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The Residents
At THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, everything centers around the needs and wishes of the residents -- which turn out be astonishingly tricky and diverse. They include:

Evelyn/Judi Dench
Marital Status: Newly widowed
Financial Status: Inherited her husband's mounds of hidden debt
Looking for: A job (and her first real taste of independence)

Evelyn thought she had a perfect marriage, but when her husband suddenly dies, leaving her with his secret life of financial ruin, she starts to question everything about her past and, more importantly, her now uncertain future. Desperate to find a way out of her son's offer to move in with his family, she resolves to teach herself computer skills, and stumbles on the website of the Marigold Hotel. She knows that India will be nothing like her life in London, but as daunting as it seems, it offers her hope, and she consoles her incredulous son with the promise of a regular blog.

Playing Evelyn is Dame Judi Dench, the Academy Award® winning leading lady who has a knack for making every character she plays both real and transcendent. Dench previously worked with Madden on MRS. BROWN and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, garnering as Oscar nomination for the first and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the latter.

"In this film, Judi plays a woman who is forced to take control of her future when she has never done so in her entire life," notes Madden.

"She is really the heart of the story," adds Graham Broadbent. "And like Judi, Evelyn is the most wonderfully sympathetic person."

Dench says of Evelyn's journey: "I think she feels she has nothing left to lose when she finds herself with no husband, no money and no real plan for the future, so she comes to India and then fully embraces it. That was not hard to act, because I found that being in India you are drawn each day to learning about the people and culture."

She adds: "This is a story I really wanted to be a part of, because it is about people who don't quite know what's going to happen to them at this point in their lives and yet each discovers a different answer. It was also an opportunity to work with people I know -- Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Tom Wilkinson and, of course, John Madden - and a chance for us to all be together for the first time."

Muriel/Maggie Smith
Marital Status: A lifelong live-in housekeeper
Financial Status: The only thing she needs is a new hip
Looking for: The fastest way out of India

Muriel is a salty, opinionated, retired housekeeper who would have happily stayed in her own narrow little corner of the world - were it not for a pesky hip that forces her to India for surgery. She is quite convinced she will find the whole experience appalling until India slowly starts to unseat her assumptions. One of the world's most famed and distinguished actresses, multiple Academy Award winner Maggie Smith, takes on the crucial role of the woman who becomes the hotel's unlikeliest champion.

Once he knew Smith was cast, screenwriter Ol Parker went to town with the character. "It was tremendous fun to write for Maggie, who has such a way with words, and it was also one of the great honors of my life," he says. "Muriel has a fear of all things foreign and a hatred of going abroad, so India starts out as her worst nightmare, but that makes the way she changes more interesting."

Continues John Madden: "Muriel is not an uncommon figure, anywhere, and certainly not in England: instinctively xenophobic, never stepping out of her comfort zone in any way. Her journey is one of the most interesting amongst the seven, as she struggles with the unfamiliar. Ironically, she forms a friendly relationship with the hotel's lower caste Indian housekeeper, with whom of course she finds she has something in common."

Graham Broadbent notes that it was Smith's ability to show subtle flashes of the long-buried human compassion and curiosity underneath Muriel's intolerance that gives the performance lightness and poignancy. "Muriel's journey is very human and Maggie allows the audience to come to love her," he says. "Despite her sometimes cruel and unbending attitudes, you start to see the very smart and funny woman she can be from within."

Graham/Tom Wilkinson
Marital Status: Single and unattached
Financial Status: Well-heeled but at a cost to his joie de vivre
Looking for: A past he left behind

Graham is the only new resident at the Marigold Hotel with previous experience in India, the land where he grew up. After leading a life of conventional success and status as a High Court judge, he finds himself with just one burning thing left to do: come to terms with his early life in India, and to right a wrong which has haunted him ever since. Taking the role is Tom Wilkinson, who garnered Oscar nominations for his indelible roles in MICHAEL CLAYTON and IN THE BEDROOM.

Wilkinson says that Graham is drawn to India to make a full circle of his life. "He's been a judge his whole adult life, and now he's decided he's had enough of the law and he goes to India to rediscover his past, rediscover love and most of all, rediscover who he really is," he says. "I found it very interesting because it is a story that has to balance humor with emotion. The hard part is that it can't become sentimental because that's the enemy of a story like this."

Unlike his character, Wilkinson had never been to India before and found it both exhilarating and overwhelming. "It's a huge, variegated, complicated country with such a mixture of beauty and poverty that it is hard to take it all in," he observes. "But I think the film gives a realistic impression of all those contrasts. For Graham, India is full of memories of youth, friendship and even now, love."

John Madden, who has worked with Wilkinson on several previous films, says that "Tom's character is someone who starts out no longer able to tolerate the stifling conformity of the judicial world, so he walks out of that life and returns to India, where he lived as a child. What we don't realize at first is that he is actually on a very personal kind of search for someone he used to know, someone who holds the key to issues that he needs to resolve to find peace. He's a very rich character who brings a very different color to the narrative."

Adds Graham Broadbent: "Tom really responded to something in this character. Every day he brought something extraordinary, a kindness and gentleness that I don't think people have seen in his roles before."

Douglas/Bill Nighy
Marital Status: Married with children
Financial Status: Made the mistake of lending his retirement fund to his daughter
Looking for: Ways to appease his wife . . . and, just maybe, a change

Douglas might be a mild-mannered government official, hen-pecked husband and out-of-luck father who lent his daughter the money intended for his retirement, but in India, he finds himself shedding his repressed identity and becoming a rather different man. Taking on this comic and subtle transformation is Bill Nighy, the British actor who rose to global fame after playing an aging rocker in LOVE ACTUALLY and has gone on to roles in such blockbusters as the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series and HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS.

"India gives a second chance to all of the characters," says Nighy of his attraction to Douglas. "He had a life in England that didn't suit

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