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Judi Dench

Judi Dench



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Also Known As: Judith Olivia Dench, Dame Judi Dench Died:
Born: December 9, 1934 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: York, England, GB Profession: actor, director


A distinguished talent widely recognized as one of Great Britain's greatest modern actresses, Dame Judi Dench spent much of her career concentrating on stage and television in her native England. From her early years with the Old Vic Theater Company in London, Dench proved a commanding stage performer in both classic drama and musical comedy, and at the same time, was known by non-theatergoers for starring roles on the British comedy series "As Time Goes By" (BBC, 1992-2005) and "A Fine Romance" (1981-84). It was not until Dench hit her fifties that she began finding film roles that enabled international audiences the opportunity to appreciate her commanding gifts. Dench was one of the most frequently nominated actresses in Academy Award history, earning a statue for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in "Shakespeare in Love" (1998) and nominations for a wide range of screen performances in "Chocolat" (2000), "Iris" (2001) and "Notes on a Scandal" (2006). A national treasure, Dench was honored by the British government with the title of Dame Commander of the British Army, and her homeland recognized her outstanding contributions to British Theater with a Laurence Olivier Award - officially proving...

A distinguished talent widely recognized as one of Great Britain's greatest modern actresses, Dame Judi Dench spent much of her career concentrating on stage and television in her native England. From her early years with the Old Vic Theater Company in London, Dench proved a commanding stage performer in both classic drama and musical comedy, and at the same time, was known by non-theatergoers for starring roles on the British comedy series "As Time Goes By" (BBC, 1992-2005) and "A Fine Romance" (1981-84). It was not until Dench hit her fifties that she began finding film roles that enabled international audiences the opportunity to appreciate her commanding gifts. Dench was one of the most frequently nominated actresses in Academy Award history, earning a statue for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in "Shakespeare in Love" (1998) and nominations for a wide range of screen performances in "Chocolat" (2000), "Iris" (2001) and "Notes on a Scandal" (2006). A national treasure, Dench was honored by the British government with the title of Dame Commander of the British Army, and her homeland recognized her outstanding contributions to British Theater with a Laurence Olivier Award - officially proving that Dame Judi Dench was what critics had claimed for years: the modern, female equivalent of Sir Laurence Olivier, both onscreen and under the bright glare of the footlights.

The daughter of Reginald Arthur Dench, a doctor, and Eleanora Olave, a native of Dublin, Dench was born on Dec. 9, 1934 and raised as a Quaker in York, North Riding of Yorkshire. She made her acting debut in the city's cycle of mystery plays, in which both her father and older brother Jeffrey also appeared. After graduating from London's Central School of Speech and Drama, she made an auspicious debut with the Old Vic Theatre Company as Ophelia in "Hamlet" in 1957. The following year, Dench made a Broadway appearance with the Old Vic and remained with the troupe until 1961, excelling in such roles as Hermia in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1960) and Isabella in "Measure for Measure" (1962). Throughout the 1960s, she made one strong stage characterization after another, but only in rare instances appeared on film. She was memorable as a young wife in the little-seen "Four in the Morning" (1965) and was majestic as Titania in Peter Hall's filming of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1968).

As Sally Bowles in the 1968 London staging of "Cabaret," Dench delivered what many felt was the definitive interpretation of the role. She joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 1969, spending much of the next two decades amassing an impressive body of work and earning numerous accolades. After notable roles as Lady Macbeth (opposite Ian McKellen) in "Macbeth" (1977-78) and Lady Bracknell in "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1982), Dench's screen presence increased. She held a starring turn on the television series "A Fine Romance," starring opposite her husband Michael Williams, and on the big screen in David Hare's provocative "Wetherby" (1985), in which she and Ian Holm played a married couple who become caught up in the personal turmoil of their friend (Vanessa Redgrave). In further film outings, she demonstrated her range with diverse portrayals of a flighty romance novelist in "A Room with a View" (1986), and Anthony Hopkins' jealous wife in "84 Charing Cross Road" (1987).

