With a successful career across stage, film and television that spans several decades, Dame Judi Dench is one of the United Kingdom’s greatest actresses. Known to international audiences primarily through her recurring role as M in the James Bond franchise (a part she played from 1995’s “Goldeneye,” right through to 2012’s
Skyfall”), Dench has racked up an astonishing haul of award nominations and wins over the years.
Born in 1934 in Yorkshire, Judi Dench began her career on stage in 1957, with only occasional film roles and TV work for the first part of her career. Having established a strong reputation for herself in Shakespearean roles such as Ophelia and Juliet at the Old Vic, Dench went on to a great deal of work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, including an appearance as Titania in a legendary production by Sir Peter Hall. Throughout this period she was also appearing regularly in TV series.
Dench’s love of the stage has continued throughout her career in spite of her continuing success on the big screen. She appeared as Volumnia alongside Richard Briers and Kenneth Branagh in a 1992 production of “Coriolanus” at Chichester Festival Theatre, and a definitive Lady Macbeth opposite Sir Ian McKellen for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1976. As recently as 2010, she reprised her role as Titania in a Sir Peter Hall production at the Rose Theatre in Kingston.
On the small screen, Dench has popped up in many series and dramas over the years, but is now mostly remembered for her role in long-running sitcom”As Time Goes By,” where she appeared with Geoffrey Palmer as a couple of young lovers reunited in later life. She has also appeared more recently as Miss Matty in “Cranford” and “Return to Cranford.”
In film, Dench is a frequent collaborator with Branagh, appearing in small parts in “Henry V” (Mistress Quickly), “Hamlet” (Hecuba) and “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” (Mary Shelley, voice only). Her part as M in James Bond gave her much greater international recognition, and then she started racking up the Oscar nominations. “Mrs Brown,” “Iris” (in which she played the older Iris Murdoch, alternating with Kate Winslet as her younger self), “Chocolat,” “Mrs Henderson Presents” and “Notes on a Scandal” all garnered the actress Academy Award nominations, and of course she carried away the top prize as Best Supporting Actress in “Shakespeare in Love,” stealing the film despite only appearing on screen in two scenes.
The diminutive actress has also beefed up the cast of numerous other period dramas and adaptations, including Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Joe Wright’s adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice,” and brought a slightly impish sense of fun to the formidable Lady Bracknell in the 2002 film of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” starring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth.
At the age of 78, Dench is still busy making films and shows no signs of slowing down her remarkable career.