Judi Dench biography
Dame Judi Dench was born on December 9th, 1934 in York, Yorkshire, England. She made her stage debut in 1957 as Ophelia in Hamlet. She also performed in musical roles, starring in the London premiere of Cabaret in 1968. She won an Oscar for her role as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love. Currently she is portraying James Bond's boss M in the Bond film series.
Actress Judith Olivia Dench was born on December 9, 1934, in North Yorkshire, England, to parents Reginald, a doctor, and his wife Eleanora Dench. From an early age Dench received considerable exposure to the world of acting. Dench's father was the resident doctor for the Theatre Royal in York and it wasn't uncommon for her to tag along with him during his visits there.
Even as a young girl, Dench showed a passion for performance. She loved to dress up, and with her mother at the piano, she would sing alongside her. Her first foray on to the stage came with the York Mystery Plays, where Eleanora helped out with the wardrobes and her father did some acting himself.
Dench attended an all girls Quaker school, then followed that up with a brief stop at the York School of Art before changing course and heading off to London's Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art. The decision, Dench would later say, could be blamed on her brother Jeffrey, another aspiring actor who also attended the school and pushed his sister to pursue stage work. "I'd never have thought of acting if it wasn't for Jeff," she has said.
Dench's innate talent, and versatility, though, were hard to ignore. She made her stage debut in 1957 with the Old Vic Production Company at the Royal Court, turning heads, as Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Dench continued work with the Old Vic for another four years.
In 1961 Dench joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, the start of a 30-year run with that playhouse that would see Dench take on every leading female Shakespeare role.
But Dench wasn't just content with Shakespeare or drama. In 1959 she made her television debut in the BBC series Hilda Lessways. She stretched herself even more by taking on comedic work, including stage productions of Oscar Wilde. In 1968 she had a starring role as Sally Bowles in Cabaret.
The 1960s brought Dench to the big screen as well. Her performance as a young wife in Four in the Morning (1965) earned Dench the first of her ten British Academy of Film and Television awards. Other strong performances in additional British movies followed. Coupled with her continued stage work Dench's name only grew in stature in her native England.
But gaining a foothold with American audiences was another matter. Her early play work had brought to the States, but Dench was hardly a household name. It wasn't until the 1990s, most notably as a result of her role as M, James Bond's boss in GoldenEye (1995) that changed everything for her. Dench has continued to reprise the role with each new Bond film, including the 2012 release, Skyfall.
In 1997 she further endeared herself to movie audiences in her first leading role as Queen Victoria in the biopic Mrs. Brown. But it was another royal performance, this time as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love (1998) that proved Oscar worthy. Despite an on-screen time totaling just eight minutes, Dench's performance was so dazzling she walked away with the Best Supporting Actress award.
Other memorable roles followed in films such as Chocolat (2000), Iris (2001) and Notes on a Scandal (2006).
Awards and Achievements
That's not to suggest that Dench has shied away from stage work. The same year she won her first Oscar, Dench also earned a Tony for best actress for her role in Amy's View. In 1996 she won an unprecedented two Lawrence Olivier awards for Best Actress and Best Actress in a Musical.
Dench's approach to her work is unusual. She famously doesn't read parts before accepting them, choosing instead to rely on the word of her friends and colleagues to help her make a decision. With her stage work, she often comes to rehearsals not having read the entire play. "Not reading pushes me to a kind of dangerous edge and there is something in me that needs that," she has explained.
It's hard to argue with the results. Over the course of her career, Dench has been recognized like few other actors. In addition to her 1999 Oscar, she's received six Academy Award nominations. She's also won two Golden Globes and six Lawrence Olivier Awards. In addition, she was named an Order of the British Empire in 1970 and honored with the title of Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1988. In 2006 she was recognized with a Fellowship at the Royal Society of Arts.
Judi Dench married actor Michael Williams in 1971. The couple worked several times together, including in the British television series, A Fine Romance, and the film Tea with Mussolini (1999). The two remained together up until Michael's death from cancer in 2001. Dench and Williams had one child together, the actress Finty Williams.