Dame Judi Dench is all about ageing naturally and shuns the idea of plastic surgery. “I’ve considered it, but I’m too old now. Every time I go to America I wonder if there is some process where it could be all sucked out and I could be there in time for dinner, but I’m frightened it would all drop off under the anaesthetic.”
Dench’s first role was as a snail in a school play when she was five. “I remember I had a brown romper suit on and brown tights and my father made me an enormous shell. All I had to do was crawl across the stage under this shell. When my parents came to it, I can remember standing up – and I can also remember somebody at the side of the stage saying ‘Get down! Get down!’ My first critic.”
A fine romance
Judi Dench met her husband, actor Michael Williams, in the early 1960s while working at the Royal Shakespeare Company. While in Australia performing in A Winter’s Tale, Michael flew in from England to comfort Dench after the death of a close friend. He proposed to her on a beach. But it didn’t seem like the right time to Judi, and she asked him to ask her again on a rainy night in Battersea near London. He did. She said yes. Michael had a Shakespeare quote inscribed on the inside of Judi’s wedding ring that says “He will weep you, an ’twere a man born in April.” He sent Judi a single red rose every Friday for their nearly 30-year marriage until his death in 2001.
“I became a Quaker at 14 when I was sent to a Quaker boarding school. It suited me down to the ground. It’s very quiet, which is what I am not, and it makes you create your own form of Quakerism. It consists of sitting in silence with a lot of other people. That suits me very well, because I often don’t give myself the time to get all the drawers organised inside my head. It’s a strength I can’t do without.”