The movie was finalized as part of a bet made on the radio. Jennifer Saunders was determined to get the movie made in order to win a bet with comedy partner Dawn French, and would have to pay her £100,000 or have the script in her hands by the end of 2015. She succeeded in the latter, although when French first properly looked through the script, after page 35 it just said "blah blah blah blah...".
Rebel Wilson, longtime fan of the original series, already lobbied for a role in the movie in 2012, before her career took off internationally. She admits to have sent a letter to Jennifer Saunders in which she begged her for a part, and suggested she could play Patsy's long lost daughter. Eventually, when the production was set to start, Wilson was in such demand that she could only get one day off her schedule to film a small cameo, which was shot on the final day of principal photography. In real life, Wilson once had her DVD covers of Absolutely Fabulous (1992) signed by Joanna Lumley.
Kathy Burke returns as Magda, whom previously featured in five episodes of the original series. The last time she portrayed this character was 20 years earlier, which marks the largest gap for a recurring character within the "Ab Fab" canon.
The movie was made and released about twenty-four years after the original television series Absolutely Fabulous (1992) began and and debuted about four years after the last episode of the show was first broadcast.
Joan Collins's first feature film in ten years, Jerry Hall's first feature film in twelve years, while the movie also marks the first time in fourteen years that Julia Sawalha has appeared in a feature film.
Despite featuring as a key element in the story line, Kate Moss hadn't been approached to feature in the film, when Jennifer Saunders was pitching the story to BBC Films and Fox Searchlight. Saunders admittedly took it for granted that she would be a part of the project.
The inspiration for casting Joanna Lumley as Patsy came from a sketch on The Full Wax (1991) in which Ruby Wax interviewed Lumley, where the actress (who had previously been seen as a prim and proper English rose) played herself as a drunk, cocaine addicted washed up has-been.
After years of togetherness, Saunders and Lumley are a particularly sharp double act. "Some of my happiest times have been sitting in costume with Joanna, having conversations in character that just make us pee," says Saunders. "She is a seriously funny person and the joy is that she is not remotely precious. I love working with her. Just being Eddy and Patsy is, to me, like a kind of mindfulness. If I could just do Eddy and Patsy for ten minutes a day, I'd probably be absolutely sorted; getting out all that laughter and all that angst and saying things you are never usually allowed to say. Once I'd done that, I could just continue on a cloud of loveliness. The greatest thing, for me, is that there has never been anywhere we couldn't go with the characters and, on the film, this was amplified."
Bubble's "hashtag"-oufit is custom made for the film by Vin + Omi. Costume designer Rebecca Hale also used Kim Kardashian West's controversial front cover for "Paper Magazine" as inspiration for one of Bubble's dresses.
Comedian Barry Humphries plays dual roles in this film. As well as briefly appearing as Dame Edna Everage, Humphries also has a speaking role as Charlie, a man the AbFab gals meet in France, and it is for this role that he is credited for in the end credits. The Dame Edna Everage character is billed in the final credits roll as being played by the character Dame Edna Everage, and not Barry Humphries.
Debut cinema movie screenplay of writer-actress Jennifer Saunders who wrote the script for the movie. This is despite Saunders having worked as a successful comedy writer ever since the 1980s. However, Saunders is credited as a "creator" on the French cinema movie remake of Absolutely Fabulous (1992), Absolument fabuleux (2001).
Biggest UK box-office opening for a British film since _Spectre_ and the biggest opening weekend at the box-office in 2016 for a British film in the UK outdoing both Eddie the Eagle (2016) and The Lady in the Van (2015).
In 1990, Jennifer Saunders and her comedy partner Dawn French were writing the scripts for the third series of their hit TV show, "French and Saunders", when they came up with a sketch about a mad, 'modern' mother, an ex-hippy called Adriana - as played by Saunders - and her sad, straight-laced daughter, as played by French. One year later, in 1991, French and Saunders were preparing to film their fourth series. Studios had been booked at the BBC and the show's longtime director, Bob Spiers, was in place. Just as the girls - who had been comedy collaborators since meeting at drama school in the late 70's - were about to get down to writing the series, Dawn French and her then husband, Lenny Henry, got the phone call they had been awaiting hopefully for years; a baby girl was ready for adoption. Work had to be put on hold. It was at this point that Saunders got a call from her longtime agent, Maureen Vincent, wondering if there were anything else that she could think of that might fill the studio slot? For Saunders, who had never considered writing anything on her own, this was a terrifying suggestion. Encouraged by her husband, fellow writer and comedian Adrian Edmondson, Saunders had a think about what on earth she could write. It was then that she came back to the idea of the modern mother Adriana, who she would rename Edina "Eddy" Monsoon. "I had enjoyed writing and playing the character," she says. "I could speak her easily, which made the writing easier, indeed possible." Saunders - who got the idea for Eddy's job from Lynne Franks, then London's hottest fashion PR - wrote a treatment, and the wheels started to turn. Jon Plowman, the "French & Saunders" producer (who went on to become the Head of Comedy Entertainment at the BBC), liked the idea and encouraged her to go away and write a pilot. Saunders scribbled the pilot - 'Fashion' on an A4 notebook. In it, Eddy wakes up on the day of her big fashion show to a hangover and a guilt trip from her daughter, Saffy. Along with her best friend, Patsy, Eddy turns the show into a rousing success and, the next morning, she and Patsy trick Saffy into thinking that Eddy is going to check into rehab.
