EXCLUSIVE: Bollywood actor Ali Fazal (Happy Bhaag Jayegi, Furious 7) has boarded Stephen Frears’ Victoria and Abdul opposite the previously announced Judi Dench in the Working Title-BBC-Focus Features pic. Fazal takes the role of Abdul Karim, the young servant from India who became an unlikely confidant and teacher to Queen Victoria (Dench). The film reunites Frears with Dench after the two worked together to critical and commercial success on Philomena.
Comedian-actor Eddie Izzard joins the cast as Bertie, Prince of Wales who disapproved of the relationship and tried to drive Karim out of the Royal Household. Also joining the cast are Tim Pigott-Smith as King Charles III and Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions).
The project reps Frears’ sixth film with Brit production powerhouse Working Title, dating back to iconic 1980’s London pic My Beautiful Laundrette, which helped the launch of Daniel Day-Lewis. The screenplay is penned by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) and is based on Shrabani Basu’s book Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closet Confidant.
Victoria and Abdul tells the extraordinary true story of an unexpected friendship in the later years of Queen Victoria’s long 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.
Victoria and Abdul was developed by Beeban Kidron and Lee Hall at Cross Street Films with BBC Films, and is being produced by Kidron, Tracey Seaward and Working Title’s co-chiefs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. The film will shoot on location in the UK and India. Focus holds worldwide rights and will release the film domestically. Universal Pictures International will distribute the film around the world. Victoria and Abdul is being co-financed by Focus in association with BBC Films.