Judi Dench Then and Now

By / July 1, 2024

Judi Dench Then

Judi Dench, born on December 9, 1934, in North Yorkshire, England, grew up in a family closely tied to the world of theater.

Her father, Reginald, was a doctor who served as the resident physician for the Theatre Royal in York, while her mother, Eleanora, had an active role in the theater community. 

This environment provided young Dench with early and significant exposure to acting, fostering her budding passion for performance. 

Her childhood was filled with the excitement of the theater, often accompanying her father during his visits to the Theatre Royal and witnessing the magic of stage productions firsthand.

From an early age, Dench displayed a keen interest in performance, often dressing up and singing along as her mother played the piano. 

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Her first experiences on stage came with the York Mystery Plays, a local theatrical tradition in which her family was actively involved. 

Eleanora assisted with the wardrobes, and Reginald occasionally took on acting roles, immersing young Judi in the vibrant world of live theater. 

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This familial involvement and encouragement played a crucial role in nurturing her love for the stage.

Dench’s formal education began at an all-girls Quaker school, where she continued to develop her artistic interests.

Initially, she pursued studies at the York School of Art, but her career path took a decisive turn thanks to her brother, Jeffrey.

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An aspiring actor himself, Jeffrey attended London’s Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art and encouraged Judi to join him in the pursuit of a stage career.

Reflecting on her decision to switch to acting, Dench often credits her brother’s influence, remarking, “I’d never have thought of acting if it wasn’t for Jeff.” 

This pivotal choice set her on a path to becoming one of the most celebrated actresses of her generation.

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Judi Dench Acting Career

Judi Dench’s illustrious career began with her first critically acclaimed performance as Ophelia in the Old Vic production of Hamlet in 1957. 

This role marked the beginning of her rise to prominence in the theater world.

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The following year, Dench made her Broadway debut in Twelfth Night, further solidifying her reputation as a talented stage actress.

One of her most notable early achievements was her portrayal of Lady Macbeth in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Macbeth in 1977, which earned her a Laurence Olivier Award.

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This was the first of eight Olivier Awards she would receive throughout her career, with subsequent wins for performances in Juno and the Paycock (1980), Pack of Lies (1983), Antony and Cleopatra (1987), Absolute Hell (1996), A Little Night Music (1996), The Winter’s Tale (2016), and a special Olivier Award in 2004.

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From the outset of her career, Dench also made a significant impact on television. 

She appeared in numerous adaptations of plays and series, including two romantic comedy series on the BBC. 

A Fine Romance (1981–84), which she starred in alongside her husband Michael Williams, and As Time Goes By (1992–2005), became beloved shows that highlighted her versatility and charm.

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Following her husband’s death in 2001, Dench continued to shine on screen, taking on roles in the BBC miniseries Cranford (2007–09), based on the works of Elizabeth Gaskell.

Dench’s film career took off with her debut in the crime drama The Third Secret (1964). She gained further recognition for her roles in A Room with a View (1985) and A Handful of Dust (1988). 

In 1995, she took on the iconic role of M, James Bond’s boss, in GoldenEye, a part she reprised in several Bond films.

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Her portrayals of British queens also garnered critical acclaim: she played the recently widowed Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown (1997) and Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love (1998), the latter earning her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. 

Her performance as Queen Victoria also won her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama and an Academy Award nomination.

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Dench continued to receive Academy Award nominations for her roles in Iris (2001), Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005), and Notes on a Scandal (2006). She also received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Chocolat (2000). 

Her later work included pairing with Dustin Hoffman in the BBC adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot (2015) and making a cameo in Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016).

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Dench reprised her role as Queen Victoria in Victoria and Abdul (2017), which explores the unlikely friendship between the aging monarch and a young Indian servant. 

That same year, she appeared in the star-studded Murder on the Orient Express, an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel.

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In 2018, Dench starred in Red Joan, a spy drama directed by Trevor Nunn, and played Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife, in Kenneth Branagh’s All Is True.

She also appeared in the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats (2019). 

