The Unofficial Chronology of Dame Judi Dench's Career 

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Notes on a Scandal
Film -- Currently in Theatres
Dame Judi as Barbara Covett
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Last Updated:  February 4, 2007

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Released January 9, 2007


Radio Times Magazine -- UK
24th Feb - 2 March 2007 Issue

Note:  This is the same interview that appeared in Entertainment Weekly
several weeks ago but the photos are new and very nice

Thanks to Lisa S, UK, for scanning and sharing this


Dame Judi on The Oprah Winfrey Show
January 30, 2007

Click here to watch the WMP Video Clip
Windows Media Player Required   ( 3:19 Minutes )

"Meet the Nominees" on the Oprah Winfrey Website

Thanks to Connie E, USA, for first bringing this to my attention


Well, I'll be Damed

By Valentine Low, Evening Standard 06.02.07

Femmes noir: Dame Judi Dench and Dame Helen Mirren photographed for a fictional film celebrating the art of Hollywood's old gangster movies

Click here to read the Vanity Fair's Oscar Tribute

So there were these two dames in a car. One of them, well, she looks like the Queen and has got a leather trenchcoat and a slouch hat over one eye and is driving this car with a big steering wheel, like it was an old Studebaker from The Big Sleep or something.

The other, she has got a real mean expression on her, like the one that broad in the James Bond pictures always gives 007.

From the look on their faces, it wouldn't take a private dick to guess that these dames are up to no good.

Did I say Dames? That's right - it is Dame Judi Dench and Dame Helen Mirren in a still from that classic movie... er ... well, actually not from a film that anyone has ever heard of.

Instead, it is from Vanity Fair magazine's Hollywood issue, which celebrates Tinseltown with a mock-up of the ultimate film noir.

Entitled Killers Kill, Dead Men Die, the fantasy movie has the sort of cast list that would make the average studio boss think he had died and gone to celluloid heaven.

Apart from Ben Affleck as The Shamus and Robert de Niro as The Racketeer, it includes Kirsten Dunst, Jessica Alba, Alec Baldwin, Sharon Stone and Jack Nicholson as The Killer.

The stills - shot by Annie Leibovitz in collaboration with Oscar-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and Vanity Fair's fashion and style director Michael Roberts - are a tribute to movies from the Forties and Fifties such as Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Mr Roberts said: "I threw in every cliché I could remember."

As well as Dame Judi, 72, and Dame Helen, 61, the shoot features a clutch of nominees for this year's Oscars, including Penelope Cruz, Forest Whitaker, Kate Winslet, Peter O'Toole and Jennifer Hudson.

Leibovitz said: "With a new cast and new set for virtually every shot, the project took on the scope of a real Hollywood film.

"It wasn't about each person being a star. It was about the profession, the craft of acting. It was about a community of actors.

"These people are the best at what they do and they brought the best out of each other. It was beautiful to see the relationships between them."

Zsigmond, who worked on modern films noirs including The Long Goodbye, The Two Jakes and The Black Dahlia, said: "For me, the most interesting movies are those that use a noir technique - a lot of hard light and shadows. Nearly all my movies are more about shadows than light - even the comedies."

For movie buffs only: did anyone spot the movie referenced in the picture above? It's Out Of The Past (1947), with Robert Mitchum and Virginia Huston.

Click here to view their Film Noir Slideshow ...
Click here to view the Behind-the-Scenes Video ...

A Big Thank You to Jodee, SLC, USA for sharing all of this


Dame Judi on a drama high

Herald Sun -- Australia -- February 04, 2007

In her latest silver screen adventure, Dame Judi Dench, 72, plays a north London history teacher who develops a more than passing interest in a new academic recruit to the school in which she teaches in Notes on a Scandal.

Q: This film is based on Zoe Heller's book. Did you know it already?

A: I did, yes, which is rather unlike me. Normally, with roles I run on instinct, though when Michael was alive, he was always my reader. Nowadays, I often give scripts to friends, but not everyone can do it, and I know I can't. Mike just knew what to pick. He'd say, `Read that line; read that little bit,' and I knew straight away how right he was. That's a facility I've got to somehow pick up myself to be able to do. But in this case, Geoffrey Palmer, Dench's co-star in the hugely popular TV series As Time Goes By, had given me the book to read so immediately I knew the story, and, well, it was one of those parts where, at the end of the day, you took all that make-up and stuff off and thought, `my God, I'm glad I'm back to normal.

Q: What was it that made you say yes to the venture?

A: "Well, working with Richard; we have such a history - Amy's View in London and New York, Hamlet, Iris, a TV Cherry Orchard, in which I played Ranevskaya. I seem to have just known Richard all my life, really, and he's so reliable - no, reliable isn't the word; that's not the word at all. He's rocklike, totally dependable, though even dependable sounds too boring a word. The point is, you just look at him and you know straight away what he wants the next time. I don't know the word for that. And then, of course, there was Cate Blanchett, for whom my admiration is completely undimmed.

Q: Notes on a Scandal also gives you a chance to play someone nastier than has been your norm.

A: I suppose, though Barbara's not a villain; she's just a victim of her own circumstances. I know several people like that, and I'm sure you do, too: people who as far as you can see never have any kind of relationship with somebody or are just desperately needy. They usually result in having animals, of course, and that's why animals are such a comfort to us all.

Q: Do you watch rushes or dailies?

A: I know there are some actors who know the business of film acting so supremely that they will also watch every single take on a thing. Now, if I did that - and I know it makes you better at it, I know it does - but it would make me also deeply self-conscious. I know really good actors do do all that with the rushes and so on, but with me it's about feeling that you're coming in at the right level. It's the judging of it that is always tough: where you should come in at, though it helped of course that Patrick was there a lot and, of course, Richard all the time. So we rehearsed and then we just did it.

Q: People often seem surprised that you continue to return to the stage, as if your film career would have put paid to appearing live - the way it has, for instance, for Anthony Hopkins or Albert Finney.

A: Oh, God, the more films I do, the more the theatre is absolutely like an old friend; I think, thank heavens there is something I can have more goes at. With Absolute Hell, I wish I was doing it tonight - wasn't it a wonderful play, and sad and funny? I know it sounds fey, but the theatre is always a salvation; I think it's something for our souls. I just think it's so essential to make people just forget themselves for a bit or maybe be more aware of themselves or be angry or enlightened or irritated or something: it keeps the nerve ends alive."

Q: For legions of admirers, you're first and foremost Bond's commandant, the wonderfully named M.

A: Indeed. Pierce (Brosnan) and I joined together; we were new boy and girl together; I did the four with him and this one with Dan (Craig). And isn't he stunning - just stunning? How can he do that with all that stuff being chucked at him in the press beforehand? With Casino Royale, I think M had a bit more of the pizzazz that she had in GoldenEye, and we were able to make the relationship quite strong because of the fact that he was so young and wasn't yet 007 status. On this one, I shot in Prague and Nassau; it was thrilling, absolutely thrilling. When I make those movies, I'm six feet tall. "


The LA Times -- January 24, 2007

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


"For Your Consideration" Video Clip of Dame Judi's Scenes

Thanks to Anke B, Germany, for bringing this to my attention


Fox Searchlight Blips -- Interview with Dame Judi and Cate Blanchett

Thanks to Emma for bringing this to my attention


Two New Trailers Available to Watch

Box Office Data

Sunday, February 11th

The Judi Dench/Cate Blanchett-starrer "Notes on a Scandal" fell only 10% to gross $1.5 million. On 649 screens, the film's per-theater average was $2,427, putting its cume at $13.9 million.

Sunday -- January 21st

Weekly Total = $1,167,702
200 Theatres
Avg $5,839
Total $6,004,333 28

Sunday -- January 14th

"Notes on a Scandal," Richard Eyre's juicy drama about the testy relationship between schoolteachers Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench, increased from 93 theaters to 200 and saw its average hold at a strong $9,666, less than a 30% decline from the previous weekend's $12,100. But it saw its four-day weekend gross climb about 85%, to $2.6 million from the previous three-day weekend take of $1.125 million.

Sunday -- January 7th

Notes on a Scandal, starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett in a story of a teacher who has an affair with a student, took in $1.1 million in 93 theaters for a strong $11,328 per screen average. It goes to more markets this Friday (01/12).

Sunday -- December 31st

Notes on a Scandal was well back but still performed very well with more than $400,000 in 22 theaters for an average of $18,840.

64th Annual Golden Globe Nominations ...    December 14, 2006

Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett and screenwriter Patrick Marber all received nominations this morning for the psychological thriller Notes on a Scandal

Judi Dench, actress in a drama, Notes on a Scandal:

"I am incredibly grateful that the HFPA has been able to see past my sinister deeds as the deliciously wicked Barbara Covett by acknowledging my work. This is also recognition of Patrick Marber's thrilling screenplay, Richard Eyre's impeccable direction, the ever-astonishing Cate Blanchett and Bill Nighy, and our incredible cast and crew. I am proud to be in the same company as Penelope, Maggie, Helen, and Kate."

Monday, January 15th, NBC

Click here for the complete list of nominees


Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) Award Nominations

Hollywood Reporter -- January 4, 2007

Nominations in the leading actress category are Penelope Cruz for "Volver," Judi Dench for "Notes on a Scandal," Helen Mirren for "The Queen," Meryl Streep for "The Devil Wears Prada" and Kate Winslet for "Little Children."

Sunday, January 28th on TNT / TBS

Click on the above link for a complete list of nominees


Evening Standard British Film Awards

Guardian UK -- Sunday, February 4, 2007

LONDON - Daniel Craig was honored but Helen Mirren was denied Sunday at the 34th annual Evening Standard British Film Awards.

Craig was named best actor for "Casino Royale," his debut outing as James Bond. Craig, who has won both critical praise and box office favor as the first blond Bond, is also up for the best-actor prize at next week's British Academy Film Awards.

Mirren, who is an Academy Awards favorite for her turn as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen," lost the best actress prize to Judi Dench, awarded for her portrayal of a predatory schoolteacher in "Notes on a Scandal."

Click here to read the entire article


BAFTA Film Award Nominations

BBC Entertainment News Online -- January 12, 2007

Dame Judi has been nominated for Best Actress

The winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, on 11 February.

Click here for the entire list of nominations

Best of British at the Baftas


79th Academy Awards Nominations

BBC Entertainment News Online -- January 23, 2007

British actresses in Oscars race

British actresses Dame Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet and Dame Judi Dench will go head to head for the best actress Oscar at this year's Academy Awards.

They face competition from Penelope Cruz and Meryl Streep.

"I'm in frighteningly good company. It is very nice of the Queen to allow me in," said Dame Judi, referring to Dame Helen's celebrated role in The Queen.

The 79th Academy Awards ceremony will be held at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles on 25 February.   It will be televised on ABC.

CBS News Online
Dame Dench Discusses Oscar Nod
Thanks to Mary FK for sharing this link


Best adapted screenplay
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

Click here for the full list of nominees


Judi Dench continues to earn Academy's respect

Click here to visit the CTV Online Webpage of this interview
Scroll down and click on the link in the right hand margin to view the Video Clip of this interview

Jan. 25 2007 -- News Staff

The Academy of Motion Picture and Sciences continues its love affair with Dame Judi Dench, presenting her with her sixth Oscar nomination for her leading role in "Notes on a Scandal."

It's an affair that has blossomed quickly.

Dench, 72, has had a respectable, five-decade long career on the British stage and TV. Yet her film roles went mostly unnoticed by North American audiences until about 10 years ago, when she turned heads with her performance in "Mrs. Brown," directed by John Madden.

Since then, she has managed to defy the Hollywood notion that there are no decent roles for actresses over 40, scoring leading roles in such films as "Mrs. Henderson Presents" and "Iris" -- both of which earned her Oscar nods.

In "Notes on a Scandal," Dench plays a lonely and manipulative schoolteacher who develops an unhealthy obsession with a fellow teacher (played by Cate Blanchett), who is having an affair with a teenage student.

Dench has said the role was one of the hardest she has ever played and that she found it a relief to step out of the character at the end of every day of filming.

"I enjoyed it, but it was difficult to do," she told Canada AM from London. It was only the attentive direction of Richard Eyre that helped steer her through the dark story's rough waters, she says.

"I enjoyed it hugely working with Richard, who I know very, very well," she said.

"There could be many, many ways that we could have played so many of those scenes. But Richard has impeccable taste. And so yes, it was wonderful fun to do it - although it's a grim story."

Critics have said Dench's performance is matched perfectly by that of the mesmerizing Blanchett, who also earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role.

Dench found it a pleasure to finally work with Blanchett.

"We were in 'The Shipping News' together but actually our paths never crossed. And so I was thrilled to work with her as well, absolutely thrilled."

Dench has become the kind of actress who somehow manages to lend a film gravitas by her mere presence, if even for the briefest of scenes in films such as "Shakespeare in Love" and the James Bond films.

But it was the former film that won Dench her only Oscar, for playing Elizabeth I, and it is the latter films that allow her the wittiest of lines.

