Judi Dench on her latest role, her best on-screen kiss and the supernatural power she’d love

With her latest film Belfast released this January, one of our most cherished National Treasures spills the beans to Yours.

Judi Dench

by Alison James |

When it comes to work, Dame Judi Dench is well-known for never turning a job down.

“I can’t turn things down,” she has said. “If I’m offered a job, I always do it because I think it’s the last job I’m going to be asked to do. The insecurity never goes away – it’s all part and parcel of being an actor.”

Judi’s career spans more than 60 years. Her first professional stage performance was in September 1957 at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool, playing Ophelia in Hamlet but her first ever time treading the boards came almost 20 years earlier. “I was very small and at primary school,” she recalls. “A group of us were reciting the rhyme ‘Four and twenty tailors went to kill a snail’. I was the snail and my father had made the most incredible shell for me. I had to creep onto the stage, raise my head and then the others would run on.

"My parents were in the audience and I got on stage and stood up. All I can remember is the headmistress saying, ‘Judith! Get down!’ That was my first telling-off on stage!”

How old is Judi Dench?

Born on 9 December in 1934 makes Judi currently 87-years-old (we know it’s hard to believe).

Who is Judi Dench married to?

Judi Dench married the actor Michael Williams in 1971 after they met on-stage in the production of John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi. They had a daughter together, but in 2001 Michael sadly passed away after losing his battle with lung cancer.

Judi Dench and Michael Williams
©Getty

Since 2010 Judi has been in a relationship with conservationist David Mills MBE. David’s career began working as a dairy farmer and won multiple awards for his herd of pedigree cows. He then decided to convert the land to start up a conservation centre, known now as the British Wildlife Centre. In 2016 he was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his services to wildlife conservation.

Judi Dench and David Mills
©Getty

Related: Barbara Flynn: 'Working with Brenda is a joy'

How much is Judi Dench worth?

According to Celebrity Net Worth Judi is worth a whopping $45 million!

Judi Dench in Belfast

Judi’s latest role is starring in Kenneth Branagh’s heart-warming, autobiographical film, which is based on the years before the Branagh family fled Northern Ireland amid ‘the Troubles’.

“I was jolly pleased to even be considered,” Judi has said. “Ken said, ‘Will you play my grandmother?’ and I said, ‘Yes’. I mean, I played his wife in the film All This Is True about William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway so why not his granny?

“Seriously, it is an important story. I've known Ken for such a long time and I knew that it was very much part of his life. Ken came down and read it to me. And that, in itself, was a very, very poignant and important moment - when it's real and it's so vivid, and so personal.

“The cast and crew were like a family from the very beginning. It was an incredible relief to be back working and Ken took very good care of us – we were tested for Covid every day.”

Judi Dench’s best on-screen kiss

“Well, there have been some good ones – although not that many on-screen kisses, mostly stage. I’ll say Daniel Massey. He was a very good kisser!” she tells us.

Judi and Daniel appeared on stage 37 years ago together in 1985 – a long time for a ‘professional’ lip-smacker to be remembered. Equally memorable – although for very different reasons – is the ‘kiss of life’ she bestowed on the family goldfish some years ago!

“My grandson Sam won the fish at a fair 17 years ago,” Judi says. “It was tiny and one day, not long after we had it, I saw it floating on top of the water in the fish bowl. I thought, ‘Oh, dear!’ and went to empty the bowl. As I did so, I saw the fish’s tail moving slightly. I picked it up, gently blew into its mouth and it survived! It had been called Scooby-Doo but was quickly renamed Lazarus. It went on to grow to six inches long and only died last year! So my advice is, ‘Never hesitate to blow into your goldfish’s mouth!’”

SKYFALL
©Alamy

Judi Dench’s eye condition

Dame Judi’s degenerative eye condition – macular degeneration – became public knowledge in 2012 but it’s never stopped her from working. Scripts are read to her as she is unable to read them herself.

“You find a way of just getting about and getting over the things that you find very difficult,” she has said. “I've had to find another way of learning lines and things, which is having great friends of mine repeat them to me over and over and over again. So, I have to learn through repetition, and I just hope that people won't notice too much if all the lines are completely hopeless!”

Judi Dench on supernatural powers

The actress tells us she'd love to be able to time travel if she could.

“I would love to go back to see what London was like in Shakespeare’s time. Also, what it was like after The Fire of London. Actually, if you had a time machine the choice would be endless. Just where would you start?”

84 CHARING CROSS ROAD
©Alamy

Judi Dench on Who Do You Think You Are?

There have been some fascinating stories uncovered on Who Do You Think You Are over the years, and we recently saw Judi Dench on the show.

She began the journey learning more about her father and his experiences during the First World War, and how his knee injury saved his life on several occasions.

The most jaw dropping moment however came when she discovers her link to Danish nobility and Shakespeare too.

It turns out that Judi's 10x great-aunt was a lady in waiting to the Queen of Denmark during the 16th century where she served the Queen in Kronborg Castle in Denmark, which is famous for being the setting for Elsinore in Hamlet - Judi's first ever professional production.

Wiping away tears from her eyes, she said, "This link, the very first part I played at the Old Vic was Ophelia in Hamlet," she says. To suddenly be told an ancestor of mine was actually in Elsinore. That’s very, very, very difficult to take in with everything else."

Belfast is due for release on January 21

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