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Her later movie credits include the World War II drama Six Minutes to Midnight and the comedy Blithe Spirit (both 2020), based on a Noël Coward play.

For her role in Branagh’s Belfast (2021), a drama inspired by his childhood during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Dench earned her eighth Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actress, showcasing her enduring talent and versatility.

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Judi Dench Movies

judi dench movies list
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  • The Third Secret (1964)
  • Four in the Morning (1965)
  • He Who Rides a Tiger (1965)
  • A Study in Terror (1965)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968)
  • Henry V (1979)
  • Langrishe, Go Down (1978)
  • A Room with a View (1985)
  • 84 Charing Cross Road (1987)
  • A Handful of Dust (1988)
  • Henry V (1989)
  • Jack and Sarah (1995)
  • GoldenEye (1995)
  • Hamlet (1996)
  • Mrs. Brown (1997)
  • Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
  • Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  • Tea with Mussolini (1999)
  • The World Is Not Enough (1999)
  • Chocolat (2000)
  • The Shipping News (2001)
  • Iris (2001)
  • Die Another Day (2002)
  • The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)
  • Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)
  • Pride & Prejudice (2005)
  • Casino Royale (2006)
  • Notes on a Scandal (2006)
  • Quantum of Solace (2008)
  • Nine (2009)
  • Jane Eyre (2011)
  • My Week with Marilyn (2011)
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
  • Skyfall (2012)
  • Philomena (2013)
  • The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)
  • Spectre (2015)
  • Esio Trot (2015, TV movie)
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
  • Victoria & Abdul (2017)
  • Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
  • Red Joan (2018)
  • All Is True (2018)
  • Cats (2019)
  • Artemis Fowl (2020)
  • Six Minutes to Midnight (2020)
  • Blithe Spirit (2020)
  • Belfast (2021)
  • Allelujah (2022)

Judi Dench’s Personal Life

Judi Dench married actor Michael Williams in 1971, and their partnership extended beyond their personal lives into their professional careers. 

They frequently worked together, most notably in the British television series A Fine Romance, which aired from 1981 to 1984, and the 1999 film Tea with Mussolini.

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Their marriage was marked by a deep bond and mutual respect, lasting until Williams’ death from lung cancer in 2001. 

The couple had one daughter, Finty Williams, who followed in her parents’ footsteps to become an actor.

Dench shares a particularly close relationship with her daughter, Finty, and her grandson, Sam.

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Finty has often described their bond as being like “three-way Velcro,” indicating the strong, supportive family unit they maintain. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Sam moved in with Dench to keep her company during the lockdown. 

Their close relationship was highlighted through a series of entertaining and heartwarming TikTok videos they created together, which quickly went viral and brought joy to many during a challenging time.

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Although Dench has not remarried since Michael’s passing, she has found companionship with David Mills, a dairy farmer and wildlife conservationist. 

Their relationship began in 2010, and Dench affectionately refers to him as her “chap.” 

Their connection has brought a sense of happiness and companionship to Dench’s life, demonstrating that she continues to find joy and fulfillment both personally and professionally.

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Judi Dench Now

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Judi Dench, now 89 years old, is an acclaimed English actress renowned for her versatility and extensive body of work across film, television, and stage. 

She is widely considered one of Britain’s greatest actors, known for her ability to excel in a variety of genres and mediums. 

Dench’s career, spanning over six decades, has made her a beloved and respected figure in the entertainment industry.

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In 2022, Dench continued to demonstrate her enduring talent by joining the cast of the film Allelujah. 

This recent work adds to her already impressive filmography, which includes numerous critically acclaimed performances that have garnered her both national and international recognition. 

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Her ability to bring depth and nuance to her characters has solidified her status as a versatile and powerful performer.

Dench’s success extends beyond her acting accolades; she has also achieved significant financial success, with a net worth estimated at $45 million. 

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This wealth reflects her long-standing career in film, stage, and television, as well as her ability to remain relevant and in demand in a rapidly changing industry. 

Despite her age, Dench continues to captivate audiences and critics alike, proving that her talent and passion for acting remain as strong as ever.

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