The movie is notable for having around sixty cameo appearances. The cameos are from, in alphabetical order: Richard Arnold, Christopher Biggins, Ozwald Boateng, Judith Chalmers, Gwendoline Christie, Alexa Chung, Abbey Clancy, Rylan Clark-Neal, Joan Collins, Lily Cole, Giles Deacon, Cara Delevingne, Poppy Delevingne, Alice Dellal, Alesha Dixon, Jourdan Dunn, Beattie Edmondson, Ella Eyre, Foxes, Dawn French, Sadie Frost, Jean Paul Gaultier, Llewella Gideon, Nick Grimshaw, Orla Guerin, Jerry Hall, Jon Hamm, Jodie Harsh, Perez Hilton, Anya Hindmarch, Pam Hogg, Kelly Hoppen, Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage, Jocelyn Jee Esien, Alex Jones, La Roux, Jamie Laing, Kathy Lette, Daisy Lowe, Stella McCartney, Suzy Menkes, Nick Mohammed, Graham Norton, Miquita Oliver, Jade Parfitt, Jeremy Paxman, Sophie Raworth, Camilla Rutherford, Brix Smith, Lara Stone, Tinie Tempah, Bruno Tonioli, Wanda Ventham, Suki Waterhouse, Kirsty Wark, and Rebel Wilson.
"You keep meeting people and they keep enjoying it, but it was Joanna Lumley who finally forced me into it," says the arch-procrastinator, Jennifer Saunders, a woman much happier sweeping her terrace or cleaning her keyboard than she is actually sitting down to write. "She put it very simply, and very brilliantly. She simply said 'You must write it, darling. Otherwise we will all be dead and we won't have made the film.'And I love hanging out with Joanna, and I love being with the other cast members, and I knew that we could have a lot of fun." Around the same time, Saunders was recording her Radio 2 Christmas show with her old friend and collaborator, Dawn French. When French asked her, live on air, what her New Year's Resolution was, Saunders (who had recently published her autobiography "Bonkers: My Life in Laughs") replied that she was determined to finally write the script for the film version of "Ab Fab". French, who had heard it all before, spotted an opportunity. "She said that, if I hadn't written the script by the same time the following year, I would have to pay her £10,000," Saunders remembers. French & Saunders shook on it and the deal was done. "I was pretty confident that I would have written it by the summer," says Saunders. One year later, on the eve of recording their end of year 2014 show, Saunders realized, in a blind panic, that she hadn't fulfilled her side of the bet. "I had such a mental block about writing it," she admits, "I just couldn't quite see it yet." Not wanting to suffer the indignity of losing the bet, not to mention the £10,000, Saunders quickly banged out the first 30 pages of a 90 page script. On the blank 60 pages, she simply wrote "Blah, blah, blah", hoping that French might not notice. On the day of the recording, as she handed over the unfinished script, Saunders was "actually sweating and panicking." When the recording had finished, her comedy partner came up to her and said "That's not the script." "This was just before Christmas and I argued that I had until New Year," Saunders remembers. "I promised her that, by New Year's Day, she would have a finished script." Over the next couple of weeks, Saunders continued to flesh out a version of the script and emailed it to her comedy partner, knowing full well that French was a luddite who didn't do email and "would probably never get round to reading it." Still, Saunders had kept her side of the bargain and, by then, the word was out.
Second "Absolutely Fabulous" cinema movie. The first was the French feature film Absolument fabuleux (2001) remake of the television series Absolutely Fabulous (1992) which was made and released about fifteen years prior to Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016). It's French title is "Absolument Fabuleux", which naturally, translates into the English language as "Absolutely Fabulous".
For Gwendoline Christie, the star of "Game of Thrones" and Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015), the opportunity to work on Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016) was also a dream come true. "I have been a lifelong fan of everything Jennifer has ever done,"' she says. "I grew up watching and re-watching 'Ab Fab'; to me it was a masterclass in how performance could work at the highest level." When the actress met her comedy hero at the Elle Style Awards at the beginning of 2015, she showed off "in a pathetically vain attempt to try and impress her." Thankfully, it worked. "It would seem that she took pity and allowed me to be in her film," laughs Christie, who plays herself, and who says that the greatest birthday experience of her entire life was when, during the filming of her real-life partner Giles Deacon's fashion show, Eddy and Patsy presented her with a huge birthday cake. "My cheeks are still hurting from grinning."
