Performance has long been in Judi Dench’s blood. An actress esteemed for her roles both on and off the silver screen, she answered the call to acting at a young age. Her father, Reginald Dench, was doctor to the Theatre Royal in York, and Dench was often immersed in the world of acting while growing up.
Her road to acting took her to London’s Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art. From there, she joined the Old Vic Production Company and debuted on stage in 1957 as Ophelia in Hamlet. In 1961 she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, and would star in plays with them for over 30 years. In 1968 she starred as Sally Bowles in the original London cast of Cabaret when the production first opened in London’s West End.
Known throughout England for her acting abilities, the success of TV shows A Fine Romance and As Time Goes By brought Dench into prominence with the American viewing audience. But it was her role as M in the reboot of James Bond that got the world to pay attention.
The release of GoldenEye with Pierce Brosnan brought Dench fame as the elusive M. She continued to play the role of M through the transition from Brosnan to Daniel Craig starring as 007. Her last appearance as M was in the thriller Skyfall.
In 1997, Dench cemented her fame with her performance in Mrs. Brown as the great Queen Victoria I. She followed this with a dazzling and brilliant turn as Queen Elizabeth I in the comedy Shakespeare in Love, for which she won an Oscar for best supporting actress.
Dench has since appeared in a wide range of films from The Importance of Being Ernest and The Shipping News, to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Dench has received nominations for a staggering number of awards. Today she holds one Academy Award, two Golden Globes, 13 BAFTA Awards, two SAG Awards, and a Tony Award, as well as awards from various film critics and associations.
One of Dench’s greatest honors came in 1970 with an appointment to Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). In 1988, she was further bestowed the title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). She was honored as a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honor (CH) in 2005 and a year later became an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).
Dench once stated in an interview that if it hadn’t been for her older brother Jeffery Dench attending school for acting, she herself might never have joined the craft. At Modern Senior Magazine, we are happy that she did! Even as she currently deals with macular degeneration, Dame Judi shows no signs of slowing down. We applaud her for her illustrious career, and cannot wait to see what she has planned for the future.
Photo courtesy of Caroline Bonarde Ucci