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Director Stephen Frears Says ‘Victoria & Abdul’ Was ‘Made for’ Donald Trump

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Venice 2017 - Getty Images

Stephen Frears returns to royal territory with the debut of his new film, Victoria & Abdul, about an unusual relationship the queen had toward the end of her life.

The British director says it’s no accident that he made a historical film that seeks to dismantle Muslim stereotypes.

Judi Dench returns to form as Queen Victoria in the late 19th century. Bored of her royal duties, and increasingly depressed at the world around her, she meets Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a handsome Indian clerk who is recruited to be a part of a Golden Jubilee ceremony. The queen sees in Abdul a joy in life, unlike the staff around her who constantly brings her bad news.

They grow closer and closer, and he begins to teach the monarch Urdu. The royal court is horrified that she has taken to a lowly Muslim servant, and they take action to sabotage their intimate friendship and send him back to India.

Alongside premiering his new film on the Lido, Frears is also being honored with the festival’s Jaegar Le Coultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award. “We want to give a particular support to those who change cinema,” said Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Nicolas Siriez of the honor.

On why he decided to make a historical comedy examining Britain’s relationship with the Muslim world, Frears joked, “I thought to myself: ‘What film would Donald Trump most like to see?’ It’s quite irreverent.” He pointed out that the fact that the current queen can’t speak Urdu is a sign that “things are getting worse.”

Leads Dench and Fazal were drawn to tell the story of such a complex relationship.

“It’s very complicated, not just a feeling of love but a feeling of the delight of being able to be relaxed with somebody without anybody around, without anyone giving her any ultimatum or standing on ceremony in any way,” Dench said of the role. “She was completely able to relax and talk to him and learn form him and be taught by him.”

Added Fazal: “There was a very spiritual aspect to this relationship which is what I loved about this story. It wasn’t about the two ends of the spectrum they came from or the people they were. She was the strongest person on the planet at that time, and yet there was something missing. And he saw through that.”

The film was shot on location in multiple royal residences and the clothing was historically accurate down to the thread.

“Wearing the clothes was pretty tricky. She was under 5 foot and 46 inches around the waist,” said Dench. “After Albert died she just could not stop eating.”

Dench said rather than hinder her performance, the elaborate layers of costumes were crucial to the final performance. “Once you’re in all that and over that corsets and over that the weight of the dress and everything,” she said, “you don’t have to think about how she walked or sat because you are conditioned by what you’re wearing.”

You can read our full Venice Festival 2017 coverage over the coming days on Movie Marker!

Editor-in-Chief of Movie Marker. Likes: Scorsese, Spielberg and Tarantino Dislikes: The film 'Open Water' I mean, what was that all about?

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The Nun Tracking For Impressive $32M+ Opening Weekend

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Warner Bros.’ might have an early Halloween treat on their hands, with their Conjuring-adjacent fright-flick The Nun on track to earn $32 million domestically in its opening weekend, with some outlets even predicting as high as $37 million.

For a low-budget, concept-driven horror, those are good numbers, and will comfortably turn the studio a profit. The Nun, a spinoff from The Conjuring 2, will be set in 1950s Romania and follow a Catholic priest and a novitiate as they investigate the apparent suicide of a nun. Collectively, the Conjuring shared universe has currently generated WB over $1 billion.

Though a $32M-$37M opening would indeed set off some smiles in the studio boardroom, it’s unlikely that The Nun will match the numbers of the same weekend last year, which saw director Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King classic It smash box office records and generate $123 million in its opening weekend.

The Nun stars Taissa Farmiga, Bonnie Aarons, Jonny Coyne, Charlotte Hope, Demian Bichir, and Jonas Bloquet. It has been directed by Corin Hardy, and is due for release in UK cinemas on the 7th of September, rated 15.

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The Meg Nets Over $200M Worldwide, Now 3rd-Highest Grossing Shark Film Of All Time

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After just one week at the global box office, Jason Statham-vehicle The Meg has chomped $213.4 million for itself on an estimated budget of $150 million.

Directed by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure), Warner Bros.’ The Meg follows a team of scientists working together to take down a 70-foot prehistoric shark known as the Carcharodon Megalodon – or, The Meg. The picture has now become the third-highest grossing shark film of all time, unadjusted for inflation, behind 2004’s animated family comedy Shark Tale ($367.3M) and Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic Jaws ($470.7M).

Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose and Winston Chao all co-star with Statham in the project, which currently has a 4.6 score on Metacritic, and a 6.2 User Review score on IMDb. Warner Bros. are reportedly thrilled at the flick’s overperformance, especially in China where Bingbing is a household name – yet another modern example of Hollywood prioritising the emerging mega-market of the Middle Kingdom and it paying off in droves.

The Meg is in UK cinemas now, rated 12A.

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‘Millie Bobby Brown Voicing A VR Experience For Darren Aronofsky’ Is The Most 2018 Headline You’ll Read Today

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Stranger Things‘ Millie Bobby Brown has signed on to narrate the second ‘episode’ in a three-part virtual reality experience entitled Spheres, from creative auteur Darren Aronofsky.

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) lent her voice to the first episode, which was unveiled at the Sundance Film Festival. The third episode premiered before the second, at the Tribeca Film Festival, and was narrated by Patti Smith (Song to Song). Aronofsky has produced the series, which is described as a ‘virtual journey’ – because of course it is – and is based on the famous ‘Pale Blue Dot‘ image of Earth, taken by the Voyager 1 probe in 1990. All three episodes were directed by up-and-comer Eliza McNitt (Fistful of Stars).

The series will be shown off for the first time in its entirety at the Venice Film Festival, as part of the event’s virtual reality section, from the 29th of August until the 8th of September. Spheres will be released to the public on the Oculus VR system following the culmination of the VFF.

Millie Bobby Brown can next be seen in Legendary’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, due on the 31st May next year.

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