The Academy Award–winning and Emmy-nominated actress plays Queen Victoria near the end of her life in Victoria & Abdul, in theaters Sept. 22. The film, about the monarch’s friendship with a young Indian clerk (Ali Fazal) whom she meets at her Golden Jubilee celebration, marks the second time that Dench,
82, has played Queen Victoria—and she has also played Queen Elizabeth I. Was the story of Victoria and Abdul new to you? No. It’s been about for quite a time. So much was destroyed about this relationship because nobody was very pleased about it, except Queen Victoria. Victoria was quite portly at this point in her life. How uncomfortable was all the padding? Well, you just get used to it. After [her husband] Albert died, she just didn’t care and she went on eating all the time; couldn’t resist it. I’m 5 feet 1¾ inches, but she was smaller than that. I think she was almost as round as she was tall.
Do you have fond memories of your role as “M” in the James Bond movies? Yes, it was simply wonderful. I got to go to Nassau and the Bahamas and, oh, I had a lovely, lovely time.
You’re never going to retire, are you?
I’m going to do another film in October, hopefully. I’m filming something for the BBC. I don’t plan it. But if I stay quietly, very watchfully, and wait, if I’m very lucky, something comes along.
What’s the best part of being the queen? Go to Parade.com/dench to find out.