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Judi Dench to Star in Stephen Frears’ ‘Victoria and Abdul’ for Working Title

Judi Dench will star as Queen Victoria and Stephen Frears will direct Working Title Films’ “Victoria and Abdul,” to which Focus Features will hold worldwide rights.

The movie is slated to go into production this year for a 2017 release. Focus will release the movie in the U.S., and Universal Pictures Intl. will distribute the film around the world. “Victoria and Abdul” is being co-financed by Focus in association with BBC Films.

The screenplay is by Lee Hall, based on Shrabani Basu’s book “Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant.” Hall was Oscar nominated for “Billy Elliot.”

“Victoria and Abdul” was developed by Beeban Kidron and Hall at Cross Street Films with BBC Films, and is being produced by Kidron, Tracey Seaward (“The Queen”), and Working Title’s co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. Bevan and Fellner have produced several Working Title movies for Focus release, including the best picture Oscar nominees “Atonement” and “The Theory of Everything.”

According to the press announcement of “Victoria and “Abdul,” the film tells “the extraordinary true story of an unexpected friendship in the later years of Queen Victoria’s remarkable rule. When Abdul Karim, a young clerk, travels from India to participate in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, he is surprised to find favor with the Queen herself. As the Queen questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance with a loyalty to one another that her household and inner circle all attempt to destroy. As the friendship deepens, the Queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes and joyfully reclaims her humanity.”

Dench will be playing Queen Victoria for a second time, having been Oscar-nominated for her previous portrayal in “Mrs. Brown.” She won an Academy Award for portraying Queen Elizabeth I in “Shakespeare in Love,” and has also received Oscar nominations for her performances in “Chocolat,” “Iris,” Frears’ “Mrs. Henderson Presents,” “Notes on a Scandal” and Frears’ “Philomena,” also a best picture Oscar nominee.

Working Title’s upcoming slate includes “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” directed by Sharon Maguire and starring Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Patrick Dempsey; “The Snowman,” directed by Tomas Alfredson and starring Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson and Val Kilmer; and “Baby Driver,” directed by Edgar Wright and starring Jon Hamm, Lily James, Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx.

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