Dench returned to the stage to play Cleopatra in "Antony and Cleopatra" (1987-88), and followed up with a pair of film roles as a materialistic mother in "A Handful of Dust" (1988) and the lusty Mistress Quickly in Kenneth Branagh's "Henry V" (1989). She was back on stage the same year as Ranyevskaya in "The Cherry Orchard" (1989-1990). The solidly booked actress showed no signs of slowing with each advancing year, taking on a starring role on the long running British television comedy "As Time G s By" in 1992. In her most mainstream role to date, she was cast as M, the superior of James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), in "GoldenEye" (1995), which unveiled a revamped version of the franchise that successfully brought the international spy into modern times. In 1996, Dench became the first actress to win two Olivier Awards in the same year; for the play "Absolute Hell" and for her musical turn as Desiree in "A Little Night Music." In 1997, she earned raves as an aging actress in David Hare's acclaimed "Amy's View" and reprised M alongside Brosnan in "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997).

Remarkably, in a career that spanned some 40 years, Dench had never played the lead in a film until she was cast as the widowed Queen Victoria who embarks on a questionable relationship with her Scottish manservant (Billy Connolly) in the John Madden-directed "(Her Majesty) Mrs. Brown" (1997). The film was originally intended as a made-for-British-TV movie, with the role of the monarch earmarked for Elizabeth Taylor. When Taylor fell ill, Dench was cast and it was released theatrically. Her performance earned the actress some of the best reviews of her career to that point, including a richly deserved Best Actress Academy Award nomination. As a follow-up, director Madden cast her as another venerable British monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, in "Shakespeare in Love" (1998). Although Dench only appeared in a handful of scenes totaling approximately eight minutes, she made such a strong impression as the Virgin Queen that she was awarded that year's Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

The newly minted Oscar winner took on the title stage role of "Filumena" (1998) and reprised M in the Bond offering "The World Is Not Enough" (1999). Now recognized internationally, Dench returned to the New York stage for the first time in close to four decades, reprising her triumphant portrayal of a famous actress clashing ideologically with her daughter in "Amy's View," for which she earned a Tony Award. Her run was briefly interrupted when she returned to England to care for her longtime husband, who had been diagnosed with cancer. At that time, she was also seen on the big screen as an eccentric artist living as an expatriate in 1930s Italy in "Tea with Mussolini" (1999). The following year, Dench headlined the HBO original "The Last of the Blonde Bombshells," earning a Golden Globe award for playing a feisty widow reflecting on her life as a saxophone player in a WWII-era swing band. The actress agreed to provide the narration for the affecting Holocaust documentary "Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport" (2000) before gracing screens again in the pivotal role of a crusty villager who welcomes free-spirited Juliette Binoche in Lasse Hallstrom's "Chocolat" (2000). The latter netted Dench yet another Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress.

Following her husband's death in January 2001, the widowed Dench turned in two rich, very different screen performances. Hallstrom cast her as a Canadian woman who assists her nephew (Kevin Spacey) on a journey of self-discovery in the film adaptation of the bestselling novel "The Shipping News" (2001). Dench then undertook the demanding role of British novelist Iris Murdoch in the biopic "Iris" (2001), based on the memoirs of Murdoch's husband John Bayley. The actress rose to the challenge of playing a vibrant, intelligent woman who gradually succumbs to the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. As with all her work, Dench offered an impeccable and deeply moving performance that the members of the Academy recognized with a Best Actress nomination. She was back in period clothing for her follow-up, portraying the indomitable Lady Bracknell in a remake of Oscar Wilde's classic play "The Importance of Being Earnest" (2002). Also in 2002, Dench returned as M in the James Bond action feature "Die Another Day," starring Brosnan and Halle Berry.

Once finished with a brief sabbatical from onscreen roles, during which she lent her voice to the animated feature "Home on the Range" (2004) and several James Bond video games, Dench made a welcome return to the big screen in 2004 in the unlikely vehicle "The Chronicles of Riddick," director David Twohy's sci-fi/action sequel to his cult hit "Pitch Black." Dench played Aereon, an ethereal Elemental who helps Riddick (Vin Diesel) learn the secrets of his origin. She essayed an appropriately imperious Lady Catherine de Bourg in 2005's "Pride and Prejudice," director J Wright's lively adaptation of the Jane Austen classic starring Keira Knightley. That same year, the busy actress also headlined director Stephen Frears' "Mrs. Henderson Presents," starring as Laura Henderson, a widow who becomes a partner in Britain's Windmill Theater during World War II and, in attempts to provide a spark for her downtrodden nation, hopes to allow her actresses to perform in the nude. For her performance, she earned award nominations from SAG, the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards - all for Best Actress.

Dench revived M for a fifth time in "Casino Royale" (2006), her first outing opposite Daniel Craig, successor to the iconic role after Pierce Brosnan left the franchise in 2002. Though she missed working with Brosnan, she heaped praise upon the new keeper of the flame, telling The Evening Standard how "frighteningly good" Craig was in the role. For her part, Dench maintained her usually blunt and stiff-upper-lipped performance as the head of MI6, sending him on a mission to Montenegro in order to join a high-stakes poker game with Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), banker to the world's terrorist organizations in what many critics called one of the best films in the series. Dench made a startlingly decisive departure in her next project, "Notes on a Scandal" (2006), where she essayed a treacherous school teacher who habitually stalks younger women in a desperate attempt to find love. Once again, she accrued award nominations from the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.

Dench returned to television the following year in the 1840s-set drama series "Cranford" (BBC, 2007), earning an Emmy nomination for her performance as a financially strapped spinster in a remote village about to be thrust into the modern age with the impending arrival of the railroad. And, not surprisingly, given the actress' loyalty and lack of vanity in regards to size of part, she returned to the Bond fold as M for the second Daniel Craig outing, "Quantum of Solace" (2008). While basking in the international success of the latest Bond installment, Dench received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie for her performance in "Cranford." She reprised her role for the miniseries sequel, "Return to Cranford" (PBS, 2010), and received similar honors, earning another Golden Globe nomination in December 2010. Back on the big screen, she portrayed British actress Sybil Thorndike in "My Weekend with Marilyn" (2011) and was the mother of J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Clint Eastwood's uneven biopic "J. Edgar" (2011). After reprising M for the last time opposite Daniel Craig's James Bond in "Skyfall" (2012), Dench was part of an excellent ensemble cast in John Madden's winning comedy "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (2012), which focused on a group of British pensioners retiring at a lesser-than-advertised hotel in India. Dench's performance as a newly widowed housewife forced to sell off her home to cover her dead husband's debts was singled out for praise and earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. Dench's next starring role came in the drama "Philomena" (2013), the true-life tale of an elderly Irish woman's search for the son she had been forced to give up for adoption a half-century before. The film was directed by Stephen Frears and co-written by Steve Coogan, who co-starred opposite Dench as an investigative journalist. Dench next reprised her beloved role in the sequel "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (2015).


Filmographyclose complete filmography


CAST: (feature film)

 Artemis Fowl (2019)
 All Is True (2018)
 Tulip Fever (2017)
 Philomena (2013)

Milestones close milestones

Played the Virgin Mary in the revival of the York Mystery Plays; appeared with her father and older brother
London stage debut as Ophelia in "Hamlet" at the Old Vic
Became a member of the Old Vic Company in London
Made New York debut as Katherine in "Henry V"
Portrayed the female lead in Old Vic Company's production of "Romeo and Juliet"
Joined the Royal Shakespeare Company playing Anya in "The Cherry Orchard"; first collaboration with Ian Holm
Made feature film debut in "The Third Secret"
Breakthrough screen role in "Four in the Morning"
Made TV debut in the BBC's four-part serial "Talking to a Stranger"
Won critical praise as Sally Bowles in the London stage version of "Cabaret"
Played Titania in Peter Hall's film version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Cast opposite Ian McKellen, who played the title role of Nunn's acclaimed production of "Macbeth"
Played one of three spinster sisters, opposite Jeremy Irons in the BBC television film "Langrishe, Go Down"; adapted for the screen by Harold Pinter
Appeared opposite her husband Michael Williams in the British comedy series "A Fine Romance"; also performed the series' theme song
Won critical praise for her stage role as Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest"
Originated the role of Barbara in the West End production of "Pack of Lies"
Appeared in the British TV production "Saigon: Year of the Cat"; directed by Stephen Frears and written by David Hare
Co-starred with Vanessa Redgrave in "Wetherby"; written and directed by David Hare
Featured as Miss Eleanor Lavish in the Merchant-Ivory film "A Room With a View"
Co-starred with Ian Holm in the British adaptation of Noel Coward's "Mr. and Mrs Edgehill"
Portrayed Cleopatra in an acclaimed stage production of "Antony and Cleopatra" at The National Theatre
Stage directing debut "Look Back in Anger" for Kenneth Branagh's Renaissance Theater Company; also starred with Branagh and Emma Thompson (aired on Bravo in 1993)
Played Gertrude, opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role of "Hamlet" at the National Theatre
Directed by Branagh's for the stage production of "Henry V"
Co-starred with Geoffrey Palmer in the British sitcom "As Time Goes By"
Took over the role of M in "GoldenEye" opposite Pierce Brosnan in his first film as James Bond
Made cameo appearance as Hecuba in Kenneth Branagh's full-length film of "Hamlet"
First leading role in a feature, portraying Queen Victoria in "Mrs. Brown"; earned a Best Actress Academy Award nomination
Reprised role of M in "Tomorrow Never Dies"; second collaboration with Brosnan as Bond
Starred in David Hare's London play "Amy's View"; production moved to Broadway in 1999
Earned critical acclaim and several awards for her brief role as Elizabeth I in "Shakespeare in Love"
Appeared with an ensemble cast in Franco Zeffirelli's "Tea With Mussolini"
Again reprised role of M for "The World Is Not Enough"; third collaboration with Pierce Brosnan as Bond
Starred in the HBO original film "The Last of the Blonde Bombshells"; received SAG and Emmy nomination for Lead Actress
Featured as a crusty old woman in Lasse Hallstrom's "Chocolat"; received Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination
Re-teamed with director Lasse Hallstrom for "The Shipping News" playing Kevin Spacey's aunt
Portrayed Irish novelist Iris Murdoch in her later life (the younger version played by Kate Winslet) in Richard Eyre's "Iris"; earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination
Played Lady Bracknell in Oliver Parker's remake of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest"
Co-starred with Maggie Smith in David Hare's West End play "The Breath Of Life"
Reprised role of M for "Die Another Day"; final collaboration with Pierce Brosnan as Bond
Portrayed Laura Henderson in the Stephen Frears directed "Mrs. Henderson Presents"; received Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG nominations for Lead Actress
Cast as Lady Catherine de Bourg in Joe Wright's adaptation of the Jane Austen classic "Pride and Prejudice"
Reprised her role as M for "Casino Royale" opposite Daniel Craig in his first film as James Bond
Played a London schoolteacher opposite Cate Blanchett in Richard Eyre's "Notes on a Scandal"; received Golden Globe, SAG and Oscar nominations for Lead Actress
Co-starred in the BBC One five-part series "Cranford" (aired on PBS in the US); earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in a Miniseries
Reprised her role as M for the 22nd Bond adventure "Quantum Of Solace"; second collaboration with Craig as Bond
Played Daniel Day-Lewis' confidant and costume designer in Rob Marshall's musical adaptation of the Broadway play, "Nine"
Earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for "Return to Cranford"
Nominated for the 2010 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie ("Return to Cranford")
Nominated for the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television ("Return to Cranford")
Made a cameo in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"
Cast as the title character's mother in the biographical drama "J. Edgar," directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Played Dame Sybil Thorndike in "My Week with Marilyn"
Co-starred in the ensemble comedy drama "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
Reprised character of M opposite Daniel Craig's James Bond in "Skyfall"
Co-starred in "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"


University of London: -
The Mount School: -


Dench was awarded an honorary doctor of letters from Warwick University in 1978 and from York University in 1983

She was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 1980 and made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1988.

