Princess Kate stepped out tonight for her first film premiere in more than a year.
The royal mom, who last hit the red carpet in 2015 for the James Bond film Spectre, attended the Thursday evening London premiere of A Street Cat Named Bob. The new film, about a young homeless musician and his unlikely friendship with a cat, is based on the internationally acclaimed book of the same name and costars Downton Abbey‘s Joanne Froggatt.
“He’s having a bit of a grumble now, but it’s amazing,” said James Bowen, the former heroin addict whose life—along with 11-year-old feline Bob, whom he brought to the premiere on his shoulder—inspired the film. “Standing on a red carpet about a film about a part of my life, with my little man here, and he got to star as himself in the film. It’s very surreal.”
As for Kate, who wore a floor-length white evening dress by a new label, Self Portrait, “I’m honored that she’s coming and that her charity has made themselves associated with our film,” says Bowen. “If it hadn’t been for programs to help me get off drugs, I certainly wouldn’t be standing here doing these interviews today—that’s for sure.”
Has Bob been practicing his curtsy? “Not so much. He’s been practicing his closey eyes!”
“I’m really pleased she’s here tonight because Action on Addiction [a charity Kate supports] is a wonderful organization, and the more light we can shine on people in these bad circumstances the better,” Bob costar Rita Gedmintas tells PEOPLE.
During her research for the film, she says, “you realize that people tend to paint all homeless people with the same brush. And this film opens the eyes to seeing everyone as an individual and coming from different circumstances. If you can’t do much, just give a little bit of compassion or eye contact or give a chat or a sandwich. Something as simple as that can make someone’s day and keep hope alive.”
Of Bob, whom Bowen found on the street and nursed back to health, “he showed me that everybody has a second chance in life if they want it,” said Bowen, who added that the cat was handling the premiere “like the star he is.”
“We are reading a lot to them,” Kate said.
Before the premiere, Kate attended the Recovery Street Film Festival, which showcases inspiring movies made by former addicts and their loved ones.
The festival—set up three years ago by a group of charities including Action on Addiction—screens films around the U.K. and aims to raise awareness of addiction and tackle the surrounding stigma.
Earlier on Thursday Kate watched the three prize-winning films from the festival’s previous three years: Harry’s Story, which explores addiction and its connection to mental health; Understanding Mum, which focuses on parental substance misuse; and Hope Inside, which discusses addiction and recovery in prison.
Inside the event, held at the offices of Four Weddings and a Funeral filmmakers Working Title, Kate listened intently as several former addicts told their stories.
She also cooed over 15-week old Eden Walker, whose mother, Ceri Walker, lost her alcoholic mother Carolyn when she was 21 and appeared in a film talking about the effect it had on her.
“Hello, aren’t you a sweetheart?” said Kate, bending down to look at the baby.
Action on Addiction will benefit from money raised at tonight’s Street Cat Named Bob premiere.