In this year's "Casino Royale," Dench gets to poke fun at the anachronistic nature of the James Bond franchise itself, declaring, "[Expletive], I miss the Cold War."

"Yes, I wasn't allowed to say that for China," Dench remarked. "I had to re-dub it. It was: 'God, I miss the old times.' Not quite the same thing."

There is but one disappointing aspect of her Oscar nomination, she says: she will likely not be able to attend the Feb. 25 ceremony because she will be undergoing knee surgery.

Thanks to Joan M, CA, for bringing this interview to my attention


The Sunday Times -- January 21, 2007

A class act

With a sinister turn as a schoolmarm on the edge, Judi Dench is stepping out of her comfort zone. That might just deserve an Oscar, says Matt Wolf

Even on market day, which is Thursday, Stratford-upon-Avon seems quintessentially sleepy, and it is doubly so on a misty Thursday morning just before Christmas. A chill in the air seems to be keeping most people indoors. This isn’t quite the setting in which you’d expect to find one of our national treasures, Judi Dench, in the run-up to what will almost certainly be her sixth Oscar nomination in nine years. If Dench were American, she would doubtless be out on the awards campaign trail, like it or not. But then, if Dench were American, she probably wouldn’t have had the acting career she has had. So here she is, tucked away in her long-standing home, the Royal Shakespeare Company, performing in a musical, chatting away over coffee and croissants at a high-street chain cafe.

Dench is so thoroughbred a stage creature that the film part of her CV seems like a cumulative surprise. But surprising it definitely is. One has to go back to the early days of the Academy Awards, and Bette Davis, to find another performer given a comparable number of nods in quite so compressed a time. (Dench won her prize at the second hurdle, for 1998’s Shakespeare in Love.) And neither Davis nor another multiple nominee, Katharine Hepburn, were in their sixties before international renown came to call. But nothing Dench has done on screen has been more unexpected than her latest role, as the embittered teacher Barbara Covett in Notes on a Scandal, based on Zoë Heller’s 2003 novel. An actress who has been pretty well domesticated by her public — that’s the power of television sitcom for you — plays someone mean and not a little bit mad. And human, too.

When Dench and I first met, backstage at the Aldwych Theatre in 1990, during Sam Mendes’s revival of The Cherry Orchard, she spoke then of her desire, “if at all possible, to choose the most unlikely role — that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do”. The theme pops up again as we munch our croissants, with showgoers for that day’s matinée performance of Merry Wives — The Musical doing a polite double take as they clock that the very person who has brought them into town to begin with is there in the window, looking right back at them. Up close, Dench transmits warmth, if forgivable impatience at the time that is being eaten out of her schedule, even in Stratford. American film journalists and television crews are already finding their way here. But for the moment, a bright scarf swathing her cream top, she settles in like someone primed for a good morning gossip.

“I know several people like Barbara, as I’m sure you do — people who, as far as you can see, never have any kind of relationship with anybody, or are just desperately needy.” She laughs, keen not to get too gloomy on what will be a two-performance day at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, around the corner. “Those sorts of people usually resort to having animals, of course, and that’s why animals are such comforts to us all.”

It makes sense for Dench to have seized this role with both hands, not to mention a cunning fury. Behind it are the screenwriter Patrick Marber and the director Richard Eyre — as with Dench, theatre animals. Playing a stern-faced school stalwart whose apparent sympathy and brisk efficiency are tilting toward psychosis, Dench illuminates for keeps the part of a lonely north London teacher who takes a comely new recruit, Cate Blanchett’s Sheba Hart, into her care — only to crack when it is made apparent that the adulterous Sheba may in fact care more for her family, husband Bill Nighy included, as well as a certain pupil.

Dench has long confessed to not being a good reader of material. That gift is just one of many that prompts a mention of Michael Williams, her husband of 30 years, who died in 2001 of lung cancer and is buried in nearby Charlecote. (So, too, are his parents and Dench’s mother.) But Dench’s co-star in As Time Goes By, Geoffrey Palmer, had already given her Heller’s novel when the producer Scott Rudin approached her to do a film version. “Yes, that’s rather unlike me,” she laughs, about a scenario where she knew exactly what was being proposed. And, as with so much in her career, it was the talent involved that prompted her to accept. “I knew the story, but it was working with Richard, who I seem to have known all my life” — this is their fifth collaboration — “and also working with Cate, for whom my admiration is completely undimmed.”

What about the appeal of at last playing a baddie? “Barbara’s not a villain. She’s just a victim of her own circumstance,” Dench says, in quite reasonable defence of a role that finds her narrowing her face in near-mutinous intensity as she discovers that her cherished Sheba has been having it off with a male student who, even worse, is under-age. That part is played by the striking Irish newcomer Andrew Simpson, whose amorous cavorting with Blanchett must have made him the envy of his schoolmates. Dench speaks of him most fondly: “He used to bless himself before each scene, since he’s from a good Catholic family. He was a good sport.”

So one assumes.

“People always say, ‘Do you like the character or not?’, but I don’t think you make that kind of judgment. You never make that judgment. There are things you like and dislike, as in everything. It’s what makes everybody so interesting. There are traits to somebody you may not like, but you still love them, as in a relationship. But you don’t actually categorically come down on one thing and think, ‘Oh, I like this, and I don’t like that.’ You just try to grade all the colours of the person so that it adds up to a believ- able whole.”

Still, there’s a brilliant logic to casting Dench that it isn’t up to her to explain, and her colleagues are happy to do it for her. “It helps that Judi is very loved,” Heller tells me, “because one thing I wouldn’t want is for Barbara to be a stage villain. There’s a kind of residue of everything Judi means, particularly to a British audience, that helps make her a more human, sympathetic person, so that she’s not just a glinty-eyed old bag bringing death and destruction to all around her.”

Rudin, in turn, anatomises the appeal of putting Dench in a part 180 degrees from the role of Iris Murdoch, or the financially reckless, emotionally impulsive actress in David Hare’s Amy’s View, on both of which he worked with Dench. “I wrote Judi a letter,” Rudin recalls, “at the moment when she was thinking whether to do the movie or not, and said, ‘Basically, everybody you’ve played has been one version or another of a star in the world that they’re in — but you’ve never played anybody like the audience. This is your chance to play somebody who the audience feels is them.’” Which probably isn’t the case with queens Victoria or Elizabeth I, or even Mrs Henderson in 2005.

Yet that empathy with and for the audience is part of Dench’s stock in trade, as I’ve discovered in various public interviews with her. The force field of affection is palpable. But in Notes on a Scandal, it extends to Dench’s ability, as Rudin says, “to play Barbara as someone who’s in the world, engaged, and isn’t some sort of recluse or shut-in. Judi’s in that world alone, playing the gigantic deficit of her loneliness, but she hasn’t made Barbara a victim at all. You feel she’s a spiky character who has sort of made her bed and ended up in a place of her own making”. Dench, in turn, invokes by way of comparison Lady Macbeth, whom she famously played for the RSC opposite Ian McKellen: “She’s not a grim person when she comes on. She’s a person you can relate to, and suddenly she says, ‘For goodness’ sake, give me the strength to go through with this.’ And it’s the same with Barbara: it’s all to do with human failings and human strengths.”

It is the humanity communicated time and again from Dench, whether in full command as James Bond’s M (“When I make those films, I’m 6ft tall”) or, that very afternoon, prompting cheers from a full house as Mistress Quickly, in the same week that this musical version of Merry Wives has been roundly, if not altogether fairly, dismissed in the press. That’s not to say that she can’t and won’t speak her mind. Regarding the reviews, Dench talks of “not wanting anyone coming and fracturing things and saying, ‘Well, this and this and this and this.’ We know pretty well, and our job is either to preserve what we’ve got or work on getting it better. It’s no good just a lot of people throwing the shit at us — there’s no point”.

The point for Dench, you feel, is in continuing the work that, more than ever, is her life, especially with Williams no longer by her side. There’s talk of her finally filming, later this year, the television adaptation of the Elizabeth Gaskell novel Cranford that went south a season or two ago, while her recent revival of Noël Coward’s Hay Fever, for Peter Hall, may re-emerge on Broadway. Before anything else, though, will come surgery on a long-problematic knee and yet another go at an Oscar. She smiles when the subject comes up: “You’ve got to have a nomination to go to the Oscars; I don’t have a nomination, and you do have to have one.” What she doesn’t add is the unspoken word “yet”. When it comes to modesty, as with talent, Judi Dench is worth taking note of.

Notes on a Scandal opens on February 2; Merry Wives — The Musical runs until February 10 at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon


Dame Judi Dench learns by listening

Thanks to Connie E, USA, for scanning and sending these images from the Newspaper

The actress finds empathy, even in the darkest character.

By Kim Murphy, LA Times Staff Writer -- December 24, 2006

Stratford-upon-Avon, England — SHE is probably the most popular British actress in a generation, a standing earned less by her storied appearances here on the Shakespearean stage, possibly, than by her years as reigning queen of the sitcoms on BBC. It has been estimated that an election for queen would send Elizabeth II packing and put Dame Judi Dench in Buckingham Palace.

Is it modesty, then, that leaves the 72-year-old actress, recipient of nearly every acting award that Hollywood, New York and London have to offer, perpetually afraid of being out of work? Reluctant to take a break, shy to ask for parts, working till her knees go out because she's afraid she'll get stuck waiting for the phone to ring?

"It's just wanting to be employed in my case," she says simply. "Trevor Nunn once said to me: 'You're always in tears on the first night.' And I said, 'I'm so frightened that nobody's going to ask me to do the next thing.' I get so fearful about that kind of thing. You know, when you get in your 70s, there's lots of other people waiting there, just here —" and she flutters a hand to a place behind her shoulder, just out of view, to an apparently familiar presence. "And they're all waiting, waiting for just … that … little … push…."

Needing to be needed, sudden loss and loneliness — Michael Williams, her husband of 30 years and habitual costar, died in 2001 — these are emotions the unremittingly sociable actress brought to "Notes on a Scandal," the story of a spinster's monstrous loneliness and the calculated damage she inflicts in her search for connections — a story that might have been Dench's first cinematic turn as a grand villain. Except that Dench injects the admittedly nasty role with her own improbable vulnerability.

Adapted from Zoë Heller's Mann Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, "Notes on a Scandal," opening Wednesday, also stars Cate Blanchett as the bohemian young art teacher who serves as both catalyst and victim to the elder Dench's predatory friendship.

Anyone who has followed the Mary Kay LeTourneau saga on the West Coast will recognize the gritty, delirious affair Blanchett's Sheba plunges into with a 15-year-old student, the dark secret that serves as the vehicle by which the aging, battle-ax history teacher played by Dench catches her newfound friend in a web of obligation and unspoken threat.

Clash of expectations

SET in a decaying London secondary school, the plot, under the direction of Richard Eyre (who also directed Dench in "Iris"), swoops toward disaster almost from the first halting, touching encounters between the two women, each needy in their own way, each propelled by conflicting passions that spin them like pinwheels into inevitable and disastrous conflict with each other.

The elderly Barbara Covett's life of serial solitude in the throb of busy London, in which going to the laundromat can constitute a weekend's events and the casual brush of a bus driver's hand sends spasms through her groin, comes up against the warm chaos of Sheba's domain, a large, fashionable flat shared with her much older husband, petulant teenager daughter and son with Down's syndrome.

Even before Barbara's discovery of Sheba's affair begins to render them, as she hopefully reflects, "bound by the secrets we share," her arrival at Sheba's apartment for an introductory Sunday lunch in a stiff, newly bought dress and carefully coiffed hair puts her painfully out of place amid the casual jeans and sweat shirts of her hosts — a small point, but one Dench plays with painful precision.

"We took a long time over the look of her," Dench said last week in an interview at the old Royal Shakespeare Company theater here, where she is playing in "Merry Wives — The Musical."

Dench herself manages to be elegant at 5 feet, 3 inches, wearing a soft-draped cream cashmere jacket over a brown wool sweater and trousers. (She still makes many "sexiest actress" lists, not only because of her blazing film role as Lady Macbeth some 27 years ago, but also in no small part thanks to her relentless humor, warm intelligence and often-intimidating blue eyes.)

For the colorless Barbara, Dench pulled a cap over her lustrously silver pixie top to create the impression of bald spots under thin, flyaway frizz. The script called for Barbara to have gray underwear in her drawer; Dench balked, arguing that women with flawless underwear, not to mention great manicures and good cars, can be deeply damaged nonetheless. But the clunky shoes, the shapeless skirts — they created the foundation on which Dench fashioned a woman almost everyone would find a way to dislike.

"The actual physical kind of demeanor of her. I mean, if you wear a kind of type of shoes and you wear a type of clothes, it informs the way you move. Your surroundings inform the way you move. The awkwardness of her, you know. She felt very awkward in Sheba's house. There were those terrible clothes she got dressed up in, and obviously she'd just been to the hairdresser's. The daughter saying, 'Are you going out somewhere?' And her having to say, 'I'm going out somewhere later on.' The unbearable thing of knowing that you've misjudged entirely."

But sweet in its way, no?

"Not too sweet. Sad. Sad for her."

