Dame Judi Dench at 82:

her new love and new movies

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

On the hottest day Lon­don has seen in 41 years, Dame Judi Dench is show­ing off her re­cently painted toe­nails as she sips a cup of As­sam tea, bare­foot in the li­brary room of a West End ho­tel. The colour is a shiny, bright scar­let. “Isn’t it glo­ri­ous?” she says. “Red rep­re­sents pas­sion and life. And it’s a lit­tle bit naughty. Like me.” As for the heat, she loves it. “And do you know,” she says, later, “for the past cou­ple of days, I’ve wo­ken up, gone into my gar­den and taken all my clothes off just to en­joy the bliss­ful air.”

At 82 years of age, Dame Judi – naked or fully clothed – is not quite what you would ex­pect. She de­mands none of the def­er­ence due her sta­tus as one of the world’s most cel­e­brated ac­tresses, whose awards in­clude (and this is just a cur­sory scrap­ing) an Os­car, a Tony, eight Oliviers, two Golden Globes and 11 BAFTAs.

There are no body­guards in sight, no rules of what she will and won’t talk about, no wait­ing around for her to ar­rive. There is, how­ever, a lot of laugh­ter, a good deal of re­flec­tion, many wise words and quite a sig­nif­i­cant amount of eat­ing as she in­sists we work our way through a hefty plate of short­bread, baked es­pe­cially for her.

We are talk­ing about her lat­est movie, Vic­to­ria & Ab­dul, which tells the un­told story of Queen Vic­to­ria’s ex­tra­or­di­nary friend­ship with a young In­dian ser­vant, Ab­dul Karim (played by the ac­tor Ali Fazal). The re­la­tion­ship be­gan in the last 15 years of her reign and her in­sis­tence that Karim be given a whole host of spe­cial priv­i­leges – in­clud­ing ti­tles and land grants – so in­fu­ri­ated the royal house­hold and her son, Ed­ward VII, that Karim was driven out of the coun­try af­ter her death in 1901.

It is Judi’s sec­ond time play­ing Queen Vic­to­ria and she was drawn to the role partly for that rea­son and partly be­cause “it’s such a won­der­ful, mov­ing story which needs to be told”. The first time she played her was in 1997 in the movie Mrs Brown, which co-starred Billy Con­nolly as the Scot­tish game­keeper whose

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