Few experiences rival that of sitting in on a well-rounded gaggle of royally appointed dames gossiping about lives well lived over a spot of Earl Grey (and perhaps some champagne, too). Thankfully, Roger Michell’s spirited documentary Tea With the Dames gives audiences a chance to experience the action firsthand, and EW’s exclusive sneak peek at the sweet cinematic confection (above) sees Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Eileen Atkins savoring crude arts of the tongue despite their refined titles.
“You phoned me when it happened to me and you said, ‘It doesn’t make any difference: You can still swear!’” Smith recalls to Dench as the stage-and-screen legends reminisce about the day Queen Elizabeth II deemed them dames. “You can swear more, I just try to do it privately. No, I won’t do it now!”
The circle erupts in laughter as they gather around a table at a rural British abode, sipping tea while Atkins goes on to recount how she almost missed her own ceremony.
“The letter got lost in the post! So I suddenly got a phone call saying, ‘Are you or are you not? What is your answer? We haven’t received it!’” she remembers. Smith adds: “I was just so thrilled that my father was alive, but that’s mostly the point isn’t it? It’s for other people who’ve helped you and got you where you are. It’s not really you.”
Smith goes on to tease Plowright about being the last of the foursome to become a dame in 2004.
“I think it’s much nicer being a lady, which you were before being a dame,” she says to her friend, who became a lady upon marrying Sir Laurence Olivier in 1961. “Did you feel left out?”
“It’s a kind of acceptance of work achieved,” Plowright responds.
Dench then recalls a moment from production on the 1999 film Tea With Mussolini, in which she starred alongside Plowright and Smith: “Someone [referred to us as] something like ‘dames,’ and Joan said ‘No! One lady, two dames!”
Tea With the Dames enters domestic release Friday, Sept. 21. Watch EW’s exclusive clip from the film above.