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Dame Judi Dench to star in Stephen Frears’ Victoria and Abdul‏

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judi dench

Academy Award winner Judi Dench will star as Queen Victoria and Academy Award nominee Stephen Frears (The Queen) will direct Working Title Films’ Victoria and Abdul, to which Focus Features will hold worldwide rights as part of the company’s renewed global initiative. The movie is slated to go into production this year for a 2017 release. Focus will release the movie domestically and Universal Pictures International will distribute the film around the world. Victoria and Abdul is being co-financed by Focus in association with BBC Films.

The screenplay of Victoria and Abdul is by Lee Hall, an Academy Award nominee and Tony Award winner for Working Title’s Billy Elliot; and is based on Shrabani Basu’s book Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant.

The film tells the extraordinary true story of an unexpected friendship in the later years of Queen Victoria’s remarkable rule. When Abdul Karim, a young clerk, travels from India to participate in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, he is surprised to find favor with the Queen herself. As the Queen questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance with a loyalty to one another that her household and inner circle all attempt to destroy. As the friendship deepens, the Queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes and joyfully reclaims her humanity.

Victoria and Abdul was developed by Beeban Kidron and Lee Hall at Cross Street Films with BBC Films, and is being produced by Ms. Kidron, Academy Award nominee Tracey Seaward (The Queen), and Working Title’s co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. Mr. Bevan and Mr. Fellner have produced several Working Title movies for Focus release, including the Best Picture Oscar nominees Atonement and The Theory of Everything.

Ms. Dench will be playing Queen Victoria for a second time in Victoria and Abdul, having been Oscar-nominated for her previous portrayal in Mrs. Brown. She won her Academy Award for portraying Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love; and later received Best Actress Oscar nominations for her performances in Mr. Frears’ Philomena, also a Best Picture Oscar nominee, and Mrs. Henderson Presents.

Victoria and Abdul reunites Working Title with Ms. Kidron, Mr. Frears, and Mr. Hall. Working Title has made five previous projects with Mr. Frears; and has made multiple films with Ms. Kidron and Mr. Hall, including Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and the global hit Billy Elliot, respectively.

Christine Langan, head of BBC Films and executive producer of Victoria and Abdul, said, “BBC Films is delighted to have supported Lee Hall’s terrific script and extremely excited to be back in business with the winning combination that is Stephen Frears and Judi Dench.”

Focus chairman Peter Kujawski commented, “It is a true privilege to collaborate with the great Stephen Frears and the legendary Judi Dench to tell this story of discovery, and it is always an event when Tim and Eric make a film that promises to move and delight audiences around the world.”

Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner have been co-chairs of Working Title Films, one of the world’s leading film production companies, since 1992. Working Title has made more than 100 films that have grossed over $6 billion worldwide. Its films have won 12 Academy Awards (for Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables and The Danish Girl; James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything; Tim Robbins’ Dead Man Walking; Joel and Ethan Coen’s Fargo; Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age; and Joe Wright’s Atonement and Anna Karenina), 39 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards, and prizes at the Cannes and Berlin International Film Festivals.

Mr. Bevan and Mr. Fellner have been honored with the Producers Guild of America’s David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures, the PGA’s highest honor for motion picture producers. They have been accorded two of the highest film awards given to British filmmakers: the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema award at the BAFTA Awards, and the Alexander Walker Film Award at the Evening Standard British Film Awards. They have also both been honored with CBEs (Commanders of the Order of the British Empire).

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