There’s nothing like a dame… or four. Dames Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright have let the cameras in on a friendship that goes back more than half a century.
In a new film being released next month, the four acting greats discuss their careers and reminisce about their humble beginnings in the theatre.
For Dame Judi and Dame Maggie, that was a production at the Edinburgh Festival back in the 1950s.
“Were we good?” asks Dame Maggie, who can’t recall it at all.
“No, I don’t think we were,” replies Dame Judi, dissolving into fits of laughter.
The film, Nothing Like A Dame, will be released on May 2. It will air on BBC Two in the summer.
It was shot at the country retreat that Dame Joan shared with her husband, Sir Laurence Olivier, until his death in 1989.
Dame Joan, who is now blind, brought the friends together for a weekend of conversation. It was filmed by Roger Michell, director of Notting Hill and Enduring Love.
The film-makers describe it as “candid, funny, caustic, irreverent, poignant and utterly engrossing”.
There is a great deal of laughter – Dame Judi’s habit of nabbing all the plum roles is a target for her friends’ jokes, as is Dame Maggie’s less than enthusiastic reaction to becoming internationally famous thanks to her role as the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey.
But there are also tears as the friends, all widowed, discuss love and loss.
The film’s producer, Sally Angel, said: “They had a lot of courage, to work without a script. We didn’t know what we were going to get.
“But they are funny and witty and sharp. They are in their eighties, very lively women, and it is a celebration of friendship.”