now a new production from celebrated director Stephen Frears examines her extraordinary life. Fittingly, she is played by another national institution, Dame Judi Dench. Entitled Mrs Henderson Presents, the film has been developed by Bob Hoskins, who co-stars as Mrs Henderson's manager Vivian Van Damm, and producer Norma Heyman, who previously collaborated with Frears on the Oscar-winning Dangerous Liaisons. It also stars Will Young in his first film role as the Windmill choreographer - but not, contrary to reports this week, Martine McCutcheon or Denise Van Outen, who were said to be vying for a nude role.

"Shooting starts at Shepperton studios later this month, with some location work, " said a production insider, "although it is difficult to film in Soho because the area is so busy at night. It is the story of Mrs Henderson, her relationship with Vivian Van Damm and also of what it was like at the theatre during the war. She was a wonderful character and it is a warm, dramatic story.

There will be a lot of music. It will be one of the biggest British films for some time."

AS WELL as watching the show every night in furs and tiara from her own box, the diminutive Mrs Henderson liked to sneak into the theatre incognito to check up on her staff. She would hire disguises and appear as a Chinaman or as an elderly German complete with Homburg hat and imperial beard - but gave herself away because she wore the latter crooked. On another occasion she attended an audition dressed as a dancing polar bear. "Yes, I can confirm that is in the script, " says the production insider. "You will see Dame Judi as a dancing polar bear."

Laura Henderson spent , much of her adult life in India, where her husband was a wealthy jute merchant in Calcutta. After he died in the late Twenties she was expected to grow old gracefully.

Instead, despite her advancing age and lack of experience, she bought the Palais de Luxe, a tiny cinema in Great Windmill Street.

Built on the , site of a windmill that had stood there from the reign of Charles II until the late 18th century, the Palais de Luxe had shown films since the early days of cinema but was now unable to compete with larger rivals. With no business skills, Mrs Henderson resolved to turn it into a theatre, employing an architect to remodel the exterior in the style of a windmill. She staged one play, Inquest, but found the , public was not interested in coming to such a small theatre.

SHE HIRED Van Damm, a cinema manager who had once caused a scandal by showing a film about sexually transmitted diseases (and was appropriately known as VD), to boost business. He started showing films again, until a casual caller suggested a non-stop vaudeville show.

The idea was to stage six shows a day, six days a week, from noon until 11pm. The name Revudeville - a corruption of vaudeville and revue - was chosen in a public competition.

The first programme, featuring 18 unknown acts, began on February 4, 1932.

Success was still elusive, and Mrs Henderson lost more than GBP 20,000 in the next five years. Only when VD came up with the idea of nude tableaux did fortunes change.

The well-connected Mrs Henderson used her influence with the Lord Chamberlain to establish that full nudity was allowed provided the girls were imitating famous paintings or statues and did not actually move. Other girls' upper bodies were draped with gauze or net. Word spread that the Windmill offered Britain's only permanent public display of partial and complete nudity, even if only in small doses and with dim lighting.

The tide dramatically turned and the Windmill became an established part of the London scene. It was the only theatre never to close during the bombing raids of September 1940, with most of the company living on the premises. Most customers were men but celebrities also came as guests of the owner.

The Princesses Marie Louise and Helena Victoria visited, as well as titled members of the Women's Guild of Empire.

Hundreds of girls passed through the company, including future film star Jean Kent, but the Windmill is now remembered as much for the comedians it spawned as for its nude revue. A youngster called Kenneth More made his first stage appearance there, going on to become the country's top box-office star in the Fifties, and the comedy sets between the girls' acts provided a training ground for such future names as Hancock, Sellers, Bentine, Secombe and Jimmy Edwards.

The bespectacled old lady with the silver hair who was a constant presence in the theatre took a motherly interest in the girls and would throw small gifts out of her private box to those she particularly liked. She could also be severe and her relationship with Van Damm was stormy. He once left to open a rival establishment but the show failed and he lost thousands of pounds.

Mrs Henderson bailed him out and took him back.

Throughout her time at the Windmill she nursed a secret. "It was Van Damm himself who explained it to me, long after I left the Windmill, " recalled Windmill Girl Charmian Innes in the Fifties. "He said: 'It was her tragic secret.   Courtesy of:  The Unofficial Chronology of Dame Judi Dench's Career Website

She lost her own son in the 1914 war and would never talk about it. I think she saw an image of her boy in every other young man'."

