Dame Judith Olivia "Judi" Dench (born 9 December 1934 in Heworth, England) is an English actress often ranked among the grandes dames of the English stage alongside Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Emma Thompson and Maggie Smithnote . While she previously worked mostly in theater — notably with the Royal Shakespeare Company — she has become more prominent as a movie actress since she took on the role of "M", the chief of MI6 and James Bond's boss, starting with GoldenEye. She ended up the second-most prolific actor in the role with eight appearances in the film series, the first being Bernard Lee at eleven.
She's also famous for winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Shakespeare in Love, where she arguably stole the film with a grand total of nine minutes of screen time as Elizabeth I. Ironically, she had previously been nominated for Best Actress for playing Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown, losing to Helen Hunt.
Ofcom, who handle complaints about television shows in the UK, sometimes refer to the "Judi Dench effect", noting that any swearword spoken by Judi Dench will result in more complaints than the same swearword spoken by anyone else. This is kind of ironic because, in her role as everyone's favorite cool auntie, she seems perfectly comfortable unleashing the occasional Precision F-Strike when necessary.
Word of God says Dench DMs for her grandkids; once word of this got out, no self-respecting geek would call her anything less than "Dame Judi Dench". Vin Diesel actually pushed to have her in The Chronicles of Riddick just so they could play the game togethernote .
While it came to light around 2012 that her eyesight is failing, Dench is adamant that she has no plans to quit acting. In addition to her acting work, she serves on the advisory board of the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, co-founded by her friend Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen. She is also one of a small and incredibly privileged number of people to have read published obituaries — to themselves — whilst still alive.
Referred to by Roman, from Sanders Sides, as "Queen Groovy Binch".
Fun fact: the ringtone on her phone is the James Bond theme. Apparently, it often went off in her scenes in the Bond movies.
Dame Judi Dench's films include:
- A Study in Terror (1965)
- A Midsummer Night's Dream (1968) — in which she appears in a Stripperific outfit of green body paint and pasties. Really.
- A Room with a View (1985)
- Henry V (1989) — Mistress Quickly
- James Bond as M note
- Hamlet (1996)
- Mrs Brown — Earnt her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
- Shakespeare in Love — One-Scene Wonder that earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
- Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000) — documentary narrator
- The Shipping News
- Notes on a Scandal — Third Academy Award nomination.
- The Chronicles of Riddick — Was cast because Vin Diesel was apparently a huge fan of hers, and begged her to take the part. In-between shooting, she DM'd for Diesel, Karl Urban, and Thandiwe Newton.
- Mrs Henderson Presents
- The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
- Philomena —Fourth Academy Award nomination
- Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
- Murder on the Orient Express (2017) — At this point her failing eyesight has reached the point where she spent most of the movie sitting down, and her being led around by Olivia Colman, who played her maid, when she did have to walk.
- Victoria & Abdul (2017)
- Cats — Playing an originally male role. She was intended to play Grizabella in the original 1981 production but suffered a serious hamstring injury. And interestingly enough, the previous film adaptation in 1998 also featured a severely visually impaired actor in John Mills.
- Off The Rails 2021
Her TV work includes:
- Z Cars: One of her first roles was as a Girl of the Week.
- As Time Goes By
- Angelina Ballerina (Miss Lilly)
- A Fine Romance
- Cranford and its sequel Return to Cranford
- A BBC rendition of Macbeth, playing Lady Macbeth opposite Sir Ian McKellen
- Princess Katherine in An Age of Kings
- …But He Sounds Handsome: One promo for As Time Goes By was her and Geoffery Palmer's characters deciding to watch As Time Goes By. She comments that the actor playing Jean (i.e., herself) is quite good.
- Cool Old Lady: She can manifest the trope without breaking sweat.
- Death Glare: One so effective that it even cows James Bond, who otherwise has problems deferring to people in authority (even men).
- Grande Dame: She seems to have cornered the market in smart or downright dangerous versions of the trope; her M is just one example.
- Handicapped Badass: Nearly blind at this point, has no intention of slowing down or stopping working.
- Iron Lady: A master of these characters, most notably as M and Queen Elizabeth.
- Playing Against Type: Judi is one of a small select club of women who have participated in panel comedy gameshow I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.
- Shakespearian Actors: Where she started.