Dench's previous cinematic roles bear not the slightest resemblance. She won an Oscar for her eight minutes as Queen Elizabeth I in "Shakespeare in Love"; more recently, she portrayed author Iris Murdoch during her descent into Alzheimer's disease, the sexy spymaster M in "Casino Royale," and the irrepressible wartime theater owner in "Mrs. Henderson Presents."

"Judi Dench is universally loved, and people usually identify with this magnificently generous, beautiful and brilliant person who often plays monarchs and has tremendous personal dignity," Eyre said in the production notes. "So to experience Judi Dench being caustic and acerbic and rather ungenerous we felt would be a wonderful, bracing shock. I mean, her portrait of Barbara is still deeply vulnerable, but this is not a nice woman, and I think from an audience's point of view to see Judi playing that will be quite refreshing."

Dench said the devious Barbara was merely a different character, not a different process.

"People say do you like the character or dislike her? It isn't a question of liking or disliking. You just try to make the person real. Understandable," Dench said.

"That's our job, of course. I mean, do you do crosswords? Well, you know how you can look at a crossword in the morning, and then put it down and come back to it in the afternoon, and suddenly fill in about four or five clues? Well now, that's not a coincidence. That's because you've seen it, and that incredible subconscious takes over. It's like the way we can come to a decision about something when you wake up after having had a very good night's sleep. Somehow, it works things out for you.

"I've known it when being directed, and somebody says something. With a lot of directors I have a shorthand, a code with. And they can say just one word, and I'll know exactly what they mean, and that's fed in and it kind of goes through like your computer, it kicks through something, and it might just bring out the shade that they require in a performance."

Stephen Frears, who worked with Dench on "Mrs. Henderson Presents" and a couple of theater productions, counseled her with two words: "Just careful," he'd say, and then tell her what she was supposed to be careful on. "And it's enough to just inform each little thing…. As I say, I can't do it without help."

Likewise, she said, she learned from Blanchett.

"She's got film acting," said Dench, who has spent most of her career — and the happiest moments of it — on stage. "She has, somebody said to me such a long time ago: Less is more. But you only have to work with somebody like Cate to realize that less is more. My first job as Ophelia [in 'Hamlet'] at the Old Vic, I was the maddest, mad as a cut snake I was. But in actual fact, I need only to have chosen a very small thing to do to signify her madness. And Cate has that down to such a degree. You just know how to play a scene with her. I think she's sublime, I do."

Common sense of loss

IN the role of Barbara, Dench clearly finds her character unappetizing yet can empathize with her need for human contact, having lost her husband, a costar in the long-running BBC comedy series "A Fine Romance." Of course, she says, that loss came after a lifetime of comfortable companionship, whereas Barbara never had a husband.

"She's had friendship she's obviously overpowered. You hear about her friend she's had in the past. She obviously kind of smothered her with affection, and in fact sometimes people have such a need in them, not only to be cared for, but to care for somebody. She needs a friend, but she also needs somebody to do things for, who needs her in return."

All roles, Dench has come to believe, have to start from somewhere inside, the mental memory chip of emotion without which, her late husband always counseled, it was impossible to effectively project emotion on stage. Dench, for years, argued with him. Then she realized he was right.

"Michael said your vision can't be greater than what you understand as a person. You understand within your vision — anger, jealousy, greed, whatever you have — it's the subconscious that does that. You hope that a kind of picture-book person inside you is taking those things down that you can then call on."

Coming back to Stratford, where Dench lived for more than a decade as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where she raised her daughter and where her closest family members are buried, has been a comfort, she said. So has playing to a live audience, which so far has responded enthusiastically to Dench's Mrs. Quickly, who in a departure from the traditional "Merry Wives" is hankering after fat Falstaff.

"Somebody asked me not long ago, does the audience make any difference? I said, the audience is the only person you're doing it for. Otherwise, I'd be at home. I wouldn't have to come out this evening," she said.

"Every audience is different. It's as if they get together beforehand and conspire. It's as if they think, 'We're going to be a very quiet audience,' or, 'We're going to be a very, very noisy audience.' They take on a personality, and you always know within a few minutes what kind of audience it's going to be. And they teach you something. They teach you everything about how to play. You listen to them like mad."



By John Hartl -- Film critic -- MSNBC -- December 21,2006

“I’m Barbara.”

By the end of “Notes on a Scandal,” Judi Dench has turned those words into the most threatening announcement in the English language. Playing a spinster schoolteacher who specializes in manipulating younger women, she suggests a shriveled, know-it-all vampire who has hung around for too many centuries.

The movie is one of the guilty pleasures of the season — it’s essentially an old-fashioned horror film, designed for audiences who prefer simple menace to buckets of blood — and it allows Dench and Cate Blanchett plenty of scenery to chew. They should give Helen Mirren a bit of competition at the Oscars, even if it’s token.

Looking about 20 years older than she does in “Casino Royale” (the camera deliberately turns her wrinkles into dunes), Dench doesn’t immediately unveil Barbara’s motives. She waits and watches as a new teacher, Sheba (Blanchett), makes her way at their London school, befriended by co-workers Barbara can’t tolerate even for a luncheon date.

Eventually Sheba and Barbara become close friends, as the talkative Sheba spills out far too much information about her home life, which includes a much older husband (Bill Nighy) and two children, one of them with Downs syndrome. When Barbara discovers that Sheba is having an affair with Steven (Andrew Simpson), an aggressive 15-year-old student, she feels both left out and excited.

Most of the characters are either victims or vipers, and of course the vipers get the best lines. Barbara uses academic intimidation to keep the headmaster and her fellow teachers in line; then she turns wickedly flirtatious when she’s taming Sheba. She also tries to work her way into the graces of Sheba’s family, though the husband and kids are minimally impressed.

Steven, who seduces Sheba by claiming to be abused at home, seems almost too worldly for 15. But then he is, as Barbara says, a “tower of testosterone,” and he’s willing to use all his wits to satisfy his lust. When he’s scored, Barbara, who does teach history, accurately predicts what he’ll do next to Sheba.

The plot, adapted by Patrick Marber (“Closer”) from a 2003 novel by Zoe Heller, takes a melodramatic turn when the lonely Barbara faces a crisis with her cat. This happens at the same moment that Sheba is dramatically unavailable, and Barbara makes a scene that couldn’t be more public — or contrived.

The director, Richard Eyre (who guided Dench through “Iris”), has a tough time steering the rest of the picture in a credible direction. At one point, he seems to have thrown up his hands and let the actors go so over the top that they can never find their way back. Nighy throws a tantrum, while Blanchett splashes on grotesque eye makeup and appears to be channeling Linda Blair’s throat contortions in “The Exorcist.”

The one actor who maintains control is Dench. Barbara also has her angry moments, but Dench mostly underplays them, allowing the character’s monstrous distortions of reality to surface without pushing them. It’s a chilling touch in a film that nearly loses it.


Connie E, USA -- Account of this film -- December 19, 2006

She's not Jean Hardcastle, that's for sure! Barbara Covett is played convincingly by a great actress
who inhabits the generally unlikable character. She is subtle even when crying over a sick cat. She is an Oscar winner for Best Actress if enough of the voters see this film and don't dislike her too much to
give her their vote. The film is a portrait of human frailties and provides few laughs along the way. This is an "R" rated movie.

It's Judi's chance to play Iago, Shakespeare's male villain in Othello. Iago gets mad at Othello for passing over him to promote the less qualified Cassio. Barbara, feeling slighted by Sheba (Cate Blanchett), responds out of proportion.

If you have read the book, you still don't know how the film ends. I didn't find any of the characters to be someone I wanted to hug - not even the hapless cat (portrayed convincingly by a tabby who sat still and did nothing - probably as directed by Richard Eyre.)

The plot does keep your interest, and I always look forward to seeing Judi's latest project. Just don't expect to love her character unless you're a very forgiving person.


Judi, Judi, Judi! I’ll Take Notes

By Rex Reed -- December 19, 2006 -- New York Observer

I know that they’ve been sleeping. I know they’re not awake. But I hoped in the year-end glut of holiday movies that the Hollywood Santa would be good for goodness’ sake. Instead of a turkey with trimmings, we got a bag of stale Chicken McNuggets. When the people who make movies yelled “It’s a wrap!”, they were not talking ribbons and bows. In the dozens of films I have seen in the past weeks, I have still seen nothing better than Babel and nothing worse than Borat. In keeping with past history, a mediocre year ended with some distinguished performances in films of little or no consequence. In this final column of 2006, here is the residue, followed by my annual choices of the Best and Worst of what happened in the last 365 days at the movies.

Notes on a Scandal wins my prize for the best acting of the year. It’s a film of scalding intensity, with a hypnotic, detailed, three-dimensional performance by Judi Dench that is positively historic! Yes, everyone knows she is arguably the greatest actress alive today, but nothing she has ever done will prepare you for this. In a role unlike any she has ever tackled, Dame Judi plays Barbara Covett, the antagonist of Zoë Heller’s acclaimed novel What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal, a lonely, repressed, aging and embittered veteran history teacher with lesbian tendencies who lives an isolated and barren existence with only her sick cat for company. Barbara yearns so desperately for companionship that when a new arts teacher—a feisty, attractive free spirit named Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett at her best)—joins the faculty, Barbara likes what she sees and spins a deceptive web of seduction that takes both women to places dark, dangerous and beyond imagination. Let the emotional fencing begin.

The doughy, cynical spinster’s infatuation with the tweedy blond novice progresses gingerly at first, as Barbara weaves Sheba into her counsel, pouring tea and dispensing advice on everything from choosing the right friends to classroom strategy (“Teaching is crowd control”). Analyzing everyone within spitting distance with one withering glance, Barbara is so humorous and bitchy that the naïve Sheba becomes disarmingly friendly and candid, unloading her intimate feelings to Barbara too fast, unaware that her new mentor is writing it all down in a journal. Sheba is married to a gregarious lawyer (Bill Nighy), the mother of a son with Down syndrome, and too vulnerable for her own good. When she makes the mistake of having a secret sexual affair with one of her 15-year-old students, Barbara seizes her moment of superiority. First threatening, then protecting her younger friend by not telling the authorities, Barbara cleverly places Sheba in her debt. It proves to be the ultimate tool that a masterful control freak dreams about. By the time Sheba finally ends the affair for good, she’s totally under the influence of “trusty old Barb.” Under the guise of friendship, Barbara maps out her plans for a final sexual conquest like a general strategizing a battle, and extends her power to poisoning Sheba’s marriage, alienating her loyalty to her children and destroying her life, career, reputation and self-esteem. The result is as much a thriller as it is a character study. The finale will turn your knees to jelly.

Greatness informs every scene. The brilliant screenplay is by Patrick Marber, who wrote Closer. The sensitive, illuminating direction is by Richard Eyre, the former head of the National Theatre and one of the world’s leading theater and film directors. (He directed Stage Beauty and Dame Judi in Iris.) The camerawork by the legendary Chris Menges captures a mood of suspense that is visually unshakable. And the performances boil the blood in your veins and freeze the breath in your throat at the same time. Watching Judi Dench orchestrate the ultimate downfall of another human being with diabolical cruelty and endearing charm is devastating. Ms. Blanchett holds her own, building to the explosion within her heart with a rage that is shocking. The internal complexity of their performances will leave you shattered. In a weak year, everything about Notes on a Scandal is electrifying.


Review of Notes on a Scandal

by Malinda Lo, December 20, 2006 -- Online Review

Early on in the new film Notes on a Scandal, aging British schoolteacher Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) looks down through a high-school window to watch dozens of young students pouring into the school yard. We see her from the vantage point of someone standing on the ground; her face is small and somewhat obscured by the glass, but the look of disdain on her face is clear.

It is an image that calls to mind the sinister Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca, at once trapped inside, yearning to be free, yet dismissive of the outside world. Barbara Covett peering through the window — like Mrs. Danvers, longing for her dead mistress — is symbolic of the madwoman in the attic, a metaphor that has long carried with it the heavy baggage of misogyny, mental illness and sexual repression. Amid these familiar storytelling tropes is the obvious elephant in the room: Barbara Covett is a closeted lesbian.

She is so closeted that even she does not admit to herself that she is a lesbian, although her relatives and her co-workers all seem to know that she is one; indeed, they ask after “Jennifer,” a woman whom Barbara previously presented to her family as her “companion.” But Jennifer, Barbara tells them with studied carelessness, has married and moved away. There is a new woman in Barbara's life: Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), the school's new art teacher.

Barbara immediately befriends Sheba, who is flighty and girlish and beautiful, and their relationship is never fully believable — until Barbara discovers Sheba having an affair with a 15-year-old male student, and threatens to reveal all to the school authorities. Now, there is a reason for them to be “friends”: Barbara could ruin Sheba at any moment.

The film is based on Zoe Heller's critically acclaimed novel, What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal (2003), which is written entirely from the perspective of Barbara, who keeps journals recording every moment of her relationship with Sheba. Barbara is critical and bitter, and judges everything and everyone she can in the pages of her notebooks.

