Unlike many of those unlucky to have endured Tom Hooper’s digital-fur-coated descent into the uncanny valley, “Cats,” one of the film’s stars still hasn’t seen the movie. That would be Judi Dench, as revealed on a recent episode of BBC Radio 4’s “Front Row” program with John Wilson (via Entertainment Weekly). In the twisted musical adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” Dench plays Old Deuteronomy, the wise, beloved, and confusingly gendered elder cat who serves as patriarch of the Jellicles.
“I didn’t read anything about the response to it, nor have I seen it,” Dench said about the movie, which recently earned a whopping eight Razzie Award nominations, including one for Dench. “I’ve only seen a picture of myself.” She also added that playing Old Deuteronomy in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical hit close to home. “I once had a cat [who looked] like that, called Carpet, and I didn’t realize I was playing Carpet. I thought I was playing a kind of, you know, mangier cat who didn’t have much fur. I didn’t realize I was this wonderful show cat!” she said. In 1981, Dench was cast in the London stage production of “Cats,” but had to drop out due to injury, so this movie version was something of a homecoming.
“I was aware of the response only slightly; I think people had been rather kind to me,” Dench said when asked about the vicious backlash to the movie, which has turned “Cats” into something of a midnight-movie cult classic. Opening in December last year, “Cats” ended up grossing just shy of $75 million worldwide on a $95 million budget, thanks to costly special effects and a rushed production that turned out a movie that looked unfinished upon premiering. (The Alamo Drafthouse regularly hosts Rowdy Screenings, where audiences can hoot and holler at the screen, and sing along to the music.)
“I’m not big on reading reviews, anyway…. you kind of know, yourself, about something, I think,” she said. When asked what she thought about her Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actress, the Oscar-winning Dench responded, “Oh, am I? That would be good! As far as I know, that’s a first!”