On the fashion front, the most notable supporters were Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Giles Deacon. "I'm a bit of an anomaly within the fashion world," explains Deacon, who jumped at the chance to put on the fashion show, and himself appear on screen. "It's always been important to me to see the lighter side; I hate the overbearing, tortuous side of the industry that I work in. For me, doing great work and being able to see the lighter side need not be mutually exclusive. I think it's a real shame if you can't have some fun and laugh at yourself and I also think that it detracts from the personality of the clothes." Rebecca Hale is effusive in her praise for Deacon, whose designs Saunders even wore to the British Fashion Awards, which she and Lumley attended - in character - during filming, to present an award to Stella McCartney. Of particular note for Hale was the support of Vivienne Westwood. "I can't thank her and her team enough," she says. "Not only did they lend us everything, but they also made us clothes at cost. They went out of their way to support us and their brand echoes so much with ours. It's anarchic and fabulous and it has something to say. For Jennifer, it was like being in a sweetie shop."
For the full two weeks of Riviera filming the Cote d'Azur luckily returned to its most blue-skied beautiful, which only served to heighten the sense of old-fashioned glamour that Eddy and Patsy have always yearned for.
For Glee star Chris Colfer - who plays Edina's hairdresser Christopher - the bid to be in anything that Jennifer Saunders had ever had anything to do with had started as a boy, watching episodes of "Absolutely Fabulous", which is to his mind "one of the funniest shows in history". In 2011 when he came to London for a two-week leg of the Glee world tour, he asked his representatives to offer his hero, Jennifer Saunders, tickets to see the show. She came, he was awestruck, and the two became friends on Twitter. When Saunders said she was thinking of writing a script for the film version of "Absolutely Fabulous", Colfer replied that he would "move mountains" to be in it. Several years later, when she got in touch saying that she had written him a role, Colfer "almost exploded" with happiness. "It doesn't seem right to call it a job because it's been so much fun," he says of his time filming. "I don't think I've ever laughed this hard. Ever. Definitely not on a set before, anyway. Watching Jennifer and Joanna has, for me, been the most incredible thing because they just crack each other up. It's almost like a competition, like they're each trying to make the other one laugh more."
Cast and crew alike are unanimous in their praise for Kate Moss's enthusiastic professionalism. "She was just fab," says Saunders. "So sweet, so funny, with absolutely no airs and graces." "I've never met anyone who tried so hard and wanted to do it so right," says Mandie Fletcher. "Before she got there, we said to ourselves, 'She's a multi-millionaire supermodel. She could arrive and be difficult. She could have done anything and we would have sucked it up'. But not a bit of it. She was completely charming and professional. An absolute delight." Anything she was asked to do, Moss did with aplomb. "She was up for anything," says the costume designer Rebecca Hale. "For one particular scene she had to wear a wetsuit and wade into the Thames and she didn't moan once."
For the film's costume design, first came meetings with established designers. As costume supervisor Charlotte Sewell explains, "Some of the British brands - and we were very adamant, at all times, that we represented British fashion as much and as emphatically as possible - said 'Oh my God, how amazing! You don't want any stuff from us do you?' While others said. 'We'd love to be involved! Can't wait!'". "Because this was film, not television, I couldn't get away with using cheap clothes," says Rebecca Hale whose opposite colleague, Makeup Designer Christine Cant, also had to work hard to gloss up and glamourize the cast of the film, without ever detracting from the comic content.
The secret to the success of "Absolutely Fabulous" has been its refusal to play by the rules. "It was the first time, on screen, that women were seen behaving badly," says Jane Horrocks (Bubble), who originally auditioned for the part of Saffy, and then created her own, fabulously kooky character in Bubble. "When Patsy and Eddy came along, women the world over felt that they had been given permission to get arseholed and have a laugh. They were such a breath of fresh air; such a brilliant, funny relief."
Without exception, all the actors and real life characters who appear in the film share a common essential trait: the ability to laugh at themselves. And, of everyone, no one was more up for some fun than Kate Moss. "From the very beginning, she threw herself at the idea of playing herself," says producer Jon Plowman. Kate Moss was no stranger to working with Jennifer Saunders - in 1996, she modeled alongside Dawn French in an episode of "French & Saunders" and, in 2012, she starred in an "Absolutely Fabulous" Olympic special. "I grew up with 'Ab Fab'," says the supermodel. "When it started, I was right at the beginning of my modeling career and I always found it to be such an amazing take on the fashion business. It made me laugh, which was a good thing, because the fashion world isn't always funny."
While talking to the publicist, played by Mark Gatiss, an obvious reference is made to the AbFab episode of the TV series Absolutely Fabulous (1992) "Death" [See: Absolutely Fabulous: Death (1994)]. Eddie tells him, "You only read it, you didn't write it," and under her breath utters, "You work in a shop," referencing when she tells the assistant of the art gallery (Natascha McElhone), "You only work in a shop you know, you can drop the attitude."