In the film, Dench translates Barbara's cruelty and neediness from the page and into a grasping, emotionally stunted, withered woman who gazes with obsessive yearning at the young and vibrant Sheba, who is all physical passion and momentary delight. Barbara takes advantage of Sheba's weakness without apparent guilt or remorse.

Her obsession is not based on any real physical passion — she recoils at the accusation, late in the film, that she might desire Sheba sexually — but rather it seems to be based on a deep emotional void. She wants Sheba to fill it, and she won't take no for an answer. This is always the root of the lesbian stalker in film: emotional desire, not necessarily physical. That desire remains unspeakable, thereby underscoring the perversity of lesbianism.

The word “lesbian” itself is never uttered in the film at all, but nearly every other term that suggests deviant female sexuality is employed to describe Barbara. She is called a witch; she is called a vampire. Even worse, she is called a spinster and a virgin — something that is simply pathetic for a woman at her advanced age. In Notes on a Scandal, all of the stereotypical qualities of the psychotic lesbian stalker are laid upon the character of Barbara Covett.

The character of Sheba does not fare much better. She is married to a much older man and has a sexual affair with a teenage student. She is practically the main character in a morality play that warns women to make an appropriate match with a man, or else risk becoming a dried-up old spinster with lesbian stalker tendencies.

But the vast majority of critics who have reviewed Notes on a Scandal — which has been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards — lavish praise on the film, completely ignoring the thick thread of sexism and homophobia that binds this thriller together.

Dave Edelstein of New York magazine writes tolerantly, “Anyone who has ever felt possessive about a friend will recognize him- or herself in Barbara Covett's covetousness.” Newsweek says that Barbara is “a deliciously nasty piece of work.” And Time praises Notes on a Scandal as “the perfect antidote to all those warm, forgiving schoolboy dramas we've endured through the years.”

Though several critics acknowledge that Barbara is “a scheming lesbian” (Time) and that the film pulls out “the obsessive lesbian-stalker angle” (Variety), only Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Reporter is clued in to the sexism in the script: “in tone and theme, the film has all the hallmarks of playwright-screenwriter Marber's stark, uncompromising misanthropy, if not misogyny,” he writes.

And perhaps it is not surprising that so far the only review to point out the film's problematic portrait of a lesbian is The Advocate, which notes somewhat mildly, “the role does not in any way fit the notion of a politically correct gay character.”

Political correctness, it is true, is not a hallmark of Notes on a Scandal. But can the skill of Dench and Blanchett — who do deliver excellent performances — excuse the problematic story itself? Is there room for a film in which a stereotypical, psychotic lesbian exists and, in fact, is rendered larger-than-life in all her wicked, shocking glory?

For me, there was nothing “delicious” about Notes on a Scandal. After leaving the screening, I felt distinctly disturbed — and not in a good way. Perhaps I lack a sense of humor. Or perhaps I simply haven't seen enough of this year's earnest, Oscar-chasing films to be able to praise Notes on a Scandal as “a satisfyingly nasty awards-season tonic” (Variety).

Notes on a Scandal was extremely disheartening. One year after Brokeback Mountain brought a gay love story to mainstream audiences, featuring mainstream actors and a mainstream director, where is the lesbian equivalent? We get Notes on a Scandal, starring the Oscar-winning Judi Dench and the Oscar-winning Cate Blanchett. You couldn't ask for a more stellar cast. But the story itself seems to claw its way up from the dusty 1950s and '60s, when films like The Children's Hour underscored the perversity of lesbianism.

When I left the screening room after watching Notes on a Scandal, I thought to myself: I would never, ever, recommend this movie to anyone who has even the slightest difficulty with accepting lesbianism. The problem is this: Notes on a Scandal is very well made. It has the ring of truth that only A-list actors can bring to an art film. It is, in fact, so convincingly professional that most critics can easily overlook the stereotypes embedded in the film, blinded by the glamour of Dench and Blanchett's skillful acting.

But Dench and Blanchett do not excuse the film. Notes on a Scandal is one of the most sexist and homophobic films I have ever seen.



December 18, 2006 -- New York Magazine

As Barbara Covett, the diarist narrator of the deliciously overripe psychodrama Notes on a Scandal, Judi Dench regards the world with pruney disdain—with pursed, shriveled lips and a tongue always poised to deliver acid rejoinders. But on the inside, this little gargoyle is roiling with passions—and ever in search of a female soul mate. She’s certain she has found one in Sheba (short for Bathsheba), the new art instructor at the London high school where she teaches and played by a blonde Cate Blanchett, who is airy yet ripe, breathtakingly beautiful yet somehow unfinished: tantalizing prey. When Barbara spies Sheba going down on a 15-year-old student, she knows she has a royal road into the young woman’s confidences.

The film, directed by Richard Eyre and written by Patrick Marber (from a book by Zoë Heller), does nothing to soften Barbara’s monstrous narcissism, which borders, at times, on the delusional. And yet she is, as they say, quite a character. Her stratagems, heard in voice-over (“She has nowhere to turn but trusty old Barb”), would make Richard III smile approvingly, and when her emotions are aroused she’s a banshee—she’s feral. It’s appalling to watch the trap close on Sheba, who is married to a much older man (the delightful Bill Nighy) and has two children, one with Down syndrome. She’s self-destructing anyway—she feels smothered by her life (full of love as it is). When she tells her new friend “family doesn’t give you meaning, it gives you an imperative,” Barbara doesn’t hear that as the cry of a disturbed young woman but as an invitation to liberate her.

Notes on a Scandal is another squirm-und-drang movie: too creepy-sad to be a comedy, too intense to watch quietly, without letting out frequent whoops. The score, by Philip Glass, is a study in egregiousness—the usual busy undercurrents with a top layer of bombast. But it does suggest something of Barbara’s turbulent inner life, and it gives the picture momentum. Anyone who has ever felt possessive about a friend will recognize him- or herself in Barbara Covett’s covetousness. And anyone who loves live-wire acting will gasp in awe at Blanchett, more emotionally exposed than ever, and, most of all, at Dame Judi, who’s so electric she makes you quiver. —Reviewed by David Edelstein, New York Magazine


January / February 2007 Issue of Premiere Magazine


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

EXCL: Patrick Marber on Notes on a Scandal

Source: Edward Douglas December 14, 2006 -- Coming Soon Online Interview

Writer Patrick Marber certainly has a flair for the dramatic.

After adapting his own play Closer into a film for Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Clive Owen and Natalie Portman, he adapted Patrick McGrath's novel Asylum into an intense thriller starring Natasha Richardson and Ian McKellen. Both films dealt with the serious subject matter of love, betrayal and obsession, as does his forthcoming adaptation of Zoë Heller's novel, Notes on a Scandal, which stars Judi Dench and Cate Blachett. The venerable actresses play schoolteachers whose relationship deteriorates when the elder teacher discovers an affair between the younger woman and one of her students.

It might be surprising to learn that the writer of these riveting dramas that leave you shaking and in a sweat, actually got his start as a comedian and comedy writer for Steve Coogan, something Marber had a chance to explain to when we sat down for a chat with this fascinating British writer. Did the producers come to you to adapt Zoë Heller's book into a movie?

Patrick Marber: Yes, Scott Rudin acquired the movie rights, sent the book to me in 2003. The weird thing was the night before I received the book, my wife was in bed reading the novel and going "Oh, this is great!" "Oh, I love this, this is hilarious, you've got to read this!" And I was like, "Finish it and I will." And then the next day in the post, the book arrived from Scott going, "Do you want to do this book?" I was very excited to read it because my wife had been having such a good time with it. I read it over one weekend and called Scott on Monday and said, "Yes, I'd love to do it, but God knows how." Have you read the book? It's really difficult, daunting when you read it, to think how do you do this as a film and yet, such an amazing protagonist to work with. So I was really seduced by wanting to put Barbara on screen. I thought that this was such a great movie character.

CS: Had you worked with Scott before?

Marber: Yes, him and Robert Fox produced "Closer" on Broadway and then they were the executive producers on the Mike Nichols film, so I've known them both for a long time.

CS: I know the book was written long before the whole Mary Kay Letourneau incident…

Marber: Yeah, but there was still a lot of that about, these cases in England. While I was writing the screenplay and while we were making the film, friends were sending me cuttings all the time like "Here's another one!" They seem to be happening once every three or four months in England and here, obviously.

CS: From your comedy background, one wouldn't think of you as someone to do these dark thrillers but you seem to be doing a lot of them.

Marber: Yeah, well they are dark, but I think of them as comedies really. I think "Notes on a Scandal" is fundamentally, it's a drama… it's funny up until to a point, and then it's not. But you see even when it's at its darkest, that's when it makes me laugh the most. It's the sort of awfulness of what happens and the mess that people make. It's a very strange story, and I love that. There isn't anything quite like it, and I suppose that was one of the things when I read the book. I know exactly who this woman is, this Barbara, but I've never seen a story about a woman quite like this, so that was very attractive to me. Then Scott said, "Wouldn't it be great if we could get Judi [Dench] to do it."

CS: Oh, you knew that Judi Dench might play the part even before writing it?

Marber: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think Scott had sent Judi the novel and said that, "I want Patrick Marber to write this. Are you at all interested?" And Judi said, "Yeah, I'd be really interested to read the screenplay." So she knew it was coming, so it was quite a lot of pressure while I was writing it, thinking, "Sh*t, I hope Judi likes this."

CS: One of the great things about the film is that distinctive voice-over, so were you thinking of it in her voice while writing it?

Marber: Well, not in her voice, because I didn't know what voice Judi would use for it, 'cause she doesn't do it entirely in her own accent. It's slightly… she makes Barbara less posh than she is. And I was sort of writing it for Cate [Blanchett] too. I'd said to Scott when I read the book, "Well, you've got Judi, fantastic! But Cate would be fantastic, too. What do you think?" And he said, "Look, well write it, let's see." We both wanted those two and [director] Richard Eyre fortunately agreed and the actors wanted to do it, so it all fell into place pretty quickly. By the time I'd written the second draft, we had the director and the two actors and the studio, so it was great.

CS: Had you worked with Cate before?

Marber: Well, Cate was going to be in "Closer" and I know Cate pretty well, because my wife's an actor and they've done a play together in London in 1989, so I've known Cate a while.

CS: She was going to be in the play of "Closer"?

Marber: No, they'd done a David Hare play called "Plenty" in the West End, so we'd all become friends, and then Mike Nichols cast Cate in "Closer." She was going to do the movie, and then she got pregnant. We nearly worked together then, so yeah, it was very nice to work together here.

CS: When you got this book from Scott, did you get in touch with the author Zoë Heller?

Marber: Yes, very much so. That was the first thing I did, because it's very important to me that the novelist is happy with who's adapting their work. It's also very important to me that the novelist doesn't want to adapt it themselves, because I'd immediately walk away. I don't want to have that relationship with someone where I'm going to be very intimate with their work and commit an act of piracy on it—by which I mean plundering what I want, rejecting what I don't want—you commit kind of an act of loving violence on a book. I wanted to make sure that the novelist was okay about that, and that she basically approved of me as the writer. We met in New York, and at the time I was in New York working with Mike Nichols on "Closer." I met with Zoë one evening, and we had a nice chat where I said, "This is what I think I'm going to do. These are the changes I'm going to make. What do you feel about it?" and she said, "Fine, fine, do whatever you want." Her father was a screenwriter, famous one, Lucas Heller, he wrote "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane," funnily enough, and she's married to one as well. So she knows what screenwriters do, and she said, "Look, I really like you as a writer. Thank you for having this conversation. I don't want to do this myself. Do whatever you want. I'll read it if you want me to, I won't if you don't." And I said that I did want her to read it and she read every draft and gave notes. It was a proper process.

CS: Did you have the same sort of relationship with Patrick McGrath when you adapted "Asylum"?

Marber: Exactly the same, and I pride myself on still being friends with Patrick and still being friends with Zoë. It really matters to me, because I love their novels. It's interesting you say that because "Asylum" and "Notes on a Scandal" are the same story, not exactly the same—a woman has a transgressive affair and an older person observes that affair from a distance and uses that to try to get closer to the woman. It's sort of similar, but completely different and I probably shouldn't mention "Asylum" in a "Notes on a Scandal" interview, because it was death at the box office.

CS: Well, I liked it, and I know others who did as well, including Rex Reed, who raved about it!

Marber: Yes, he loved it! Well, I hope it's one of those films that over the years, people go "That was a good film!" I liked it.

CS: It's interesting you compare the two movies, because obsession seems to be a heavy theme in much of your recent work. How did that end up being something you write so much about?

Marber: It's not so much that I'm interested in obsession. I'm just interested in characters who are extreme or who are pushed into extreme situations psychologically, because I feel that gives me more to write about, and I'm turned on by that. So I'm always looking for material where people are going to transgress their normal moral position, because I think watching someone slide is very, very interesting. I'm just drawn to that. The next film I'm writing, which again is even more difficult to write than "Notes on a Scandal," I'm going to do Ian McEwan's "Saturday" which is seemingly impossible, and the protagonist in that is content and this will be my first content protagonist. So yeah, I'm interested in that, but generally yeah, I want to write stories of conflict and people who are in conflict with themselves. That interests me.

