Judi Dench - Actors and Actresses

Nationality: British. Born: Judith Olivia Dench, York, England, 9 December 1934. Family: Married Michael Williams, 5 February 1971; children: Tara Cressida Frances. Education: Attended the Mount School, York; trained for the stage at the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art. Career: Stage debut, Old Vic Theatre, London, 1957; Broadway debut, 1958; actress, Old Vic Company, 1957–60; joined Royal Shakespeare Company, 1961; film debut, 1964; musical debut, in Cabaret , 1968; made record 100 appearances as Cleopatra with National Theatre, 1987; debut as director, Renaissance Theatre Company, 1988; appeared on TV series: Talking to a Stranger TV series, 1966; played Laura, A Fine Romance TV series (also singer: title theme), 1981; played Jean Mary Pargetter/Jean Hardcastle, As Time Goes By TV series, 1992. Awards: Paladino d'Argentino Award, Venice Festival, 1961, for Romeo and Juliet ; British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award for most outstanding newcomer to film, 1965, for Four in the Morning ; BAFTA award for best television actress and Guild of Directors award for best actress, both 1967, for Talking to a Stranger ; Variety London Critics best actress award, 1967, for The Promise ; Order of the British Empire, 1970; Laurence Olivier Award for actress of the year, Society of West End Theatre (SWET), 1977, for Macbeth ; Doctor of Letters, Warwick University, 1978, and York University, 1983; Laurence Olivier Award for actress of the year, 1980; New Standard Drama Award for best actress, 1980; Plays and Players Award for best actress, and Variety Club actress of the year, all for Juno and the Paycock ; BAFTA award for best television actress, 1981, for Going Gently, A Fine Romance, and The Cherry Orchard ; Plays and Players award for best actress, and New Standard Drama Award for best actress, 1983, both for The Importance of Being Earnest ; Laurence Olivier Award for actress of the year, 1983, and Plays and Players award for best actress, both for Pack of Lies ; New Standard Drama Award for best actress, 1983, for A Kind of Alaska ; BAFTA award for best supporting actress, 1986, for A Room with a View ; Laurence Olivier Award for actress of the year, 1987, and Drama magazine award, both for Antony and Cleopatra ; BAFTA award for best supporting actress, 1988, for A Handful of Dust ; named Dame Commander of the British Empire, 1988; American Cinema Editors (ACE) Award, c. 1988, for Ghosts ; BAFTA award for best lead actress, Chicago Film Critics Association Award for best actress, Golden Globe award for best actress in a dramatic motion picture, and Golden Satellite Award for best actress in a dramatic motion picture, all 1998, for Mrs. Brown ; National Society of Film Critics Award for best supporting actress, 1998, Academy Award for best supporting actress, 1999, and BAFTA award for best supporting actress, 1999, and Screen Actors Guild award for outstanding performance by a cast (with others), 1999, all for Shakespeare in Love ; Tony Award for best actress, 1999, for Amy's View. Agent: Julian Belfrage Associates, 46 Albemarle Street, London W1X 4PP, England.

Films as Actress:


The Third Secret (Crichton) [uncredited]


A Study in Terror ( Sherlock Holmes Grosster Fall and Fog ) (Hill) (as Sally)


He Who Rides a Tiger (Crichton) (as Joanne); Four in the Morning (Simmons) (as Wife); Days to Come (Bridges—for TV) (as Elizebeth)


A Midsummer Night's Dream (Hall) (as Titania)


Luther (Green) (as Katherine)


Dead Cert (Richardson) (as Laura Davidson)


The Comedy of Errors (Casson and Nunn—for TV) (as Adriana)


On Giant's Shoulders (Simmons—for TV) (as Hazel Wiles); Macbeth (Nunn—for TV) (as Lady Macbeth)


Love in a Cold Climate (McWhinnie) (mini, for TV) (as Aunt Sadie [Lady Alconleigh])


Saigon: Year of the Cat (Frears—for TV) (as Barbara Dean)


Playing Shakespeare (Barton) (mini, for TV) (as Herself)


Mr. and Mrs. Edgehill (Millar—for TV) (as Dorrie Edgehill); The Browning Version (Simpson—for TV) (as Millie Crocker-Harris); Wetherby (Hare) (as Marcia Pilborough)


A Room with a View (Ivory) (as Miss Lavish); Ghosts (Moshinsky—for TV) (as Mrs. Alving); 84 Charing Cross Road (Jones) (as Nora Doel)


A Handful of Dust (Sturridge) (as Mrs. Beaver); Behaving Badly (Tucker—for TV) (as Bridget)


Henry V (Branagh) (as Mistress Quickly)