Patsy and Eddy will never lose. They can't lose because at the end of the day their audience wants to see them win. Firstly, because of their friendship, which is a thick and thin union that has lasted longer and more joyously than most marriages of the same length. And secondly because, in their boundless optimism and resolute refusal to be anything but themselves, they provide the perfect comic tonic to real life. "The truth is that times are quite dark," says Joanna Lumley. "People are tired and lives can sometimes feel dull. But Patsy and Eddy don't feel that. They are positive forces, life forces, forces for fun. And they believe that, whatever happens to them, they are going to survive and come out on top."
The name of the brand of champagne seen on movie posters and promotional materials for the film is "BOLLINGER" and whose brand name is also mentioned at one point in the movie. The champagne is seen in various scenes throughout the movie.
When the TV series Absolutely Fabulous (1992) first aired in 1992, the BBC placed it on its out-of-the-mainstream channel, BBC2, thinking that it might build a modest cult following. However, the show drew such high ratings that it was moved to the more Populist channel, BBC1. According to Jon Plowman, head of comedy at the BBC, during the development of the first series there was concern that "an audience outside the square mile of Soho - the trendy district of London - would not know what this was about." It eventually became one of the highest-rated shows in Britain.
Ruby Wax, the TV show's script editor, later revealed that Jennifer Saunders would write the script the evening before filming, and the only time Saunders produced an entire script was for the pilot episode, which she had written in pencil in a textbook.
"Most movies are a script in search of some money," explains Jon Plowman, who had produced all five series and seven specials of Ab Fab over the years. "But this was more a case of some money in search of a script. From the minute the word got out that Jennifer was contemplating writing the film of 'Ab Fab', lots of financiers threw their hats in the ring. It was what the world had been waiting on for years." Both Plowman and Saunders are particularly happy that BBC Films have a stake in the film. "The BBC is where the show started, "says Saunders. "We owe them a lot." Albeit a little unwittingly, Saunders was now committed. She was not without her worries. "I felt, what I'd always felt, which is that it wouldn't be enough to make a film version of the TV show, because that was just an excuse to make jokes for half an hour. No, the film had to be something different, something bigger. It had to be relevant. It had to be about Patsy and Eddy now and the reality of how their life would have panned out. And that reality, let's face it, was always going to be quite sad."
It certainly wasn't always easy for the production. A matter of days before filming was due to begin, the Riviera was hit by catastrophic flash floods. But, rather than battening down the hatches, locations like the Martinez hotel in Cannes welcomed the production with open arms, despite still being without telephone or internet connection in the wake of the storms.
With so many special guest appearances, every day on the set of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016) had the feeling of a particularly buzzy party. But none more so than the misty Monday morning when 80 drag queens, dressed in their full, fantastical regalia, jostled with grey-faced commuters to be at the Vauxhall Tavern for a 7am call time. "I have never seen anything so 'Absolutely Fabulous' in my life," said producer Jon Plowman.
Casting the drag queens was more a case of opening floodgates. From the beginning of its history, "Absolutely Fabulous" chimed with the LGBT community - Patsy and Eddy were toasted for being outrageous, unapologetic and the truest possible friends. The opportunity to appear in the film version was one which nobody wanted to pass up. "There was not a single person who turned us down," says Chloe Partridge, who worked under Camilla Arthur, together finding all the specialist background and extras. "The response was just incredible; one girl, Miss Ra, canceled her two week holiday in Thailand because it clashed with filming, others flew in from all over the world." And these were not just any old drag queens; these were the crème de la crème of the drag scene - fashion icon Jodie Harsh, "Britain's Got Talent" finalist La Voix, as well as several stars of "Ru Paul's Drag Race". Naturally, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, who might otherwise have had a rare break from filming, could not resist coming to set that day.
For Jennifer Saunders, whose costumes have always been a crucial vehicle for her comedy, a particular interest was taken in the film's fashion. Similarly, Joanna Lumley - herself an ex model - has a very clear idea of what Patsy should and shouldn't wear. "I went to her house one day to do a fitting and she went into her cupboard and bought out this beautiful jacket that she'd never worn and said 'Can we do anything with this?'" remembers Rebecca Hale. "And she ended up wearing it in the party scene and looked amazing, as ever." Similarly, both Julia Sawalha and Jane Horrocks have very firm opinions on how their character's looks should work. "If I can look at myself as Julia, then there's something wrong," says Sawalha. "But, if I look in the mirror and go 'Ugh' then Rebecca knows that she's got it right."
It was actress Jane Horrocks who put forward for the film the names of Vin & Omi, a young, process-led design duo whose work she had been following with interest. A subsequent meeting with Rebecca Hale, and a symmetry of ideas, gave the effervescent pair (lifelong "Ab Fab" fans who have also designed clothes for Michele Obama) the opportunity to design some of Bubble's weird and wonderful costumes; most notably a hashtag emoji outfit, a hat of giant collagen lips with syringes in it and a dissolvable flower dress made from 1,500 Italian crepe paper flowers; a symbolic comment on the throwaway nature of contemporary fashion.