CS: I'm very surprised how somebody who started in comedy has made a name for himself by writing tense drama. Was that something that was always just bubbling under?

Marber: It feels the same. The comedy I wrote was quite dark. I worked a lot with a character comedian called Steve Coogan. Have you seen "Alan Partridge"? Obviously, it's different, but it's kind of the same. It's characters and it's people saying words, and Alan Partridge is kind of a lunatic self-obsessed guy interviewing funny people. It's different but it's still writing and it's still difficult. It felt like a big leap when I wrote my first play, back in the mid-'90s, 'cause I went from being a comedian to being a playwright over the period of a year. That felt like a huge leap. Once I started writing dramas, then writing movies seemed like a logical progression from that. That was the really big step, suddenly writing a play, and the motor of it being the story rather than just an opportunity to write jokes.

CS: Let's talk about directors. We know you work with the novelists while adapting it, but once you have a script done, do you just hand it to the director and are hands off?

Marber: Hell, no! I'm there! It varies a lot. Richard [Eyre] comes from a theatre, he's very collaborative, wants the writer around. We were to and fro a lot. David McKenzie [director of "Asylum"] not from the theatre, totally different attitude to the writer. Happy for me to be on the set, but at the time, my wife was having a baby while he was filming "Asylum" so I didn't go on set. It was multiple locations, but once we'd done our work on "Asylum," David felt it was his script, but he didn't change it. Richard I think liked having me around on the set. It was the same with Mike Nichols [director of "Closer"], he wanted me there in case something came up or something didn't work. I kind of enjoyed both. Sometimes it's nice not to be there. Sometimes it's great to be there, it varies.

CS: I noticed that your first play "Dealer's Choice" was about poker. Has anyone had an interest in adapting that into a film?

Marber: When the play was on, Film Four wanted to do it, and they actually commissioned me to write a screenplay of it and paid me. I failed to write the screenplay, so I had to give them the money back. There have been approaches over the years, and I've always held it back because it's my first play, it's very precious to me, not because it's so great or anything, but because it's my first play and it changed my life. It made me a writer rather than a comic, so I don't know. I'm just holding onto it, I just don't know what for. I just don't feel like selling it to anyone. I just think if someone's going to do a movie of it, either I'll do it or it'll never get done.

CS: You mean you'd want to actually direct it as a film?

Marber: Might want to direct it or might just want to be able to control the screenplay. I might want to write one on spec and then give it to a director I like, but the truth is that it's not really a movie. It's a play set in three rooms, and it's about six guys playing a game of cards.

CS: The subject matter of poker just seems so huge here and everyone is so obsessed with it. A good portion of the new Bond movie is just them playing a game of poker.

Marber: Oh, is it really? I'm going to have to go see it. Oh my God! But I wonder which of the writers wrote that scene. Do you think that Paul Haggis brought that to it? I'm so annoyed I didn't get the job. I'd love to write a Bond movie, who wouldn't?

CS: Now that you're writing movies, are you still interested in writing plays?

Marber: I have just written a play; it's in rehearsals at the moment in London. It's a play version of Molière's "Don Juan" [called "Don Juan in Soho"]. Rhys Ifans is playing the lead Don Juan, and he's amazing.

CS: Your theatre work has been referred to as "in your face theatre"…

Marber: Oh, no, that was just some guy who wrote a book, and I really didn't want to be in a book called "In Your Face Theatre" and I told him that, but he said, "I'm putting you in the book anyway." That was what he came up with, that phrase, for a group of playwrights at the time, and I said, "We're not in your face playwrights. You diminish us by calling us that." And he said, "Well, I've sent it to the publishers, that's what the book's called."

CS: So you wouldn't consider your movies "in your face filmmaking" I guess.

Marber: Well, I wouldn't mind Julia Roberts in my face, she's okay. I take the phrase "in your face" to imply some kind of aggressive thing, and I didn't think "Closer" was an aggressive film. I thought it was a rather elegant film. In a way, I think, "Notes on a Scandal" is a more aggressive film.

CS: As far as returning to comedy, do you still keep in touch with Steve Coogan?

Marber: Yeah, yeah, yeah… we have vague plans to do an Alan Partridge movie at some point. Yeah, we talk about stuff all the time.

CS: Do you think it would be hard for that to translate over here, since so few people know about that show?

Marber: No, it would just be a funny character hopefully, but I don't know if we'll ever get 'round to it. It's just one of those things we talk about, have done for five years.

CS: What are your feelings on the whole awards thing? I remember being rather upset when "Closer" didn't get nominated for your screenplay.

Marber: I was upset, too!

CS: Do you think that the writers' branch of the Academy might favor American writers for some reason?

Marber: I really don't know. I hope not, but I really don't think so. Some British writers have won prizes. Julian Fellowes won for "Gosford Park." I just felt they didn't like the screenplay enough to nominate it, that's fair enough. All these awards, for writers they actually mean something because you get paid more, and it puts you on some other list, I guess, but it's not why you write the stuff. It's not why you do it.

Patrick Marber's latest, his adaptation of Notes on a Scandal, opens in select cities on December 27.


Notes on a Scandal

GLENN KENNY'S REVIEW (posted 12/12/06) -- Premiere Magazine

Dame Judi Dench goes nuts with the acting in this high-calorie melodrama, based on a novel by Zoë Heller and adapted by screenwriter Patrick Marber (Closer) and director Richard Eyre (Stage Beauty). Dench plays Barbara Covett, a fearsome history teacher at a British comprehensive school (you know, the type that used to get called a battle-axe) who develops an unhealthy interest in the school's fresh-faced new art teacher, Sheba Hart (Blanchett again, better here than in German). Said interest is countered, or rather inflamed, by Barbara's contempt for Sheba's "trendy politics" and, to Barbara at least, distasteful family: older husband, pouty teen daughter, down syndrome-afflicted son. Said contempt, which is expressed via Barbara's journal, is recited in pungent tones by Dench in voice-over. (Yes, this is another one of those movies wherein the smartest person in the room is also the most emotionally stunted, vindictive, etc.) When Covett (and how about that last name, folks?) discovers Sheba's grievously ill-advised sexual affair with a statutorily young student, she sees a chance to "protect" her new "friend" — in the mad hope, of course, to enfold her and steal her away. When things look not to work out as planned, a betrayal explodes the whole situation. If the resultant wreckage is a little underwhelming, and the film's coda useless and trite, the getting there is pretty absorbing: Marber's dialogue is cutting, Eyre's direction brisk, and the interplay between Dench and Blanchett (who, as a relative naëf, kind of has to play straight woman — no pun intended, given the nature of Covett's pursuit of Hart — to Dame Judi) convincingly roiling.


Notes On A Scandal

Geoffrey Macnab in London 11 December 2006 --

Judi Dench’s superb performance galvanises Notes On A Scandal, Richard Eyre’s impressive and acutely observed adaptation of the Booker-nominated novel. Probing away relentlessly at such uncomfortable issues as paedophilia, class envy, sexual jealousy and blackmail, it is a film that has the same queasy, claustrophobic feel as such 1960s British films as The Servant or The Killing Of Sister George.

The film is bound to receive critical applause (and potentially awards recognition as well) for Dench and Cate Blanchett, but Notes suffers from a certain generic confusion that may make it tough to market. Early on, as we hear Dench’s voice-over, it appears that this is shaping up as yet another of those well-crafted but stolid literary adaptations that British cinema specialises in. Later on, the hysteria catches hold and the film lurches into the realm of Gothic melodrama.

The challenge for Fox (which releases the film in the US on Christmas Day and in the UK in early 2007) is to try to appeal to two very different groups: the older, upscale audiences, who relish seeing Dench in films like Iris and Ladies In Lavender; and younger cinemagoers who’ll be attracted by the horror elements, tight plotting and whiff of scandal. If both constituencies can be kept happy, box-office should be reasonably brisk.

The beautiful Sheba Hart (Blanchett) has just joined St George’s School in north London as the new art teacher. Her arrival is noted by her colleague Barbara Covett (Dench), who confides to her diary that she can’t work out whether the novice “is a sphinx or simply stupid.” She is clearly attracted to Sheba, who is a hopeless teacher, and helps her quell a near riot in her classroom.

The key moment comes when Barbara spies on Sheba having sex with a 15-year-old boy, the freckle-faced Steven Connelly (Andrew Simpson) – and it’s her knowledge of this scandalous affair that gives her the leverage to force her way into Sheba’s life. By deciding not to reveal Sheba’s indiscretion to the headmaster (a stickler for propriety), she not only seems to save the younger woman’s career but her marriage too. But Barbara’s silence comes at a price.

Eyre allows the audience to see most of the events from Barbara’s viewpoint. She may be an embittered and lonely lesbian but she has an eye for absurdity and a very sharp turn of phrase. Like the kids in the school, with their feral instinct for honing in on any weakness in a teacher, she can immediately spot the unhappiness and tension in others’ lives. With her cunning and her craving for acceptance, she sometimes seems like an older spinster version of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley. “They do things differently in bourgeois bohemia,” she tells her diary with disdain after lunching with Sheba and her family, Sheba’s Down’s Syndrome son, her petulant daughter and much older husband (Bill Nighy).

In contrast Sheba is a more ambivalent figure. On the one hand, she is vacillating and self-pitying (“a fey person” as Barbara calls her.) Initially, it is hard to have too much sympathy with her when she starts her affair with the 15-year-old boy, but later she becomes a sort of Madame Bovary of the London suburbs, a woman clinging to her youth who has somehow convinced herself she should be allowed to misbehave after spending so many years looking after her disabled son. She is as open and ingenuous as Barbara is closed and manipulative. “He’s 16 in May... it’s not as if she is some innocent,” she protests in an attempt to justify her own behaviour.

The two lead actresses work well together. Dench admirably makes us care for a character who is lonely, vulnerable and sexually unfulfilled as well as full of malice. At the same time the spite is still there: think of Bette Davis at her most curdled and cruel in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane or The Nanny and you’ll come close to the essence of what Dench captures here.

Cate Blanchett, a very strong actress, doesn’t at first glance seem natural casting to play such a weak-willed figure as Sheba, but she gives a subtle and ultimately moving performance.

Patrick Marber’s screenplay ensures that the focus on characterisation is combined with satirical bite and real narrative drive. Eyre largely avoids prurience and ensures the film retains humour and pathos, even at its darkest moments. The cleverly observed coda helps it end on a note that is both chilling and surprisingly upbeat - and even offers the remote possibility that Barbara could return.

Technical credits are noteworthy, with the recruitment of Philip Glass as composer an especially astute decision. His heady, atmospheric score, at times reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann’s music for Hitchcock, adds a sense of dramatic scale and tension that a film set against the backdrop of a north London school might not otherwise enjoy.

Veteran cinematographer Chris Menges throws in some eye-catching close-ups of Blanchett at her most luminous while helping give the piece a visual dynamism.


Mad women on rampage in "Scandal"

The Hollywood Reporter -- December 11, 2006

This may run counter of the auteur theory, but "Notes on a Scandal" feels much more like a film by writer Patrick Marber than by director Richard Eyre. Eyre does a fine job overseeing performances by a terrific cast that rings true until female hysteria takes over the final act. But in tone and theme, the film has all the hallmarks of playwright-screenwriter Marber's stark, uncompromising misanthropy, if not misogyny.

That would mean neurotic women daring to experiment with unconventional if not outlaw sexual relationships ("Asylum") and the depiction of love as tawdry acts of betrayal and exploitation ("Closer"). While "Scandal" is indeed based on a novel by another writer, Zoe Heller's "What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal," Marber never bothers to import into his screen version any of the wit or subtlety that so pleased its literary critics. Instead, he goes for a dispiriting hard-heartedness.

To whom will such a film appeal? To misanthropes perhaps? Perhaps lonely, bitter folks with no Christmas bird to share with friends or family. Remarkably, Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench almost make sense of these extreme characters. Possibly enough enthusiasts of these fine actresses may turn out to deliver a modest art house boxoffice for Fox Searchlight.

The story tells of a scandal provoked by a colossally foolish affair between a married female schoolteacher and a 15-year-old male student. The arrival of art teacher Sheba Hart (Blanchett) at a comprehensive high school in north London catches everyone off guard. Her slightly bohemian manner and oddly out-of-fashion attire furrows the brows of fellow teachers and provokes sex-crazed male students. One student, Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson), pursues her with great ardor. He has about him just enough modest artistic talent and a whiff of poverty within an abusive household to provoke her unhealthy interest.

Sheba appears to have a content home life with a lawyer husband several years her senior (Bill Nighy), a teen daughter (Juno Temple) at a difficult age and a cheerful son (Max Lewis) with Down syndrome. Perhaps that contentment comes from this being a household of "semiprofessional drinkers."

