We’ve always suspected that Dame Judi Dench was just as down to earth as she always seems, but this photo of her celebrating her 83rd birthday has proved it.
The photo, uploaded by her daughter to Twitter, shows the star of stage and screen sitting down in front of a magnificent Colin the Caterpillar Cake – a favourite of many of our birthdays too!
It’s reaffirmed what we’ve long thought – we’d love to be invited round to Judi’s.
- Find out more about Judi Dench's Secret Woodland documentary
We were lucky enough to catch up with the actress in November, to celebrate the release of Murder on the Orient Express. Here's what she told Alison James:
“I don’t take anything for granted,” she says. “Even now I worry that I won’t get another job. The director Trevor Nunn once said to me when he came to wish me luck on a first night, ‘Why are you always in tears on the first night?’ And I said, ‘Because I think I’m never going to be employed again’.
“At the depths of me I do have that fear. I have a fear of that unbelievable silence you get in a theatre when you dry. The fear that an audience sees that thing in your eyes and thinks, ‘Oh, she’s gone’. The more you do, the more frightening it is anyway as you are much more aware. Perhaps it is very healthy to be like that. Perhaps I don’t want it to change. It is like nerves. You need the nerves because that supplies you with an energy you can use as petrol.”
Dame Judi’s certainly had her foot on the accelerator this year. Last month saw the release of the critically acclaimed film Victoria and Abdul, for which Judi’s widely tipped to be nominated for an Oscar, and in early November the star-studded remake of Murder on the Orient Express is released, with Judi playing the Princess Natalia Dragamiroff.
Watch the trailer here:
“Retirement plays no part in any of my future plans,” she admits. ‘‘I don’t want to slow down and the words ‘old’ and ‘retired’ are totally banned in my house. I love working; to still be doing what I’m doing, creating an energy, learning something new every day... doing something that gets you up and going – that’s so important to living. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to make a living out of the thing that gets me up and going. As actors, we are in the minority of people who can do this.”
Laughter is incredibly important to Judi. In fact, it was laughing that she remembers most about her first visit to the theatre when she was a child.
“My parents loved the theatre and would take my brothers and me to the York Rep,” she recalls. “I was completely hooked from the word go. I saw Ben Travers’ A Cuckoo in the Nest, and when a man jumped out of a basket at the foot of a bed I laughed so much I made myself sick. Luckily, my mother took me back the next night so I could find out what happened!”
On set and on stage, Dame Judi is well known for playing jokes with – and on – her fellow cast members.
“I love it,” she laughs. “The level of humour before the curtain goes up and during the interval of a play is quite absurd and silly, but you blow the froth off and then get to the serious stuff underneath. Sometimes it breaks the ice, too. Everything can get a bit too serious at times. I’ve got a bad reputation for giggling. I see humour in a great many things. I’ve always found it quite difficult to keep it straight. I’m a terrible laugher. If anything goes ever-so slightly wrong, my tendency is to laugh; not being allowed to go to pieces, such as when I’m acting, makes doing so even more irresistible.”
Little wonder then that she’s loved working with comedians throughout her career – such as Billy Connolly in Mrs Brown, Steve Coogan in Philomena and, most recently Eddie Izzard in Victoria and Abdul who, like Billy and Steve, has become a friend.
“Billy is a supreme comedian – a supreme and deeply sensitive actor as well and he has such a degree of gentleness, whether it be presenting a travel programme or acting quite a serious part in a film,” she says.
“And I found Steve Coogan hysterical. He made me laugh every day on Philomena and, of course, when you’re playing something that requires quite a lot of tension, it’s glorious to be able to just have a laugh suddenly.”
Never has this sense of fun been more evident than when Judi recently joined rapper Lethal Bizzle in the recording studio for the online entertainment magazine LADbible. She was delighted that Bizzle’s slang word for something top-notch was the same as her surname – Dench. She performed with the rapper and the specially adapted lyrics featured the line, ‘Pow, yeah I’m Ju-to-the-di/Pow, if you don’t know about me/Better ask someone quickly.’ She nailed it!
So what’s next? “A real stinker of a role, by that I mean playing a real stinker of a character. Someone like Barbara Covett in Notes on a Scandal. I’m longing for something like that.” Us too!
- Judi Dench Secret Woodland airs this Christmas
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