"I have never had a professional experience like it," says the film's casting director, Alex Johnson. "Most films I have worked on, there has been a certain amount of begging people to be in it - or trying to financially tempt them in certainly - whereas with this one people have been ringing up and begging to be in it. We were practically beating them off with a stick."
Originally broadcast on the BBC in 1992, the TV series "Absolutely Fabulous", or "Ab Fab" as it would come to be known, aired to instant acclaim. Patsy and Eddy shocked and delighted in equal measure, Saffy made our toes curl and gave the show a heart, Mother knocked us dead with her withering one liners and Bubble made us laugh out loud with her surreal inefficiency. It was a show that had something for everyone: a dysfunctional family, a die-hard friendship and a huge, outrageous sense of fun. "The characters in 'Ab Fab' - and it is a concept that is driven by its characters - are a cartoon version of all of us," says Saunders. "And I think, at the end of the day, people like to laugh at themselves and not take life too seriously. If I had to say why the show was a success, I would say that it was because it was a license not to have to behave. Patsy and Eddy are awful, sad human beings, but they enjoy themselves hugely. Plus, they are each other's greatest ally. My main experience over these past god knows how many years is that people come up to me and say 'I've got a Patsy, I've got an Eddy. They are just like me and my mate.' And, do you know what, everyone likes to have a little double act, a friend who supports them, who they can have a laugh with. Because that is what family, in its strongest possible sense, is and should be. And that's all any of us want from life, really. That, and to have fun, to have a laugh, and not take it all too seriously."
Particular praise must be singled out for the Grand Hotel Du Cap Ferrat, easily one of the most prestigious hotels in the world, who, for the love of "Ab Fab" threw open their doors and, most remarkably, closed down their swimming pool - one of the most exclusive in the whole Riviera - for an entire day.
In April 2016, the BBC and 20th Century Fox announced a confirmed list of sixty cameo appearances that would appear in the movie. The UK newspaper 'The Independent' reported on Monday 27th June 2016 that "the film has more than 60 cameos".
In July 2016, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016), a film of the TV series, was released. Jennifer Saunders had been planning to write a film since as early as 1995, but was then talked into producing more episodes. All of the main cast return in this film, along with cameos from numerous celebrities, including Rebel Wilson and Kate Moss.
First cinema movie directed by television director Mandie Fletcher for around twenty-two years with Fletcher's last theatrical feature film being the comedy Deadly Advice (1994). Actress Jane Horrocks worked on both pictures.
Rumours and media reports that Harry Styles and Kim Kardashian West would be making cameo appearances were dismissed by the production and proved false. The two celebrities do not appear in cameos in the movie.
Riding high on its runaway popularity, "Absolutely Fabulous" - which was also bought by the Comedy Central in the US in 1994 - ran for three series, from 1992 to 1995 (winning the BAFTA Award for Best Comedy Series in 1993). In 1996, a two-part television film entitled "The Last Shout" was to be its finale. But the world wanted more and, between 2001 and 2004, two further series and three one-off specials aired. Seven years later, in 2011, Saunders once again bowed to public demand with two further hour-long specials on Christmas Day 2011 and New Year's Day 2012, both directed by Mandie Fletcher. A further special aired to coincide with the 2012 London Summer Olympics (also directed by Fletcher, and for which Saunders won a Best Actress BAFTA) - was to be the last. But four years, and much lobbying later, Saunders with this cinema movie has finally given the world ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE.
The subject of aging in the modern world was something of particular interest to Saunders, herself now a grandmother of two. "Eddy and Patsy don't know how to grow old, in the way that none of us seem to these days," she says. "In cave man times, we would all have been dead by the time we were thirty. Now, we flap about until we are 70, 80, even 90 and we don't know what to do because biologically we should just be dead. And we haven't got this extra brain or gene that tells us how to live to be old. We used to just disappear into the twilight without spectacles but now we can have laser surgery and we don't know what to do. We don't just not know how to grow old gracefully; we don't know how to grow old at all. It's like we've lost the ability to stop wearing trainers." No one more so than Eddy and Patsy. "They refuse to give up," says Saunders. "They can't, and won't, ever admit to being old. Ever. So they have to find a different dream; they have to retreat into the past, into something sentimental and nostalgic that they love and know. And, for them, that is the idea of the South of France, of somewhere halcyon where their idea of glamour is still clinging on for dear life."
Filming on ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE began in October 2015. From the outset, the team behind the film were determined that its denouement should take place on the Cote d'Azur. "Patsy and Eddy are wildly hedonistic creatures and to them the South of France is a sort of nirvana," explains producer Jon Plowman. "It's got all the ingredients for their sort of good life - yachts, sea, sun, booze, hotels that are beyond the dreams of ordinary mortals where drinking huge amounts of champagne before breakfast is absolutely the done thing. It's the life that they have been looking for since 1991, when we made the first pilot for the series."
