Golden girl Judi Dench
The veteran actress talks about love and lust later in life – and why she’ll never retire
DON’T SAY THE ‘R’ WORD She might have made her professional acting debut 60 years ago, but “retirement” and “old” aren’t words in Judi Dench’s vocabulary.
“I don’t allow that in my house,” the 82-year-old British actress says. “And being called ‘vintage’. I don’t want any of those old words. As an actor, you don’t need to retire – there are all those parts you can play sitting in bed or in a wheelchair.” X-RATED EMBROIDERER Although macular degeneration has robbed her of much of her eyesight, the actress – who was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1988 and was once voted “the greatest actor of all time” – hasn’t let her disability get her down. She’s even found a way to continue indulging in one of her favourite pastimes: embroidery.
“I thought I couldn’t do it but now I’ve been given this wonderful magnifying lamp and I find I can. If you get the canvas a bit bigger, it’s surprising what you can do.” Her most recent creation? “I did a very rude cushion for a friend,” she says, but refuses to reveal what it said. THE WRONG FACE Having practically grown up in the theatre – her doctor father, Reginald, was the local theatre’s resident GP, while her mother, Eleanora, headed the wardrobe department – acting was a natural choice for Judi. She had a stellar stage career but steered clear of movies for a long time after an unsuccessful audition.
“‘Miss Dench, you have every single thing wrong with your face.’ That was the crushing verdict of the film producer who gave me my first screen test back in the 1950s. It put me off films for a long time.” But she caught up and now has more than 120 screen credits to her name, one of the most notable as “M” in several Bond flicks. HER NEW CHAP The Oscar winner was married to actor Michael Williams for 30 years and they have a daughter, Finty Williams (45), who’s also an actress. After Michael’s death in 2001 she eventually found love again but laughs off the idea of walking down the aisle with her boyfriend of seven years, David Mills (73), a conservationist (RIGHT).
“He’s not going to propose. No, no, no. Let’s just pull ourselves together and be our age,” she says. “I have a jolly nice friend. I don’t know what the word is because I don’t like the word partner. Chap? Will chap do?”