Can You Hear Me Thinking? (Morahan—for TV) (as Anne)


Absolute Hell (Page—for TV) (as Christine Foskett)


Jack and Sarah (Sullivan) (as Margaret); GoldenEye (Campbell) (as M)


Hamlet (Branagh) (as Hecuba)


Tomorrow Never Dies (Spottiswoode) (as M); After Murder Park (Birkin) (as Harriet Hawthorne); Mrs. Brown ( Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown ) (Madden) (as Queen Victoria)


Shakespeare in Love (Madden) (as Queen Elizabeth); Hey Mr. Producer!: The Musical World of Cameron Mackintosh ( Hey Mr. Producer ) (as Desiree "Send In The Clowns")


Tea with Mussolini ( Un Te con Mussolini ) (Zeffirelli) (as Arabella); The World Is Not Enough (Apted) (as M)


Chocolat (Hallström) (as Armande); The Last of the Blonde Bombshells (for TV)

Judi Dench and Billy Connelly in Mrs. Brown
Judi Dench and Billy Connelly in Mrs. Brown

Films as Director:


Look Back in Anger (for TV)


By DENCH: books—

Whom Do I Have the Honour of Addressing? (one-woman radio play), Radio 4, 1989

Contributor, First Steps Towards an Acting Career , edited by Nigel Rideout, London, 1996.

Contributor, Shakespeare for Dummies , edited by John Doyle and Ray Lischner, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1999.

By DENCH: articles—

Grant, Steve, "All Change at Victoria," in Time Out (London), no. 1407, 6 August 1997.

On DENCH: books—

Jacobs, Gerald, Judi Dench: A Great Deal of Laughter , London, 1986.

Miller, John, Judi Dench: With a Crack in Her Voice , New York, 1999.

On DENCH: articles—

New York Times , 28 January 1990.

New Republic , 4 August 1997.

Daily Telegraph , 21 August 1997.

Arizona Republic , 2 May 1999.

Christian Science Monitor , 7 May 1999.

Washington Times , 21 May 1999.

* * *

When she won the 1999 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Shakespeare in Love , it was widely felt that Dame Judi Dench had finally gotten her due. A Best Actress Oscar had eluded the British star of stage and screen two years earlier for her highly praised performance in Mrs. Brown. Hollywood was quick to pay its debts, and by 1999 Dench was firmly ensconced in the Hollywood pantheon.

Like so many British stars of her generation, Judi Dench earned her acting stripes performing the classics on the British stage. At age 36, she was awarded the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth. Eighteen years later, the British monarch bestowed on Dench a Damehood. Always rather slow on the uptake, Hollywood suddenly sat up and took notice, and Dench began to be cast in films such as A Room with a View , A Handful of Dust , Hamlet , and Tea with Mussolini. But it was her arch portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love that catapulted 65-year-old Dame Judi to movie stardom.

On stage, Dench has appeared in Shakespearean roles and musicals—she was the original Sally Bowles in Cabaret. She has been equally at home on the small screen, and her ongoing star turn in the Britcom, As Time Goes By , has been popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Her film career, however, was surprisingly sporadic before the mid-1980s.

During the 1960s, she appeared in A Midsummer Night's Dream as a kittenish and sexy Titania, as well in a horror film called A Study in Terror. The first film in which most American audiences saw Dench was the Merchant-Ivory favorite, A Room with a View , where Dench's subtle comic stage timing rounded out a brilliant supporting cast that included Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliot, and Simon Callow. Dench's supporting role as Anthony Hopkins' loving wife in cult favorite 84 Charing Cross Road earned Dench more recognition among American audiences. But it wasn't until the 1990s that Judi Dench made her mark in film history.

In a brilliant bit of casting, Dench played the spymaster M in two James Bond pictures, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough. But it was her sympathetic portrayal of the steely yet lovelorn Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown that gave Dench the opportunity to display her acting skills to the larger film public. As director Peter Hall described the actress, "She's five foot nothing, and yet she's got sex and wit, wit and sex."

The Oscar-nominated turn led to two more popular films— Tea with Mussolini and Shakespeare in Love. In Franco Zefferelli's evocative look at his childhood, Dench joined Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith as one of the "Scorpioni," the eccentric, colorful, and strong-willed expatriate women of his youth. But it was Dench's acerbic evocation of Elizabeth I that earned the 65-year-old actress the Oscar that many felt had long been denied her.

Now on the movie A-list in her mid-sixties, Dench may bask in her newfound cinematic popularity, even as she continues to enjoy her forays into every conceivable acting arena (winning a 1999 Tony Award for Amy's View )—proving that she is indeed one of acting's true and rare virtuosi.

—Victoria Price

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