Older actors feeling the benefit of ‘Marigold Hotel’ success

Star Celia Imrie said the Marigold films could not have been made in America 'because nobody has any wrinkles'

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The Independent Culture

Older actors are being offered better film roles in the wake of the huge success of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films, according to one of its stars Celia Imrie – but she does not want a third instalment of the smash films produced.

The Olivier Award-winner, who has also starred in Calendar Girls and Bridget Jones’ Diary, said the Marigold films could not have been made in America “because nobody has any wrinkles”.

“I think things are changing though, there are more parts [for older actors] now,” the 62-year-old said. “I honestly think the two Marigold films will make people realise there’s a whole audience for this sort of thing. I feel quite optimistic.”

The increased importance at the box office of what the industry refers to as the “grey pound” – older cinema audiences – means more roles are available for actors over 60, she believes. “It is all to do with money, as ghastly as that is, and the film-makers need to be told and need to be shown,” she said. “Luckily the Marigold films have done that, there’s no argument. I think things will get better.”

Her comments come after Kristin Scott Thomas said that the lack of film roles for actresses in their 50s was a “disaster”. Yet Keeley Hawes recently said the situation for older actresses was getting better, saying “you only have to look at our TV screens at the moment to see maybe there is a change happening”.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, also starring Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy, grossed more than $136.8m around the world after it was released in 2012. The sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which opened just over a week ago, has so far taken $12m.

“The success of the first film was a real genuine surprise, we had no idea it was going to take off in the way that it did,” Ms Imrie said. 

When asked if there was going to be a third film, she said “I don’t think there should be funnily enough,” adding: “That’s not to say that if they called I wouldn’t say yes.”

She called the second film a “companion piece” rather than a sequel and did not think a third film would be right. “I hate the word sequel because I don’t think it would be as good,” she said.

The second film met with mixed reviews, and Ms Imrie had some harsh words for the critics. “How mealy mouthed can you get?” she asked. “I’m loyal to the film as it’s wonderful. I’m sad because I don’t think they have any taste.”

Ms Imrie was at The Independent Bath Literature Festival to promote her debut novel Not Quite Nice. “I’m so thrilled my book has been published,” she said. “I am somebody who didn’t even do A-levels; I didn’t go to university. I’m thrilled that I got to the end.”

The actress, whose career has spanned four decades, has written an autobiography called The Happy Hoofer and after that the idea of a novel was suggested and she thought: “Why not?” She is now working on a follow up.

She hopes her book will be made into a film “and I want to play all the parts”.