"It does feel that we just lock back into how we were twenty years ago," says Helen Lederer, who plays Catriona. "Some anxieties, some joys, always gossip." June Whitfield (Mother), who celebrated her 90th birthday during filming, says "I couldn't have asked for anything nicer." "We are all very different, but we have all - crucially - got the same sense of humor," says Julia Sawalha. "We are all very relaxed and pretty normal people, actually. We haven't got high demands. At the end of the day, I would much rather sit with my lovely colleagues than in a trailer on my own with a fan heater blowing in my face and an iPad."
Once word was out that the popular sitcom was finally being made into a film, actors from across the globe put their hats in the ring for a part. New additions, like Robert Webb, one half of the comedy duo Mitchell & Webb, who plays Saffy's boyfriend, and Nick Mohammed, a comedian who plays Magda's assistant Caspar, jumped at the chance to appear in the film of the iconic comedy. And previous incumbents like Emma Bunton and Lulu didn't hesitate in saying yes when they were asked to return.
In the dream sequence in which Eddy fantasizes that Kate Moss and her cool friends beg her to come to Goa with them - Jennifer Saunders found herself sitting amongst some of the most beautiful faces in London. As the likes of Lara Stone, Alexa Chung, Lily Cole, Daisy Lowe, Stella McCartney, Suki Waterhouse and Nick Grimshaw said goodbye to her at the end of filming, each and every one of them thanked her for having them in her film. "Quite lovely, quite hot face making," said Saunders.
"Jonathan Swift, the man who wrote 'Gulliver's Travels' famously said that 'satire is a glass wherein each man sees every face but his own'," said producer Jon Plowman. "From the earliest days of 'Ab Fab', we thought that fashion and PR would hate us and think 'Oh my God, they're laughing at us' but, in fact, they had the opposite reaction. In a way, they were the very first people who said 'Wow! You noticed how shallow and vacuous we are. You noticed us. Hooray! Thank you for noticing.'"
From the very beginning, figures of fashion - the likes of Zandra Rhodes and Christian Lacroix - were delighted to be a part of the "Ab Fab" story. "The ones that come to you, as they always have, are the ones that see the funniness and the ridiculousness of it all," says Jennifer Saunders. "That's the joy; they may exist in a rarefied world but so many of the best fashion designers just don't take themselves too seriously." And twenty five years on, this is still the case. Thus, for the chance to appear front row in a fictional fashion show, the likes of Vogue Fashion Director Lucinda Chambers, Tatler Editor Kate Reardon and GQ editor Dylan Jones all took days out of their busy schedules to effectively poke fun at themselves. Extras on days like these dressed themselves, and did so perfectly. "Mostly we'd just look at them and say 'Great'," says costume supervisor Charlotte Sewell. "Which was quite a relief as there was so much we needed to get right."
The name of the French song heard during some of the trailers is "Je t'aime... moi non plus" which translates as for "I love you . . . me neither". The duet was first released in 1969 being sung by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg the latter of whom wrote the song. A 1967 recorded version of the famous tune co-sung by Brigitte Bardot for whom it was written, was first released in 1986. The track, however, is not heard in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016) itself though, but the film is significantly partially set in the French Riviera in France where the precursor television series has a cult following. According to the Wikipedia website, "it reached number one in the UK, and number two in Ireland, but was banned in several countries owing to its sexual content. The song has been covered by many different artists." It has also been utilized in a number of advertising commercials. The song prominently features in the French film of the same name, Je t'aime moi non plus (1976), which starred Birkin, and was directed by Gainsbourg. Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016) is released in the 25th Anniversary year of the passing away of Gainsbourg and in the 40th Annniversary year of the French film Je t'aime moi non plus (1976).
Patsy and Eddy do what most of us would like to do but that which we don't quite have the guts to do. And now, on the big screen, their glorious misbehaving is going to be amplified. But Saunders was determined that, along the way, there needed to be a moment of reckoning. No victory can be sweet if there isn't a lot to lose. "I wanted to make sure that Eddy was driven - and, by driven, I mean quite literally driven - into a moment of comeuppance. Her awful moment is the moment that she looks at who she is, and who she has been, and what the future holds, and almost embarrasses herself into saying that she loves someone."
With a focus on modernity and freshness, costume designer Rebecca Hale and her team also looked to fashion graduates for some of their more standout fashion party looks. A phone call to Caryl Court, a senior fashion lecturer at the University of East London resulted in a collaboration with the final year students, who ended up writing their module around their designs for the film. "It was great to bring the youth into the film," says Charlotte Sewell. "Because Absolutely Fabulous is, at the end of the day, as ever-changing, and obsessed with the new, as fashion is."
Star Jennifer Saunders (Eddy) is one half of the comedy duo French and Saunders and an original member of The Comic Strip. She wrote and starred alongside Joanna Lumley in "Absolutely Fabulous", the television series and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016).
