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Exotic Marigold Hotel
Their adventures began in the mind of British novelist Deborah Moggach, who imagined a group of cash-strapped pensioners who find themselves "outsourced" to India, each willing (or forced) to try relocating to an exotic locale at a fraction of the usual retirement price. The book won praise for its characters that, at an age when most people are slowing down and staying close to home, embark on the journey of a lifetime.

Producers Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin saw the potential for an unusual and original film experience. "We loved her concept of outsourcing retirement, taking our outsourcing of everyday tasks like banking and customer service one step further," says Broadbent. "Deborah had pondered where she would like to end up in her golden years, and decided living above an Indian bazaar would be endlessly fascinating. The wonderful part is that just when her characters could be entering a greyer period of their lives, a whole new chapter opens up, with a literal explosion of color and brightness, and an opportunity to reinvent themselves."

Screenwriter Ol Parker took that scenario and ran with it. "I saw an opportunity to create a romantic comedy for a different generation, centered on people in their 60s and 70s," says Parker, who last wrote and directed the twenty-something romantic comedy IMAGINE ME & YOU. "What was so appealing to me is that as we get older, we tend to not stray out of our comfort zones, I loved the idea of taking this group of people and putting them somewhere where they are completely out of their element. I also enjoyed the idea of a love story about men and women who have had a whole lifetime of experience."

To direct the film, Broadbent and Czernin approached John Madden, one of England's most lauded, cinematic storytellers, whose films include the Best Picture OscarĀ® winner SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and the recent thriller THE DEBT. Madden found the premise irresistible: seven people - stranded for different reasons at the point in their lives where opportunities have disappeared - dropped into a strange, intoxicating and threatening new world. It offered the comedy of displacement alongside the melancholy of loss - and the tribulations and joys of trying to grow older with grace and vitality.

"The script is funny and rich, and it's not just a comedy," notes Madden. "It also deals with bereavement, loneliness and isolation, and confronts the question of what is really possible as you get older. Can you still start over again? Is it ever too late to change?"

The answer for those at the Marigold Hotel might seem uncertain, but it becomes a resounding "No" for most of the characters, although in very individual and unique ways.

Madden was excited from the start to pull together an ensemble cast who could bring each of these journeys alive in vivid and human ways. "A lot of my work has been with ensembles, and I'm interested by stories of people in suspension, where different rules apply, where only the present tense matters." he says. "In SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, the characters were suspended in the enchanted universe of the theatre, and of the play; in THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL the characters are in an analogous kind of geographical suspension. They've entered a strange world removed from their former reality, cut off from their past, where they have to invent a new life for themselves."

The fact that the characters are in the latter part of life turned out to be a real advantage.

"Since the characters are all of a certain age, it was a chance to cast actors who are at the peak of their abilities," explains Madden. "They were the most extraordinary resource and they brought the story alive. The sheer level of comic talent, acting skill and depth of experience was staggering. The only thing we had to do was bring them together with an equally skilled ensemble of Indian actors, and then watch them collide with this magnificent country."

"In this story, definitions of age and maturity completely fall away," sums up Madden, "because the characters are made young again by the situations they find themselves in. Challenged and overwhelmed by the experience of modern India, caught in different forms of emotional realignment - friendships, liaisons, rivalries - as well as in unfinished business that sparks in comic eruptions - they find that ultimately the only thing that matters is what is happening right then and there, between them."

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