Judi Dench has joined the cast of Universal Pictures and Working Title’s film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Cats.”
Dench was set to play Grizabella in the original West End production in 1981, but she snapped her Achilles Tendon shortly before previews began and had to withdraw from the show. The project is based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot.
Idris Elba joined “Cats” on Oct. 16, adding to a star-studded cast that already included Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, and Taylor Swift. It’s expected that Dench will portray the respected feline Old Deuteronomy in the movie. The character’s name is derived from Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Old Testament of the Bible.
Dench’s recent credits include “Victoria & Abdul,” The “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” films, “Philomena,” “Skyfall,” and Kenneth Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” She will be seen Disney’s “Artemis Fowl” next year. Dench has been nominated for seven Academy Awards and won best supporting actress for “Shakespeare in Love.”
Tom Hooper will direct from a script he co-wrote with Lee Hall. Producers are Hooper and Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, as well as fellow “Les Misérables” producer Debra Hayward, who brought the idea to Working Title. Production companies are Working Title Films in association with Monumental Pictures and the Really Useful Group. Executive producers are Steven Spielberg, Lloyd Webber, and Angela Morrison.
“Cats” received its world premiere at the New London Theatre in 1981 where it played for 21 record-breaking years and almost 9,000 performances. In 1983, the Broadway production became the recipient of seven Tony awards including best musical, and ran for 18 years.
Dench is represented by Julian Belfrage Associates and Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein. The news was first reported the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye.