When the movie Philomena garnered so many awards and nominations last year, I knew little about it other than it starred Judi Dench. But that’s enough. My adoration began with her role as Jean Pargetter/Jean Hardcastle from the British TV comedy, Time Goes By. For years my Saturday night meant watching PBS at 8:30pm, with my mom, for this entertaining comedy about two people who fell in love during WWll, lost touch and reconnected many years later.
Once you are aware of Dame Judi Dench, it’s hard to miss her, though the amazing number of television and movie roles she’s had seem to be barely half her credentials. She says theater is her first choice, TV second and movies third. She loves the feel and feedback of a live audience. Must be part of the reason she has ten BAFTA awards.
The list of all her awards is endless and of course there’s that “Dame of the British Empire” to honor her achievements.
Mrs. Brown, the movie in which she plays the older Queen Victoria still caught up in her grief over the loss of Albert, was Judi Dench’s (self-proclaimed) break in “Hollywood” stardom. Before that she’d been well-known only to British audiences for live theater as well as TV. (Most notably, the comedy series A Fine Romance—a long-running 70s series also starring husband Michael Williams). From there came many roles: Ladies in Lavender, Shakespeare in Love, Pride and Prejudice, The Shipping News and at least 5 or 6 turns as “M” in the James Bond franchise.
Judi Dench knows her stuff but admits to never feeling secure about her skills or her performances. I love how she can be the sweet-natured sister in Cranford, and the crusty Lady Catherine deBourg in Pride and Prejudice and never fail to glue me to the screen in anything she does.
Ms. Dench doesn’t plan on retiring despite a fight with macular degeneration. Since the loss of her husband of thirty years in 2001, she has kept busy with roles and raising her only grandchild. Besides an inspiring dedication to acting and the stage, she is just plain beautiful. We’ve watched her age but the twinkle in those amazing blue eyes only seems to shine brighter.
What is your favorite Judi Dench role?
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? Philomena, Skyfall, J. Edgar, My Week with Marilyn, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Jane Eyre, Notes on a Scandal, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Importance of Being Earnest, Iris, Chocolat, The Shipping News, Tea with Mussolini, Shakespeare in Love, Cranford, Middlemarch, 84 Charing Cross Road, A Room with a View, Mrs. Brown…
Ms. Dench is also the voice of the kind ballet teacher in the Angelina Ballerina children’s cartoon based on the books, and is the narrator inside Epcot Center’s Spaceship Earth.