This tragic aspect of her life is taken up in the new film, on which two of Van Damm's granddaughters acted as advisers. "The death of Mrs Henderson's husband and her son are the two emotional anchors of the script, " says an industry insider. "The show gets more and more bawdy, the girls start stripping off and soldiers love coming to see it. We realise that her son went off to war without getting married or enjoying life and that is her motivation. Her baby died without enjoying the things a young man should."

In November 1944, at the age of 82, Mrs Henderson went into hospital and told her producer: "I'm going to have an operation. It may go wrong but if I die the show mustn't stop on my account." She did die and the show did go on. That night 30 girls danced in a whirl of colour along the footlights in London's most undressed show.

MRS HENDERSON had made up all her losses and earned enough to have paid GBP 500,000 in entertainment taxes. She bequeathed the theatre to Van Damm, whose daughter Sheila took over after his death in 1960. The last Revudeville took place in 1964, when the Windmill was sold to the Compton Cinema Group. It was later sold to Soho entrepreneur Paul Raymond and is currently a lapdancing club.

There used to be a legend that the Windmill was haunted by Mrs Henderson, who was said to sit in her box and glide along the corridors in her evening dress. The interior has been remodelled so much nowadays that she probably would not recognise it.

The show no longer goes on and the nonstop revue did eventually close.

Nevertheless, the eccentric old lady who brought "nudity without nonsense", as one newspaper of the day called it, to the prudish British stage would no doubt be pleased to know that she is soon to live again on screen.   Courtesy of:  The Unofficial Chronology of Dame Judi Dench's Career Website

Courtesy of:  The Unofficial Chronology of Dame Judi Dench's Career Website

 

Thanks to Connie E, CA, USA for bringing this article to our attention

 


June 04, 2004

Pathe, BBC presenting 'Henderson'

By Stuart Kemp -- The Hollywood Reporter

LONDON -- Pathe U.K. and BBC Films have teamed to finance "Mrs. Henderson Presents," to be directed by Stephen Frears and produced by Norma Heyman, the companies said Thursday.

Pathe and BBC Films will co-finance the Heyman Hoskins production with Heyman's partner Bob Hoskins, who will star in the picture alongside Judi Dench. The film will be executive produced by former Channel Four head of film David Aukin, with Hoskins also taking an executive producer credit.

Written by Tony Award nominee Martin Sherman, the movie is set in pre-World War II London and tells the true story of one of England's most prominent and eccentric society figures, Laura Henderson, who founded the historic Windmill Theater.

Driven by a desire to win back the dwindling music hall audiences who had been lured away by the advent of "talking pictures," Henderson (Dench) and her tenacious theater manager Vivian Van Damm (Hoskins) set about taking advantage of a legal loophole that permitted the theater to show entirely nude models on stage -- provided they didn't move a muscle.

The project marks a reteaming of Oscar-winner Heyman and Frears, who worked together 15 years ago on "Dangerous Liaisons."

Pathe Distribution will distribute "Henderson" in the United Kingdom and France, while Pathe Pictures International will sell the film worldwide.
 

          Thanks to Kathy R. for sending this

 


Frears stages Dench's saucy show

Sat Apr 24, 8:00 PM ET / Adam Dawtrey, STAFF, Variety News

In her 20 years as a grande dame among British producers, Norma Heyman has never had a project so hotly pursued by financiers as her latest, "Mrs. Henderson Presents."

Given its fruity cocktail of elements, it isn't hard to see why. Directed by Stephen Frears from a screenplay by Martin Sherman, the film will star Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins in the true story of how London's Windmill Theater began staging nude shows in the 1930s, and became famous during the Blitz as the theater that never closed.

Hoskins brought the idea to Heyman, with whom he previously produced "The Secret Agent," and they turned to former FilmFour topper David Aukin to share the producing chores. Pathe Pictures and BBC Films are in exclusive talks to bankroll the $15 million movie, although the Hollywood specialty arms are also banging at the door.

"It's nice to be wanted for once, instead of having to beg like we usually do," laughs Heyman.

Shooting is set for September. Dench will play Laura Henderson, the extraordinary old lady who bought the Windmill after her return home after years in imperial India. Her manager (Hoskins) spotted a loophole in Britain's censorship laws that permitted stage nudity as long as the performers didn't move. He added naked tableaux to the bill of conventional variety acts and transformed the theater into a scandalous success.

"It's accessible, funny and moving," says one of the few execs to have gotten a peek at Sherman's closely guarded first draft. "It's a celebration of the human spirit, and it's got Judi Dench and Stephen Frears for a good price." Contrary to one press report, however, Dench will not be baring all in the movie.

Thanks to Connie E, CA, USA for sharing this info

 

Click here for more information on the Windmill Theatre

Thanks to Kathe for this link

 

 


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