But none of these characters narrate the story. That tasks falls to diarist Barbara Covett (Dench), a history teacher nearing retirement who describes herself as a "battle-ax." Barbara takes the novice teacher under her wing. When she discovers the affair, she acts as mother confessor. When it becomes public knowledge, she acts as Sheba's only defender.

However, she proves both an unreliable narrator and friend. She sees Sheba's dilemma as a personal opportunity to gain the upper hand in the relationship. Marber's screen adaptation makes it clear that Barbara's friendship with and defense of Sheba springs from a strong Sapphic impulse.

Barbara believes the affair puts this good-looking woman in her power. When that power fails her, when Sheba shows insufficient compassion for her dying cat -- a cat, for Pete's sake -- Barbara makes certain rumors will spread, thereby destroying Sheba's life and family. From this point on, female hysteria reigns, egged on by an unusually emotional Philip Glass score.

For a while, two of the finest actresses in cinema make these characters believable. Nothing they do in the final act, however, retains this credibility. Nighy certainly earns our sympathy, though we don't really get to know the man. The youngsters are more props than flesh-and-blood characters, more like Barbara's cat, in fact.

On the plus side, the film nicely surveys the scruffy, genteel sections of contemporary London thanks to excellent design by Tim Hatley and cinematography by Chris Menges.


Notes on a Scandal -- By JUSTIN CHANG -- December 8, 2006 -- Variety

Five years after their sensitive collaboration on "Iris," Richard Eyre guides Judi Dench to another pitch-perfect performance -- make that bitch-perfect -- in "Notes on a Scandal," a deviously entertaining account of one woman's indiscretions as related by a not-so-disinterested third party. If the results suggest a crafty British spin on the Mary Kay Letourneau saga, the riveting interplay between Dench and Cate Blanchett draws blood with every scene, thanks to a precision-honed script and Eyre's equally incisive direction. Dazzling star combo and appreciative reviews will prove especially enticing to older, literate audiences, yielding solid specialized returns for the Fox Searchlight pic.

Zoe Heller's compelling 2003 novel unraveled the sordid tale of a schoolteacher's affair with one of her young pupils, taking the form of a coolly perceptive and bitingly funny diary written by a close friend. The book's subversive achievement was to project the diarist's own gaze back upon herself, turning a salacious tabloid tale into a subtle and revelatory act of confession.

What Heller achieved through tricky literary technique, Eyre and scribe Patrick Marber ("Closer") have inevitably rendered more explicitly, playing up the obsessive lesbian-stalker angle with a discreet nod in the direction of "Fatal Attraction." What makes "Notes on a Scandal" more than just a Lifetime-ready psychothriller -- as well as a satisfyingly nasty awards-season tonic -- is the ruthless economy of its execution from start to finish.

From the outset, Dench's acerbic narration gives voice to the innermost thoughts of London schoolteacher Barbara Covett, a lonely spinster who reserves her bitter judgments of the world solely for her private journal and, by extension, the viewer. A juicy atmosphere of collusion thus established, Barbara begins to take an interest in Sheba Hart (Blanchett), the svelte, good-natured and very attractive woman who has just joined the faculty as an art teacher (and whose name is, not coincidentally, short for Bathsheba).

The two women become friends after Barbara gives the inexperienced Sheba a crash course in student discipline; in turn, Barbara is invited to lunch with Sheba, her significantly older husband Richard (a terrifically boisterous Bill Nighy), moody teenage daughter Polly (Juno Temple) and Down syndrome son Ben (Max Lewis).

With Barbara providing acid commentary on every detail, the film etches a fine-grained portrait of the Harts' bustling bourgeois lifestyle, with Blanchett ably conveying Sheba's love for her family as well as the quiet dissatisfaction of a woman who married too young and began her career too late.

Sheba's discontent becomes clear when Barbara peeks into her classroom after hours and spies the woman in a compromising position with one of her students, working-class Irish youth Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson, unnervingly blurring the line between schoolboy innocence and sexual menace). Plot point reps a departure from the novel that makes Barbara a much more overtly malevolent figure, as the seeds of manipulation hinted at in the book become a full-throttle portrait of emotional blackmail.

Immediately, Barbara confronts Sheba, who, in a series of flashbacks, tearfully confesses the romantic entanglement that began with private tutorial sessions and culminated in messy trysts near the railroad tracks. Realizing the power she wields over her "friend," Barbara agrees to keep the affair a secret, though it's clear from her insinuating, creepily intimate manner that Sheba is still on thin ice.

Bravura sequence reps an impressively cinematic weave and shows an unfussy command of the material, from Marber's intensely focused adaptation -- much of the dialogue lifted from Heller's book, but pared down without losing its bite or character nuances -- to John Bloom and Antonia Van Drimmelen's tight editing and the sinister, weblike repetitions of Philip Glass' score.

But "Notes on a Scandal" is first and foremost an actors' showcase, and Dench rises ferociously to the occasion with her juiciest, most substantial performance since "Iris" and arguably "Mrs. Brown." Using her frumpy, diminutive stature as a weapon, Dench's Barbara invites the viewer (like Sheba) to pity her loneliness, so it registers as a genuine shock when she exposes the borderline-psychotic levels of neediness underneath.

Worlds away from her work in this year's "Babel" and "The Good German," Blanchett convinces utterly as the willowy, self-destructive Sheba. Thesp manages the tricky task of portraying the woman's actions as foolish and reckless while commanding one's sympathy, even understanding.

Eyre's veteran legit experience shows in a few scenes that barely steer clear of histrionics, particularly in the later going. But he doesn't hold back during the inevitable showdown between Dench and Blanchett, who happily pull out all the stops in a climactic scene that could have been even longer. Denouement strikes an abrupt but fitting note of muted creepiness.

Though not a period piece like Eyre's "Iris" and "Stage Beauty," pic's workaday settings have been outfitted with extreme care, from Tim Hatley's costumes to Caroline Smith's sets. Chris Menges' vibrant lensing generates a palpable heat, perfectly in keeping with the emotions roiling beneath this superbly executed thriller.



Far deadlier than the male

Judi Dench's next role is the latest in a long line of brilliantly monstrous female leads

Liz Hoggard -- Sunday December 3, 2006 -- The Observer

Although Helen Mirren is the frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar for The Queen, another contender is creeping up in the fast lane. When Richard Eyre's Notes on a Scandal opens in the States in two weeks (just in time to qualify for nominations; it opens here in February), viewers will be treated to yet another barnstorming performance by a British dame. Judi Dench is superb as embittered spinster Barbara in the screen version of Zoe Heller's hit novel.

Dench plays a manipulative teacher drawn to her younger female colleague (Cate Blanchett's bohemian art teacher, Sheba). At first she considers them kindred spirits, but when their relationship is tested after Sheba has an affair with a pupil, her revenge is terrible. Barbara is a brilliant addition to cinema's regiment of monstrous females. Think of Kathy Bates in Misery; Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?; or Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George. It's not often cinema is brave enough to offer us a wholly unlikable female lead - which is what makes them so powerful. By contravening proper feminine modes of behaviour and dress, these women refuse to accept the patriarchal order. They are also great fun: we get to live out their transgressive behaviour without any of the consequences.

Patrick Marber, who has adapted Heller's novel for the screen, loves screen bitches. 'I remember seeing David Lean's Great Expectations when I was about 10. Miss Havisham and the cruel Estella always intrigued me. I was terrified. But one couldn't help wanting to have Estella be one's friend - as Pip did.'

In many ways the bitch is an abnormal hero. Monstrous in her display of traditional masculine (ie un-feminine) behaviour, she eats up the scenery. The scenes between Dame Judi and Bill Nighy, as Sheba's louche older husband, are a joy to watch. But Marber also invests Barbara with pathos: we sense the loneliness of a woman forced to spin out a trip to the launderette for the whole weekend. 'I love Barbara!' Marber insists. 'I don't think she's a monster at all. She behaves monstrously but haven't we all, now and then? And she does sincerely believe - albeit deludedly - that Sheba is better off with her than with anyone else.'

In films that deal with the 'monstrous feminine', women's bodies pose a threat either because they are too sexually alluring (Isabelle Huppert in The Piano Teacher) or because they dare to be physically repulsive. Dench nails Barbara to a T, from her terrible frizzy hairstyle to those primly ironed blouses. It's an astonishingly unvain performance - a million miles away from her current role as the glamorous M in Casino Royale

The great thing about Heller's novel, shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize, is we get two killer roles for actresses over 35 (Blanchett is equally impressive as the hippy-dippy Sheba). But while Heller offers us psychological insight into both characters, you can't help feeling Marber is rather smitten by Barbara, who dominates the film. 'She's as tough on herself as she is on others, I rather admire that.'

But is the female grotesque really so subversive - or just a reductionist scapegoat? Like 'Sister George' and Annie Wilkes in Misery, Barbara is a middle-aged spinster with repressed sapphic yearnings. Doesn't that make her a bit of a male cliché? Marber insists gender is irrelevant. 'I just read the book and felt happy to spend a year imagining myself into Barbara's universe. Maybe that makes me grotesque!' For the record he doesn't think Barbara is gay. ' I think she's asexual, probably a virgin. She has fixations, or what people at my school used to call a "pash". I don't think her "desires" are coherent - even to herself. She writes of being "companions". This is not a euphemism. It's a vaguely imagined quasi-Bloomsbury notion she has.'

The monstrous female tends to be punished in cinema: no doubt to staunch all that libidinous female energy. But Marber has created an ambiguous new ending for Notes on a Scandal. Perhaps Barbara has learned something important about herself by the end? Marber is having none of it. 'I just love it that Barbara doesn't learn anything. Zero redemption. She simply endures.'


From Daily Variety -- November 2006


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


Trailer Trash

Jason Solomons -- Sunday November 26, 2006 -- The Observer

Excerpt from the article

Coming soon...

... Judi Dench's sixth Oscar nomination. She's unbearably scary and sad in Notes on a Scandal (released on 2 Feb 2007), a sort of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? set in north London. It's based on Zoe Heller's novel, with Dench playing schoolteacher battleaxe Barbara who takes the beautiful, bohemian art teacher Sheba (Cate Blanchett) under her suffocating wing after Sheba embarks on a reckless affair with a pupil. There's something deliciously gothic about the whole enterprise and Dame Judi is as you've never seen her before. It's a turn almost as startling as when Anthony Hopkins became Hannibal Lecter.


Writing unspoken lines

How do you set a sexual affair to music?
Philip Glass does the honors in "Notes on a Scandal."

By Choire Sicha, The Envelope -- November 8, 2006

In "Notes on a Scandal," a teacher named Barbara (Judi Dench) spies a colleague (Cate Blanchett) having a sexual encounter with a teenage student.

"We don't see very much of what they're doing," said Philip Glass, 69, the film's composer. "What we do see is the shock and disgust and horror in Barbara's face."

First, Glass scored the scene with turbulence. "I tried that, and it turned into a burlesque -- very vulgar," he said. And then he realized the scene "had to do with something Barbara was experiencing. Not what they were experiencing."

Discussions with director Richard Eyre and Scott Rudin, one of the producers ("He loves to talk about things like this"), influenced how music would describe Blanchett's affair.

"Was it just a sexual encounter?" they asked. Or "a grab at youth and vitality?"

Glass' score for the similarly dramatic "The Hours" was famously clarion, speedy, almost overwhelming. But here, he said, "in emotional scenes, the music gets slower rather than faster." There are quick repeated, modulated phrases -- but, with the melodic interplay of oboe and horn, it is narrative music.

"This does not sound like 'The Hours,' and does not sound like 'Kundun,' " he said of the 1997 Martin Scorsese film he scored.

"Notes," which will be released at Christmas, is set in London. There's something a little Hogwarts -- grave and English and romantic -- to the music.

Glass also provided original music for this year's "The Illusionist," with Edward Norton. He's comfortable scoring two films a year, he said, but don't ask him for more. "By Hollywood standards, I'm a bit of an amateur," he said. "I'll never catch up with Elmer Bernstein. Who's dead, of course."

The "Notes" score was revised three times, though Glass takes it all in stride. "The process of editing the film is where the director begins to understand how the film works," he said. So when a scored scene is cut a bit, there's a solution for the music -- the tempo can be shifted up just a touch without altering pitch or quality.

"To lose 10 seconds is easy. The computer can divide time infinitely, it seems. It's just numbers," he said at the offices of his music publisher, Dunvagen. He does not keep an office of his own, writes scores in pencil and orchestrates them himself, he said.

Glass is now finishing work on Stephen Hopkins' "The Reaping," starring Hilary Swank; preparing a Civil War opera for San Francisco Lyric Opera; and collaborating with Leonard Cohen.

'I'm a bit of an amateur. I'll never catch up with Elmer Bernstein. Who's dead, of course.'


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


Thanks to Diane P, UK, for scanning and sharing this


NOAS Trailer Now Available Online

Click here to view the Trailer


The Envelope gets an exclusive sneak peek at 'Scandal' trailer

Obviously, because The Envelope is such a scandalous website (and so proud of it, we dare say!), Fox Searchlight has given us the first, exclusive sneak peek at the trailer to "Notes on a Scandal," a top Oscar rival that will likely earn a lead-actress bid for Judi Dench and possibly a supporting nom for Cate Blanchett (who'll also be considered in the supporting slot for "Babel" and in lead for "The Good German").

