Judi Dench PROFILE
One of Britain's most respected and popular actresses, Judi Dench can claim a decades-old career encompassing the stage, screen, and television. A five-time winner of the British Academy Award, she was granted an Order of the British Empire in 1970 and made a Dame of the British Empire in 1988.
Born in York, England, on December 9, 1934, Dench made her stage debut as a snail in a junior school production. After attending art school, she studied acting at London's Central School of Speech and Drama. In 1957, she made her professional stage debut as Ophelia in the Old Vic's Liverpool production of Hamlet. A prolific stage career followed, with seasons spent performing with the likes of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. Dench broke into film in 1964 with a supporting role in The Third Secret. The following year, she won her first BAFTA, a Most Promising Newcomer honor for her work in Four in the Morning. Although she continued to work in film, Dench earned most of her recognition and acclaim for her stage work. Occasionally she brought her stage roles to the screen in such film adaptations as A Midsummer Night's Dream (1968) and Macbeth (1978), in which she was Lady Macbeth to Ian McKellen's tormented king. It was not until the mid-1980s that Dench began to make her name known to an international film audience. In 1986, she had a memorable turn as a meddlesome romance author in A Room with a View, earning a Best Supporting Actress BAFTA for her tart portrayal. Two years later, she won the same award for her work in another period drama, A Handful of Dust.
After her supporting role as Mistress Quickly in Kenneth Branagh's acclaimed 1989 adaptation of Henry V, Dench exchanged the past for the present with her thoroughly modern role as M in GoldenEye (1995), the first of the Pierce Brosnan series of James Bond films. She portrayed the character for the subsequent Brosnan 007 films, lending flinty elegance to what had traditionally been a male role. The part of M had the advantage of introducing Dench to an audience unfamiliar with her work, and in 1997 she earned further international recognition, as well as an Oscar nomination and Golden Globe award, for her portrayal of Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown. The following year, Dench did win the Oscar, garnering Best Supporting Actress honors for her eight-minute appearance as Queen Elizabeth in the acclaimed Shakespeare in Love. Her win resulted in the kind of media adulation usually afforded to actresses one-third her age. The following year, Dench continued to reap both acclaim and new fans with her work in Tea with Mussolini and the latest Bond extravaganza, The World is Not Enough.
While her screen career has taken on an increasingly high-profile nature, Dench has continued to act on both television and the stage. In the former medium, she endeared herself to viewers with her work in such series as As Time Goes By (in which she starred opposite real-life husband Michael Williams) and A Fine Romance. On the stage, Dench made history in 1996, becoming the first performer to win two Olivier Awards for two different roles in the same year.