By Steve Fisher
WHEN THE BEST Exotic Marigold Hotel
waltzed into theaters in 2011, no one expected
the low-budget comedy-drama about a bunch
of British seniors visiting an old broken-down
hotel in India to attract more than the over- 55
set. But audiences across the demographic
divide took to the quirky film, with its strong
cast of veteran British talent, including Maggie
Smith, Judi Dench and Bill Nighy, for its
warmth and humor and the universal themes
of love and insecurity. The huge moneymaker
made a sequel almost inevitable, and this year-fans returned to the characters, and location,
with The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The Connection spoke with director John
Madden, who helmed both films and co-wrote the second with original screenwriter Ol
Parker, about the unlikely franchise.
The Costco Connection: Beyond the box
office, what made you decide to revisit the territory in the second film?
John Madden: The continuation [of the
story] was the key, because when we looked to
the end of the first film we realized that we
hadn’t finished the story. In some ways you
could say that the English characters who
went to India had, at the end of the first
movie, made an even bigger decision then
they made at the start of it, which was to live
in India. The way we started to think of it was
that they were the first and second part of one
story. The second film concluded the story
that the first one began, and each of the char-
acters actually takes a journey that starts in
the first frames of the first film and concludes
in the last frames of the last one.
CC: Was there any problem getting all of the
actors back together?
JM: We didn’t even start to think about it
without first going back to those actors and
saying, ‘Would you be interested?’ because we
didn’t want to spend time writing a part for
Maggie Smith if she had no intention of coming back. And all of them said yes they would.
That’s a testament, to India honestly, and to
the relationships we made there and the time
that we had there. It was an extraordinarily
rich and enjoyable experience for everybody.
And when we offered them the script, they all
said yes immediately.
CC: Why did you decide to throw an American
[Richard Gere] into the mostly British cast?
JM: To be honest with you, the character that
Richard Gere plays had no gender nor any job
and certainly no nationality when we first
started working on that. There are spoilers
involved here, so I don’t want to go into too
much detail, but as we started to evolve that
character he took on a certain kind of person-
ality. We wanted somebody with a particular
kind of presence and perhaps somebody who
would make some backs stiffen immediately
when he walked into the courtyard of that
hotel. And rather gradually Richard Gere
started to become the guy that we were imag-
ining in that part. When we finished [the
script] we offered it to him and it turned out
he had been a big fan of the first film. And he
has a very profound and long connection
CC: When you’re directing a cast of such veteran and skilled actors, does it make your job
easier or harder?
JM: Of course it makes it easier. But it sets a
bar that you have to reach, meaning that these
people have an astonishing level of skill and
experience, and that’s an incredibly rich result
to draw on. My job, beyond being very attentive to the balance and the rhythm and the
choreography, both literally and figuratively
[the film’s wedding scene contains a big dance
number], was to kind of fill the cup and then
back out of the way and just sit back and
watch all of my expectations being transcended. C
The Second Best
Exotic Marigold Hotel
opens for business
Left: The group assembles for a wed-
ding. Above: Director John Madden
and cinematographer Ben Smithard
set up a shot.
The Costco Connection
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is
available on DVD (Item #639518) at all warehouses on 7/14.
arts & entertainment
In our digital editions
Click here for a short feature on
the film. (See page 14 for details.)