As the trailer reveals, the film may have an artsy feel, but it's structured slickly as a thriller about a psycho dowdy schoolteacher (Dench) obsessed with a young colleague (Blanchett) who dallies with a student on the sly.

Just listen to Dench crow with sick delight, "She's the one I have waited for!" Moviegoers haven't been treated to such marvelous evilness since Kathy Bates swung that mallet in "Misery" (winning an Oscar for it).

"Scandal" has such a risky dramatic tone that this trailer is key to the effective advance positioning of a rare movie experience. It isn't just an alluring tease of a new movie. It's responsible for selling a boatload of old Hollywood camp as a hip new film approach. Sure, gay boys will love it, but will everyone else "get" it, too?

"The trailer makes it clear that 'Notes on a Scandal' is far from a British teacup film," says a studio source. "It plays as a thriller with a real commercial feel and shows that the film pairs two great actresses in a battle of wills a la Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in 'All About Eve.' So Fox is giving The Envelope an exclusive look in advance of an early radio, print, trade and online advertising campaign timed to the trailer launch this weekend and pointing audiences to the URL where they can watch the trailer, a rare move for a specialty film."


Dame Judi at the LA Press Conference -- September 20th

Thanks to Anke B, Germany for bringing these photos to my attention


          A bitch of a job for Dame Judi

By Mike Goodridge, Evening Standard UK -- 05.10.06

Bitter, bitchy, manipulative and backstabbing. Judi Dench's latest role, as a treacherous school teacher, is something of a departure. "But I understand her," says the 71-year-old actress. "She's desperate. A lonely woman who craves some kind of warmth. Who hasn't experienced a need for affection?"

Notes on a Scandal is a deliciously tart film adaptation of Zoe Heller's best-selling novel. It's an ugly, often hilarious, portrait of the north London middle-classes; there's selfishness, malevolence and some pretty raunchy scenes of sex between an adult woman and a 15-year-old boy. But while none of the characters is easy to like, they are all compelling to watch.

Dench is utterly convincing as Barbara Covett, a formidable teacher who rules by tyranny and whose habit of stalking younger women has earned her at least one restraining order. Her hair is thinning, she has lousy dress sense and her only significant other is an ailing cat. It's a brave physical performance and the actress has never looked so grim, all dark nylon suits and sensible shoes. She even has a scene in the bath in which she nearly bares all. It's a far cry from her allpowerful, self-possessed roles of Mrs Henderson, Mrs Brown, Queen Elizabeth I or even Iris Murdoch.

It's a shock meeting Dench in person the morning after seeing the film. Smart, in a green linen suit with her trademark short, grey haircut and topaz jewellery adorning neck and fingers, she's as sophisticated as Barbara is drab. But while there are the obvious differences, Dench was able to draw on painful personal experience to give her convincing portrait of the desperate, damaged woman.

Five years ago, Dench's husband, Michael Williams, the actor she married in 1971, died from lung cancer at the age of 65.

"What you lack is that thing of somebody simply putting their arm around you and, you know, being able to hold you when you need it. A need for physical contact can become obsessive, but you have to say to yourself, I've got lots and lots of friends, and that's vital," Dench says, pausing for a moment to compose herself.

"But Barbara Covett is somebody who hasn't got that, who needs that contact and who has no friends, either. I mean, she's not a person you'd rush to know, or ask to a party, is she? I wouldn't have her near me anyway, but I understand why she does what she does."

The character intrigued Dench from the first time she read Heller's 2003 Booker-shortlisted novel. In it, Barbara befriends a new art teacher at her school, called Sheba Hart (played by Cate Blanchett in the film), and develops a crush on her. While Sheba embraces Barbara as a friend and confidante, Barbara gets the wrong idea and believes they could become lovers. But Barbara gets the upper hand when she discovers that Sheba is having an affair with a 15-year-old Irish pupil (played with admirable poise by 17-year-old Andrew Simpson) and uses her knowledge of the compromising secret to further her own relationship with Sheba.

Dench thought it would be fascinating to try to bring Barbara to life, so when she was offered the role by director Richard Eyre, she leapt at the chance.

"I wore a bald patch on my head first before the wig was put on, so you could see how thin her hair was," says Dench. "We did many tests on the way she looked, but at one point in Patrick Marber's script it said that Sheba goes through Barbara's underwear drawer and finds grey underwear. I argued that she doesn't have to have grey underwear. Why would she? Why would she have an unattractive flat? Just because she's an unpleasant person? I know lots of really unpleasant people who live very, very well and dress very nicely. I am not trying to exonerate her. She's deeply unpleasant, but I am trying to tell the story of a person who is real flesh and blood."

Marber has made some key changes to the original book. He has ironed the narrative complications of the novel, but he's retained Barbara's point-of-view telling of the story with her voiceover. Dench, however, seems not to agree with some of his choices. "He changed the ending of the book," she says. "He must have had a very good reason for doing what he did. He's made it much bleaker for both of them."

Marber also makes Barbara's lesbian tendencies more obvious in the film; he includes scenes of her predatory nature with younger women and more information about her previous relationship with another teacher.

Heller, Dench says, kept her distance from the film production. "She came down to the set once and was absolutely charming but it must be very difficult for her to pass it over to someone else. It's like giving your baby away. It must be a very unsettling experience, and then to have somebody else do the screenplay must be doubly upsetting. She never came near us again but she was at the end of a phone line if we needed her. It's not like some people. David Hare, for instance. When you're doing a David Hare play, he can't stay away.

"I asked Zoe, though, what this woman's greatest expectation is, and she said her greatest expectation is to have the delight of sharing a flat with somebody and perhaps being able to wash their back. The idea of her as a serialised picker-upper is not in Zoe's original book."

But, continues Dench, "I don't think this film sets out to be judgmental in any way, and, for me, [sexuality] makes no difference at all. That's people's bag, you know. I just happen to be somebody who was married for a very, very long time and has children and grandchildren and that's my bag."

Dench's professional fulfilment obviously comes from playing these complex characters, bringing them to life. But that hasn't stopped her flirting with less serious roles. The younger generation will know her best from her turns as M in the James Bond movies. She has taken up the part again, for the fifth tme, in the next 007 film, Casino Royale, along with its new star Daniel Craig. So what of her new co-star? "I had a wonderful time with Pierce [Brosnan]," she says, "but it was very nice being with Daniel. He is very different but I think he'll be frightfully good. He's a very good actor. I know things are loaded against him but I think people will be pleased with him. And I'm not just being diplomatic." After years of dominating stage and small screen, Dench came late to her movie career, which properly began in 1997, when movie mogul Harvey Weinstein decided to back BBC TV's Mrs Brown, turning it into a major film for cinema. She is already being talked about for an Oscar nomination - her sixth in a decade - for her performance as Barbara Covett.

Born in York, she made her acting debut in the city's cycle of medieval mystery plays, then moved on to London's Central School of Speech and Drama and, seamlessly, into the Old Vic's Hamlet in 1957, when she played Ophelia.

The next 40 years were distinguished. She played Sally Bowles in the original West End staging of Cabaret, in 1968. She was a staple of the Royal Shakespeare Company for most of the Seventies and Eighties. She was a TV favourite in A Fine Romance and As Time Goes By. In 1988, she was made a Dame.

She was already in her sixties when she got that first Oscar nomination in 1997, followed by a win for Shakespeare In Love in 1998, another nomination in 2000 for Chocolat, one in 2002 for Iris and one last year for Mrs Henderson Presents. Weinstein distributed all those films and mounted her awards campaigns.

"I'd done a few films before I met Harvey but I owe an entire film career to him because he saw Mrs Brown and said it should be a movie. That's what changed everything for me and I came back to America for the first time in 38 years, having been there with The Old Vic in 1958 and '59.

"I had loved [America]," she smiles, "and I was asked back a lot of times, but I didn't go because, like a love affair, you don't want to come back and spoil it. But now it's happened all over again. I joke that I have Harvey's name tattooed on my bum and one time I got my make-up girl to actually do it and showed it to him at a lunch at The Four Seasons. It was his birthday and I showed it to him, so I hope he appreciated it."

Now that Notes on a Scandal is finished, Dench is returning to theatre and is about to start rehearsing her role as Mistress Quickly in Gregory Doran's Royal Shakespeare Company musical version of The Merry Wives of Windsor, which opens in Stratfordupon-Avon in December.

After that, Dench insists, she doesn't know. Somewhat disingenuously, she says she fears she will never be offered work again. She says As Time Goes By is finished for good ("I'd do it if I was asked, but Geoffrey Palmer just wants to go fishing all the time") and she has no future film projects lined up.

Work, as well as friends and family, are keeping her occupied in the aftermath of Williams's death, although her daughter, Finty, has coped less well, falling into a public battle with alcoholism and depression that landed her in court last year for a car accident in which she was found to be three-and-a-half times over the legal limit. She was given a suspended sentence.

Although Dench demurs from discussing the specifics of Finty's recovery and her personal struggle to recover from Williams's death, she nonetheless has her own way of talking herself out of her dark patches.

"I am a born optimist," she says in her no-nonsense delivery. "After a while, if things get too black, I just try to be rather optimistic about them. I've never had to go to anybody to talk about my grey areas, which is a great relief to me, but I just try to think there are always people worse off than you are. I have many blessings."

Notes on a Scandal opens in February 2007.

Thanks to Mikki L, USA, for bringing this to my attention


Premiere Magazine -- September 2006

Thanks to Connie E, CA, US, for scanning and sharing this


Plot Summary: When Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) joins St. George's as the new art teacher,
Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) senses a kindred spirit. But Barbara is not the only one drawn to her.
Sheba begins an illicit affair and Barbara becomes the keeper of her secret.
"Notes on a Scandal" is a story of loneliness, loyalty, envy and love.



"First Look" Photos of Dame Judi in character as Barbara Covett ...

From the October 16, 2005 issue of The Sunday Mirror Celebs Sunday Magazine



Eastbourne News -- October 17, 2005

DAME Judi Dench caused a stir in Eastbourne last week, mocking up Christmas scenes and taking over one couple's kitchen to cook bangers and mash.

Crowds of fans tried to get a glimpse of the famous actress filming Notes on a Scandal, alongside Cate Blanchett.

Their film crew was flanked by followers at Beachy Head, the seafront, the pier and outside the Cavendish Hotel.

Part of the plot, about teacher Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) who is having an affair with a pupil — a situation almost obsessively observed by Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) — is set in Eastbourne.

Thursday saw the crew take over a house on Royal Parade. For owners John and Anne Veasey, the filming will be remembered as the day Dame Judi cooked bangers and mash in their kitchen.

Mr Veasey said, 'We sat on the stairs and watched everything go by and we watched on the monitors outside.'

Mrs Veasey said, 'There was a scene when Dame Judi was cooking supper in the kitchen and a scene where she was having a solitary dinner, waiting for a friend who didn't turn up.

'She was cooking sausages and mash and she was having a glass of wine, cooking and smoking.'

Location manager Richard Hill said locals had been extremely welcoming and patient in dealing with road closures.

'In terms of liaising with residents it has been a privilege to come and film here,' he said.

Interest from the public had grown by Friday as swarms of people waited outside the Cavendish Hotel, where Dame Judi was filming Christmas lunch as Barbara.

The foyer and dining room were decked with Christmas trees and decorations while the hotel kitchen staff prepared more than 100 turkey dinners to be eaten by the star and a selection of 170 extras.

Most of the extras had been sourced from the Eastbourne Conservative Association, along with some of their friends and family.

June Broady, 80, from Farmlands Way in Polegate, was given a small acting part. She said, 'I have been in a scene.

'I had to spill soup all down myself when sipping it off a spoon.

'We did it over and over again and I think I got through a whole bowl of soup.'

Eastbourne's deputy mayor, Colin Belsey, took up position with the band in the dining room at the Cavendish.

He said, 'Apart from being excellent fun, these guys are spending a lot of money in Eastbourne and you will get the followers of film, those who come to see where a film was made, coming to see the town.

'Eastbourne has given them its best sunshine, though I'm not sure that's what was needed for Christmas Day!'

The hotel remained open as normal. Reception manager at the Cavendish, Christina Da Silva, said, 'We have been telling guests when they arrive why there is Christmas taking place in the foyer and the dining room. They all seem quite happy about it.'

Almost a day of work at the hotel on Friday will make up around three-and-a-half-minutes of film. The finished piece is not expected to hit the big screen before Easter.

Cate Blanchett finished filming on Thursday and has gone on to start another film in Los Angeles, called The Good German, starring George Clooney.

Her character, Sheba, had been seen earlier in the week throwing the story's all important diary off Beachy Head.