The name of the French fish company that appears on signage on the small orange delivery vehicle was "MONSIEUR BESSON - POISSONNERIE" which is a fish store, fish shop, or fishmonger. It's use in the film is a play on the English word "pussy" as in "Pussyonerie". The products that are advertised on the side of the getaway car include "poissons", "crustaces", and "coquillages", which are in English respectively, fish, crustacea / shellfish, and shells.
For their chemistry to work at its highest possible frequency, all the J's - most particularly Saunders, Lumley and Plowman - felt that it was essential to work with a director who could speak their language. From the outset, the award-winning director Mandie Fletcher seemed the only girl for the job. Fletcher - whose top-drawer comedy credits include "Blackadder" and "Only Fools and Horses" - had previously worked with Saunders on three series of "Jam and Jerusalem" as well as on three 20th Anniversary Specials of "Absolutely Fabulous". "She's fast, she's brilliant and, most crucially, she's got a great sense of humor," says Saunders. The admiration is certainly mutual. "I'm desperately fond of Jennifer," says Mandie Fletcher. "She's not just a terrific writer, but she's also an extraordinary performer. With most performers, you get a good performance, but it's grounded. But there's something about Jennifer where, if you give her a moment, she'll cut the strings and float above. Plus, she now has a confidence in herself which, I believe, has made for something very special in this film, because she's touching as well. This film is not just all about broad comedy, about falling over and getting drunk. There's an honesty and a truth which underlies the whole thing, and that gives it a consequence."
Second feature length film in consecutive years to feature the Dame Edna Everage character and featuring the word "FABULOUS" in the title. The Dame Edna character featured in the previous year's documentary film Just About Famous (2015) where she was played by Scott Mason. In Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016), Dame Edna is portrayed by her creator, Barry Humphries.
Actress Joanna Lumley has appeared in two cinema movies with the word "ABSOLUTELY" in the title which have been released in consecutive back-to-back years. The theatrical feature films are both comedies, Absolutely Anything (2015), and in the following year, this picture, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016).
In a world which is "running away with itself", Eddy has become an anomaly. "She has always been an enthusiast for the new but, in an age of social media, everyone is onto everything before she can be," says Saunders. "The world has left her behind, in a way. She's become slightly irrelevant and behind the bounce. Neither she nor Patsy is savvy enough or hip enough - because they never were, let's face it - to keep up."
Jennifer Saunders herself is baffled by the modern world. "To me, keeping up with Facebook and Instagram and Twitter is a whole day's work," she says. "I don't know how not to trail through other people's worlds of children and dead friends and dog videos before I get to someone I actually know." To her mind, the 21st century - with its earnest, faddy twittering - is just as ripe for a swipe as it ever was. And what more powerful symbol of its antithesis than Kate Moss? "Kate represents the old souls," explains Saunders. "No, she's not going to give an interview, no, she's not on social media and yes, she's still bloody gorgeous. Kate Moss is the one person that defies everything about the modern world and that is precisely why the world loves her. It is certainly why Patsy and Eddy love her. She is the one that they would like to live like. Because she has fun, and she doesn't play by the rules, and she manages to be herself, however she wants to be, and gets more beautiful with every day that goes by. She doesn't age or fade; she blazes a glorious, rebellious trail and, in the sweetest, coolest, most gorgeous way pays no heed to what anyone thinks."
"This is 'Ab Fab' on a completely different scale,"says producer Damian Jones. "Fans of the TV show are in for quite a treat because they are going to get all the outrageousness and hilarity that they first fell in love with, wrapped up in a very glamorous package."
The finished film blends some iconic landmarks - the Croisette in Cannes and the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat - with some hidden visual gems, such as the gorgeous St Peter's Chapel in Villefranche-sur-mer and the Palais Bulles, Pierre Cardin's futuristic clifftop villa in Theoule-sur-Mer. "The villa has a glamour and a sort of exuberant bonkersness to it that we just thought was very 'Ab Fab'," explains the film's production designer, Harry Banks, whose work on several episodes of the TV series meant that he spoke the show's language.
In London a different backdrop glittered compared to the French shoot, but it was certainly just as majestic. With its big vistas, glass shards and twinkling modernity, the banks of the River Thames provided the perfect up-to-date backdrop for this contemporary look at a group of characters whose lives we have been following for a quarter of a century. Stand out, cutting edge locations included a 22nd floor penthouse of Neo House on Bankside, where a Giles Deacon fashion show opens the story, to an undeveloped Victorian Pump House in Wapping which provided the perfect backdrop for the Huki Muki party. Their aesthetic appeal aside, what these spaces provided to the filmmakers most of all was a canvas on which to paint their picture in the broadest possible strokes. "Our ultimate aim was to open the TV series - which largely took place in the closed set of Edina's house - up into 360 degrees," production designer Harry Banks explained. "This is the 'Ab Fab' we know and love, but it has now opened up onto a believable, cinematic scale. We've given it an uplift, I suppose. And the effect that that creates is that it makes the audience feel that they are somehow, more than ever, living Patsy and Eddy's experiences alongside them. We can drive with them up to Eddy's house, follow them down the stairs into the kitchen, go with them to a party, cruise with them on a yacht. It's the same 'Ab Fab' we know and love, but now it's in Technicolor." "It was very simple, really," says Mandie Fletcher. "We wanted it to look, and feel, like a glass of champagne on a dark day. We've given it the gloss, the glitz and the glamour that it deserves."
