You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bob Hoskins

Mrs. Henderson Presents


Which director would you like to work with that you haven’t before?? “There are a lot of good directors around. I just take what’s offered.”

How do actors balance commerce and art?? “There are some jobs where you say, ‘If you want me to do this in order to do you a favor, it’s basically a piece of crap, but the only reason I’ll do it is for the money.’ There are other jobs where you think, this is very interesting to do, and you wind up paying for it.”

Can’t you have both at once? “Not very often.”

Up next: “I’ve been offered a film in Louisiana but have only just started reading the script.”

Some London neighbors of Bob Hoskins have for years been researching the story of the Windmill Theater, the Soho venue that famously kept its nude revue and song-and-dance vaudevilles going throughout World War II. (And to which Hoskins was taken when he was about 5. “It was quite a family show,” he recalls. “There were a lot of comedians on as well.”)

“They said, ‘We’ve got this subject and we can’t get it off the ground.’ So I took it to (producer Norma Heyman), and immediately Norma took off on it,” says Hoskins, who has a producing credit on the finished product, “Mrs. Henderson Presents.”

Next came the task of finding a Mrs. Henderson, the determined widow who was the heart and soul of the Windmill — a part that went to Judi Dench. “We took Judi to lunch, and I leaned over and said, ‘You get to dress up as a polar bear and a Chinese lady.’ Judi’s always up for a laugh. She’s completely fearless,” says Hoskins.

Hoskins and Dench had only acted together once before — in a BBC radio version of “King Lear” in honor of John Gielgud’s 90th birthday. Dench played the wicked Goneril; Hoskins took the smallish part of Oswald.

But when Hoskins first floated “Henderson” to his star, it wasn’t in order to give himself a job. “I didn’t bring it along to put myself in it at all,” says the actor, who plays impresario Vivian Van Damm, whom Mrs. Henderson recruits to stage the Windmill shows. “I’d never seen myself as Van Damm, and then Norma turned around one day and said, ‘You look wonderful in a wig.’ ”

That, in turn, left very little time for research. “I hadn’t done any background work or anything and didn’t know what to do, so (director Stephen Frears) said, ‘If you’ve got any problems, just play me.’ So I did. Stephen gets immortalized.”

Now, says Hoskins, a project “we thought was a little film about a little theater when we first started has grown, and into a musical and a war film as well. It’s become much bigger than we all thought, and much better for it.”

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Taika Waititi Natalie Portman SDCC 2019

    Natalie Portman Weighs in on 'Thor: Love and Thunder's' Possible Breast Cancer Storyline

    Natalie Portman doesn’t know if “Thor: Love and Thunder” will include a breast cancer storyline for her character Jane Foster, but she’s definitely intrigued by the possibility. “It’s just very rare that these kinds of big entertainment films look at more serious, real-life issues,” she told Variety at L.A. Dance Project’s 8th annual fundraising gala [...]

  • Julie Andrews

    Julie Andrews Recalls Husband Blake Edwards' Battle With Depression

    The line to see Julie Andrews at the 92nd Street Y wrapped around the square of a sprawling New York City block. Seventy years since the start of her career, 60 since she asked “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” as Lerner and Loewe’s first Eliza and 50 since she sang “The Sound of Music” before the [...]

  • Bombshell Charlize Theron Megyn Kelly

    'Bombshell': Why Charlize Theron Was Terrified of Playing Megyn Kelly

    Charlize Theron is getting some of the best buzz of her career for channeling Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell,” but the Oscar-winning actress admits she almost turned down the role. “I was shit scared,” Theron said during a question-and-answer session following a Manhattan screening of “Bombshell” on Sunday. Partly, she was worried about portraying someone who [...]

  • Natalie Portman Benjamin Millipied LA Dance

    Natalie Portman, Benjamin Millepied Help Raise Over $1 Million For L.A. Dance Project

    Natalie Portman may be joining Chris Hemsworth in Marvel’s “Thor 4: Love and Thunder,” but as the petite, Dior-clad actress struck a range of poses on the carpet inside downtown Los Angeles gallery space Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel on Saturday night, it was impossible to imagine her wielding an enormous hammer. But then, the Oscar [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content