Ten Fascinating Things You Didn’t Know About Judi Dench

March 5, 2014

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A recipient of dozens of awards (including an Oscar and ten BAFTA’s), Judi Dench is a world-renowned talent and one of the most enduringly popular actresses in Britain. Here are ten fascinating facts about her life and career.

1. She began as a snail

Her very first acting role was in a play at her junior school, where she was a snail.

2. Judi didn’t take acting seriously

Judi reports that when she began her acting training at the Central School of Speech and Drama, she found it difficult to take it quite as seriously as she should have. She changed her approach to her studying and her work after having noticeable trouble with a particular improvisation scene.

3. English humor at its best

When discussing their work with Judy in Pride and Prejudice, Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen revealed that Judi used to make needlework embroideries that were given as gifts. However, these beautiful and ornate works were always adorned with insults, usually involving colorful curse words.

4. Her own toughest critic

As suggested by her approach to needlework, Judi is famous for her sharp and somewhat caustic wit, and can be rather self-deprecating in spite of her fame. For example, when she was asked to play Cleopatra for a stage production by the Royal Shakespeare Company, she refused on the grounds that her portrayal of the character would render Cleopatra a “menopausal dwarf.”

However, she was later convinced to play the role in spite of this claim, and the staged and televised versions of the play were almost universally well received.

5. “M” – James Bond

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As most people are aware, Judi has portrayed the character of “M” in several James Bond films. However, you may not know that she was the first female to be cast in this role, which had previously been given to Bernard Lee, John Huston, David Niven, Robert Brown and Edward Fox.

6. Married to Michael Williams

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Judi married Michael Williams, who proposed to her during the Christmas season in 1970 while they were on an Australian beach. Their daughter, Finty Williams, was born in 1972, and she has also pursued acting. Unfortunately, Michael Williams passed away in 2001 after a long struggle with cancer.

7. Role in Mrs. Brown

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When asked about what she considers to be her breakthrough, Judi has said that she counts her role in Mrs. Brown as her breakthrough role, as it raised her profile and earned her an Oscar nomination (which was her first).

8. Officer in the Queen’s Honors List

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Judi was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s Honors List in 1970.

9. Best performance

Although many of her roles have received a lot of praise and attention, some have suggested that her 2013 portrayal of Philomena Lee in the film Philomena is one of the very best of her career. The film is based on the true story of a woman looking for her son, and The Times review of the film called her performance warm, graceful, nuanced and heroic.

10. Second best of all British film actresses

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In 2001, the Orange Film Surgery proclaimed her the second best of all the most famous and critically acclaimed British film actresses. Julie Walters was given first place.

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