"It was basically just like Christmas every day," says producer Jon Plowman of the joys of reuniting the original "Ab Fab" family. Getting the gang together was, in many ways, the easiest part of the filming process. "We all hoped it was going to happen at some point because the longing for it was just so colossal," says Jane Horrocks. But no amount of longing could make it a certainty. "People have always said 'When are you doing a film? When are you doing a film?" says Julia Sawalha. "But I always said 'Well I don't think a film will ever happen' because I didn't know if Jen would ever be ready. She's not the sort of writer who would ever write anything for the sake of it. She writes it when she has something original and topical to say. And that, at the end of the day, is why she's such a genius. So when she finally wrote it, we all knew that it was because the time was right, and we all jumped at the chance!" All the J's - Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, June Whitfield (and Jon Plowman) - have been a family for longer than a lot of their new, younger audience demographic have been alive. Having worked together on and off for twenty five years, on five series and seven specials, they know every aspect of each other's characters - both in fiction and in reality. "The great thing about having a success is it means you can do more of what you're doing, make more of what you've been making," explains Saunders. "We all became a family, and there is no better feeling than going into something knowing that people you love will be there." "We are safe as houses, the five of us," says Joanna Lumley. "We know that. We know each other. We know each other's characters. And we know our audience. I am sure I speak for all of us when I say that we have all adored being back together again."
With director Mandie Fletcher at the helm, the rest of the family fell very easily, and obviously, into place. Every key Head of Department - Production Designer Harry Banks, Costume Designer Rebecca Hale and Hair and Makeup Designer Christine Cant - all worked on the TV series of "Absolutely Fabulous" in some capacity. And even those who weren't part of the original "Ab Fab" family - Director of Photography Chris Goodger and Editor Gavin Buckley - have significant collaboration history with Mandie Fletcher.
For those new to the "Ab Fab" family, every day was pure joy. "Every day, there was huge amounts of laughter," says producer Damian Jones. "Because, most crucially, there is a strong chance that this will be the Ab Fab finale, that this will be the end of the series as we know it, so everyone has given it their absolute all. It has been a real labor of love."
Not since the "Ab Fab" TV series (which racked up a stellar list of cameos; Debbie Harry, Twiggy, Elton John, Marianne Faithfull, the list is endless...) has a British production featured such a glut of real life stars: Lulu, Emma Bunton, Dame Edna Everage, Joan Collins, Janette Krankie, Sadie Frost, Abbey Clancy, Alesha Dixon, Orla Guerin, Bruno Tonioli, Jerry Hall, Kelly Hoppen, Jean Paul Gaultier, to name but a few "There was one red carpet scene that we were filming," remembers Mandie Fletcher, "that I looked around and thought, 'Is there anybody who is famous in the UK today who is actually not here?''' And the film still has a few surprise Hollywood turns in store for the audience as well.
From the outset, all those involved in the film were adamant that, above all else, it was the costumes that were going to ground the film convincingly in the modern day; that they were going to make a twenty five year old concept feel both cinematic and relevant. Or, as Costume Designer Rebecca Hale puts it, "If the fashion isn't right, the whole thing topples. We had to make it now. We had to make it cool. We had to make sure that no-one, at any point, could accuse us of being old hat."
For actress Jane Horrocks, herself the mother of a teenage daughter, and an actress who always has strong opinions on her character's costumes, the essential thing was to make Bubble feel as contemporary as possible. She, in many ways, was the vehicle with which Rebecca Hale and her team felt they could best pull "Ab Fab" into the 21st Century. "The main change in fashion has been the way that the internet has revolutionized the way we dress," says Hale. "And this absolutely had to be reflected in the film."
As with everything, the internet has given what it has taken away, and costume designer Rebecca Hale is at pains to point out that it is as much her best friend as her enemy. "I found a lot of designers on Instagram that I had never heard of before," she admits. Just typing in "weird spectacles" led her to Amore Eye Wear, a tiny American company that produced all the glasses for Patsy's love interest, Lubliana (Marcia Warren).
"At the end of the day, there's something quintessentially British about 'Ab Fab'," says producer Damian Jones. "It celebrates every aspect of our culture, but most crucially, our tendency not to take ourselves too seriously." "One day, we'll all be dead," says Saunders. "So I say, let's just all enjoy every single blooming minute as much as we possibly can, for as long as we possibly can."