Dench was the original choice to play Grizabella in "Cats" but an injury forced her to withdraw and be replaced by Elaine Paige.

In 1996, Dench became the first performer to win two Olivier Awards in a single year.

"Once you've done a film performance, it's like a butterfly -- somebody's taken you and pinned you to that thing, and although it can look very pretty and you can appreciate it, it doesn't change. And I think change is kind of the essence of what we do, of how you get near to something, near what the author wants you to say." --Judi Dench in Buzzweekly, July 25-31, 1997.

"I don't like filming very much, I've turned down a lot more film work than I've actually done. I don't enjoy the process. What I like about theater is rehearsing, getting an audience in and trying to get it right. With filming, you get one chance and then it's like some dead thing, crystallized forever." --Dench to Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1997.

On her casting in "Mrs. Brown", Dench jokingly told the Los Angeles Times (July 27, 1997): "I have to tell you, I wasn't [co-star] Billy [Connolly]'s first choice. He wanted Bob Hoskins. Bill saw him playing Victoria in some production at the Edinburgh Festival and said he was definitive. So I'll settle for that--being Bob Hoskins' understudy."

"Playing M [in the Bond films] is the closest to glamour I've ever got." --Dench to New York Post, July 14, 1997.

"When you talk about Judi, you unpack a suitcase full of superlatives. She's sort of diffident. There's not a trace of self-advertisement about her. She's genuinely modest. But in my view she is our greatest actress." --director Richard Eyre to The New York Times, July 13, 1997.

"It's too ephemeral to say that theatre's a spiritual thing, but that's what it can be. It has something to do with the spirit of the people ... with communication. And the audience plays a totally vital part in it. They make it different every night, not us. If that wasn't the case I'd just stay home." --Judi Dench to the London Sunday Times, June 8, 1997.

"What attracts me is that a script should be totally different, so you can get your teeth into it. No more queens for a bit." --Judi Dench on accepting her role in the HBO drama "The Last of the Blonde Bombshells", quoted in USA Today, August 21, 2000.

"Judi doesn't perform. She just is. There's not an atom of ostentation about her ... She's not just one of the most generous actresses, but actually just about the most generous, good-hearted person I know." --director Richard Eyre, quoted in the London Times, October 28, 2001.

On her career, Dench reflected to Matt Wolf in the London Times (October 28, 2001): "It's about things coming your way if you're lucky enough, or not, if you're unlucky, and then a question of being in people's minds and the choices you make. Going to the Old Vic was just wonderful, the best schooling you could possible have ... and then Stratford after that: that was just luck, that just happened. ... All I've ever wanted to do, if it's at all possible, is choose the most unlikely next job like playing Cleopatra [for the National Theatre in 1987] where people were openly aghast. In actual fact, if somebody says, 'Oh, well, you're perfect for that part,' I think: 'Beware, beware.'"

"Judi's brilliant at rounding out a character [and] bringing out the humanity."-Director Oliver Parker

Companions close complete companion listing

Michael Williams. Actor. Born on July 9, 1935; married on February 5, 1971; Roman Catholic; hospitalized in spring 1999 with what was then called "pleurisy"; disclosed he was suffering with cancer in August 1999; died on January 11, 2001 at age 65.

Family close complete family listing

Reginald Arthur Dench. Doctor.
Eleanora Dench.
Jeffrey Dench. Actor. Older.
Finty Williams. Actor. Born in 1972; film acting debut in "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (1993); appeared as one of Victoria's daughters in "(Her Majesty) Mrs. Brown".
Sam Williams. Born in 1997.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Judi Dench: A Great Deal of Laughter"
"Judi Dench: With a Crack in Her Voice" Welcome Rain

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