These lesser-known facets of Judi Dench’s life showcase her resilience, creativity, and passion beyond the world of acting. She remains an inspiring figure both on and off the stage and screen.
Dame Judi Dench has been battling age-related macular degeneration (AMD) for many years. Despite this, she continues to act and memorise her lines, often relying on the assistance of friends or family to read scripts to her.
Love for Tattoos
In a surprising revelation, Judi Dench got her first tattoo at the age of 81. The tattoo, which reads “Carpe Diem” (seize the day), is on her wrist. It was a birthday gift from her daughter, Finty Williams.
Despite her illustrious career, Dench has admitted to experiencing stage fright before every performance. She once confessed that she’d be worried if she ever lost that feeling, as it keeps her on her toes.
James Bond Role
Dench is well-known for her portrayal of M in several James Bond films. However, her role was almost recast after the franchise was rebooted with Daniel Craig as Bond. But Craig insisted that she continue as M, which she did until her character’s demise in “Skyfall.”
Dench has a deep love for wildlife and is involved in several wildlife conservation initiatives. She even owns a farm in Surrey where she promotes wildlife preservation and has a special area for hedgehogs.
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.”