Michael Gambon, Olivia Williams Join Stephen Frears’ ‘Victoria and Abdul’

Michael Gambon, Olivia Williams and Simon Callow have joined the cast of Stephen Frears’ “Victoria and Abdul,” which has started filming in Britain.

The period drama sees Judi Dench return to the role of British monarch Queen Victoria opposite Bollywood actor Ali Fazalas playing Abdul Karim. Dench first played the long-serving 19th-century queen on the big screen in 1997’s “Mrs. Brown.”

“Victoria and Abdul” tells the true story of the queen’s unexpected friendship, in the later years of her reign, with a young Indian clerk who had traveled to Britain to participate in the queen’s 1887 Golden Jubilee celebrations. Written by Lee Hall (“Billy Elliot”), the film is based on Shrabani Basu’s novel “Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant.”

Dench received the first of her seven Oscar nominations for “Mrs Brown.” (She won a supporting-actress Oscar the following year playing another queen, Elizabeth I, in”Shakespeare in Love.”) “Victoria and Abdul” marks her third collaboration with Frears after “Mrs Henderson Presents…” and “Philomena,” both of which films earned Dench further Oscar nominations.

Also joining the cast of “Victoria and Abdul” are Ruth McCabe, Julian Wadham and Fenella Woolgar. Eddie Izzard, Adeel Akhtar and Tim Piggott-Smith had previously been announced.

The production is filming at locations across Scotland, India, and England. It is the first film production to be granted permission to use the interiors of Osborne House on the Isle Of Wight. The queen’s seaside holiday home, Osborne was used for exterior shots in “Mrs Brown.”

“Victoria and Abdul” is a Working Title Films production for Focus Features, which is financing the film in association with BBC Films. Focus will release the film in the U.S. in September 2017, with Universal Pictures International handling international distribution, starting in the U.K. on Sept. 8, 2017.

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