Thanks to Betty B, USA, for bringing this article to my attention


Click here for the link to page
includes more detail about the book as well as scanned excerpts

Bill Nighy and Cate Blanchett on the set

On Location with DJD

Or, more accurately: Across the street from the filming location of "Notes on a Scandal"
14 September 2005

A short walk from the Belsize underground station I saw the telltale signs of a film company - lighting trucks, etc. It was obvious which house was being used as the lights were on outside as well as inside, and the crew were hanging out on the front steps and sidewalk. The first actor I spotted was Bill Nighy, who came out the front door for a swig of water and a breath of air. He was dressed all in black. Next Cate Blanchett left holding a child. She was on lunch break, I suppose. She got in a car with the child and emerged a few minutes later. The child was driven away and she went through the garage into the back yard. "On Set" catering trucks kept visiting. I also spotted Richard Eyre in a black T shirt and pants. Finally Judi came out the front door. I loved the way she looked! Her hair (wig) was dark with a bit of white. She was in a black suit, white blouse, white ear rings. She was outside so briefly. Now that I knew what she was wearing I could spot her inside filming at a table. She was holding a bouquet or plant. At one point I could see someone fixing the back of her hair. They did several takes while I stood across the street watching. I could see her taking a swig of water from the ubiquitous water bottles that were provided for everyone. Some passersby assumed I was part of the film company. One man, hearing my American accent when he asked what they were filming, then asked if it was an American film company or a British one. 

Anyone on set need a water bottle carrier? I would work for very low pay!

A Special Thank You to Connie E, USA, for sharing her experience with us


Author feels the Booker effect


By Neil Smith -- BBC News entertainment reporter

As the Booker Prize approaches, the BBC News website talks to 2003 Booker nominee, Zoe Heller, whose novel Notes on a Scandal is being made into a film starring Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett.

Although Heller believes there is something "irreducibly silly" about selecting a Booker winner from six titles, she feels the prize itself is valuable.

In 2003, the year her novel was nominated, it was won by DBC Pierre for his first novel, black comedy Vernon God Little.

This year sees writers including Julian Barnes and Zadie Smith competing for the £50,000 prize.

"I don't think it's to be taken too seriously," Heller told the BBC News website.

"But it's a useful way of increasing sales and drawing attention to literary fiction, which is no bad thing."

Dame Judi Dench plays history teacher Barbara Covett

Each person on the shortlist will receive £2,500 plus the likelihood for a huge boost in sales, coupled with a surge in media and public interest.

Heller now has the added bonus of having two Oscar-winning actresses starring in the adaptation of her book, along with Love Actually star Bill Nighy.

"It feels like a great privilege to write fiction for a living," said the British-born author, who now lives in New York.

"So to have somebody come along and make a movie of your words is the icing on the cake."

It is currently shooting in north London with theatre director Sir Richard Eyre behind the camera.

"I feel particularly lucky because I've got as professional and sympathetic a team as I could have," said Heller.

"In Patrick Marber I've also got the most interesting and clever screenwriter I could have hoped for."

Described as a "dramatic black comedy about passionate friendships and public shame", Notes on a Scandal tells of a married pottery teacher, played by Blanchett, who embarks on an affair with one of her pupils.

The story is told from the perspective of another teacher, played by Dench, whose concern for her colleague may not be as altruistic as it first appears.

"It's fantastically good casting," said Heller. "I think Judi will do justice to the darkness of the character. But I also expect her to bring an intelligence and humanity that will stop the character from being a cartoon villain. More than most actresses, Judi is capable of communicating that duality."

Heller will probably not visit the film set.

"I'm very keen to go, not least because I don't expect to have another book made into a film very soon.

Thanks to Lisa S, UK, for bringing this to my attention


The IoS interview: Bridget who?
Zoe, the original girl about town, grows up

The Independent (London); Sep 4, 2005; Katy Guest

Once Ms Heller wrote about her ditzy single life. Now she is a mother and an acclaimed novelist with a film on the way; Zoe Heller's novel, listed for the Booker Prize, is now being filmed.

Zo Heller's sisters were surprised when she asked them to her wedding. Not because Ms Heller was hardly the marrying type.  Nor because she was the prototypical girl-about-town, whose weekly dispatches from the front line of crazy single girldom helped to spawn a genre and a blizzard of spluttering letters to the Telegraph. Not even because she and her partner had been together for more than a decade without feeling the need to tie the knot.

They were surprised because they thought they were travelling to New York for her birthday. They were expecting 40 candles and a 'musical guest', when their sister took them aside and asked them to get their frocks on.

Heller's surprise wedding in July might have been the final nail in the coffin of the Zo persona. As a whimsical girl-columnist in the days before Bridget Jones, she did book reviews and bikini waxing with her London friends.

Now she sits back and watches the profits roll in as her best- seller " Notes on a Scandal " is filmed in the trendier districts of north London with a cast including Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. She stopped writing the columns a year ago, when 'the sound of the barrel being scraped became too resounding'.

She lives in New York with the man she must refer to as her husband and two beautiful children. She writes novels that are shortlisted for the Booker prize and optioned by Richard Eyre.

'I never thought I was a particularly natural columnist,' says the 2002 British Press Awards columnist of the year. 'And the confusion between me and the persona became tiresome. I wasn't that light-hearted, chipper person all the time. I don't miss writing columns very much.'

Instead, Ms Heller writes novels. When her first, Everything You Know, came out in 1999, it was 'shat upon from a great height' by the British critics. Not entirely fairly, she believes. 'The publisher is about to reissue it in the UK and I sort of thought, 'Oh, do we have to revisit that?"

But, she says, 'It concentrated my mind in quite a salutary way. I thought, 'Should I write another book?' And while I talk in this 'little me' way about anxiety, clearly there are reserves of self- belief there. Because I decided to go on.'

It was a fortunate decision. Notes on a Scandal, her next novel, met with a rapturous reception. It was Booker shortlisted in 2003. The Hollywood producer Scott Rudin came across it in a bookshop and showed it to his screenwriting partner, Patrick Marber. It is being filmed with Judi Dench as the sinister spinster Barbara, and Cate Blanchett as Sheba, a teacher who loses everything for the obsessive love of a 15-year-old student.

'I'm not involved,' says Heller. 'Barbara and Sheba are not at all how I'd pictured them, but they couldn't possibly be.  But I can totally see Judi Dench being foul and unpleasant if she so wishes. And doing a very good frumpy, too.'

There are rumours Marber has changed Heller's carefully wrought story, even giving it a happy ending, but she is detached. 'Hemingway said something about the way to deal with Hollywood being to approach the state border, throw your script over and get them to throw the money  back,' she says.

Although she is cagey about exactly how much money has been thrown at her, Heller insists this is not her Bridget Jones moment. 'My small advance for the next book and some of the film money is enough to live on. But I'm not at Bridget Jones level. And I will never retire to the Hollywood hills! I have just come back from California. It is ... a very nice place to visit.'

Nor does she miss England all that much. 'New York has ceased to be foreign to me,' she says. 'It doesn't smell different. I miss, not England, but the capacity to travel.'

Her next book is set in America. 'It is also the first time I have written in the third person,' she says, 'I told Patrick Marber about that and he said, 'Ooh, I sort of thought the first person was your thing.' She really has left the Zoe persona a long way behind."

Thanks to Lisa S, UK, for sharing this with us


Belfast Telegraph Home

Cate's Derry pupil lover is star student

By Sarah Brett -- 05 September 2005

A LONDONDERRY schoolboy who plays Cate Blanchett's underage lover in a controversial new movie is a talented straight A student, his drama teacher revealed today.

Andrew Simpson (16), from Fahan in Donegal who goes to Foyle and Londonderry College, is said to be dazed by his whirlwind success after landing a role opposite the stunning Australian actress and screen royalty Dame Judi Dench.

Currently filming in London for two weeks before returning home to school, Andrew beat off 3,000 other young hopefuls to clinch the role of Cate Blanchett's seducer in the screen dramatisation of Zoe Heller's novel, Notes on a Scandal.

His drama teacher at the college, David Keown, said the student was very talented.

He added: "I've been chatting to him a few times since he got the part and he is really, really pleased.

"He's definitely star struck working with Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett but I doubt that will show on screen.

"Andrew had been training as an actor long before he came to Foyle. I'm his English teacher but we've also done drama and he's clearly got talent.

"He was in the chorus in our junior production of Annie, so this latest role is clearly a bit of a leap!

"Andrew was a straight A student in his GCSEs, so he's talented academically too - we're all very proud of him and can't wait to get invited to the premiere in Hollywood!"

Andrew also starred opposite Aidan Quinn in Song for a Raggy Boy, has done a number of commercials and appeared in the stage play Packie's Wake.


Lessons in love by Cate

By BAZ BAMIGBOYE, Daily Mail -- 09:27am 26th August 2005

Andrew Simpson is the lucky 16-year-old who has been seducing the Oscar-winning star Cate Blanchett.

Andrew, from Donegal, won the role of a boy who plots a full blown affair with his married pottery teacher, played by Ms Blanchett.

The movie, Notes On A Scandal, based on Zoe Heller's novel, also stars national treasure Judi Dench as a fellow teacher who becomes obsessed with Cate's character once the illicit romance comes to light.

Andrew auditioned for the part when casting directors visited Ireland. He had a role in the film Song For A Raggedy Boy. When director Richard Eyre and producers Scott Rudin and Robert Fox saw video footage of him, they insisted he do a screen test with Cate.

However, he was on the far side of the world on a rugby tour of Fiji and Australia. The winger flew to London, screen-tested with Cate and won the part of the 15-yearold who falls for his teacher.

Sleeping with a superstar

The movie has been shooting in and around north London for two weeks, and has seven more to go.

Andrew's not nervous about sleeping with Cate.

"He's very cool about it," said producer Fox.

"Not a bad thing to have to do, is it?" mused Fox. "Love scenes with Cate Blanchett - I can think of worse ways of earning a living. First and foremost, though, Andrew's a really good actor."

Just so we're all very clear, the film is a fictional tale and is not based on any of the recent real-life teacher-pupil incidents.

In fact, the picture's ultimate relationship is the one between the characters played by Cate and Judi.

Last word to director Eyre, who told me a while ago: "I can guarantee that all the sex will be simulated. It's a film and I know the public likes to think that the real thing takes place, but I don't think that's going to be a problem."

Bill Nighy also appears in the film as Cate's screen husband.


Thanks to Ellen for bringing this to my attention


Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett to Star in

BusinessWire Online News

May 12, 2005 01:38 PM US Eastern Timezone

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 12, 2005--It was announced today that Oscar(R) winners Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett will headline NOTES ON A SCANDAL. Based on Zoe Heller's award-winning novel of the same name, the film will be helmed by Richard Eyre (IRIS, STAGE BEAUTY) from an adaptation penned by Patrick Marber (CLOSER). It will be produced by Scott Rudin and Robert Fox, who partnered to produce Eyre's IRIS as well as CLOSER and THE HOURS.

When Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) joins St. George's as the new Art teacher, Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) senses a kindred spirit. But Barbara is not the only one drawn to her. Sheba begins an illicit affair and Barbara becomes the keeper of her secret. NOTES ON A SCANDAL is a story of loneliness, loyalty, envy and love.

Cate Blanchett won an Oscar, a SAG Award and a BAFTA Award for her supporting role in THE AVIATOR, which also garnered her a fourth Golden Globe(R) Award nomination. Blanchett won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for 1998's ELIZABETH.

Judi Dench won an Oscar and a SAG Award for SHAKESPEARE in LOVE. The five-time Golden Globe(R) nominee won for her roles in MRS. BROWN and "The Last of the Blonde Bombshells." She has won six BAFTA Film Awards for IRIS, MRS. BROWN, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, A ROOM WITH A VIEW and FOUR IN THE MORNING.

Richard Eyre previously directed IRIS, which won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Jim Broadbent and Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for both Judi Dench and Kate Winslet. The film also won a BAFTA Award and was nominated for five including Best British Film and Best Screenplay, which Eyre co-wrote. Eyre's well-received STAGE BEAUTY featured an all-star cast including Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Rupert Everett and Tom Wilkinson. Eyre won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Single Drama for "Tumblewood" and the Evening Standard British Film Award for THE PLOUGHMAN'S LUNCH.

Patrick Marber's award-winning plays include "Closer," which won an Olivier, Evening Standard and London and NY Critics Circle Awards for Best Play, "Dealer's Choice," which won Writers Guild and Evening Standard awards for Best Comedy, "After Miss Julie," "Howard Katz" and "The Musicians." His work has been performed in more than a hundred cities across the globe. Marber's 2004 adaptation for the feature film CLOSER, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen, was nominated for both Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards earlier this year. In August 2005, Paramount Classics will release ASYLUM (directed by David Mackenzie) from a screenplay co-written by Marber based on the novel by Patrick McGrath.

Production on NOTES ON A SCANDAL will begin in London in August. Claudia Lewis, Executive Vice President of Production, will oversee the project for Searchlight.

Fox Searchlight Pictures is a filmmaker-oriented company that focuses on distinctive films helmed by world-class auteurs and exciting newcomers. It has its own marketing and distribution operations and its films are distributed internationally by Twentieth Century Fox. Fox Searchlight Pictures is a unit of Fox Filmed Entertainment, a unit of Fox Entertainment Group.




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