"I don’t think you’ll ever make it in the film industry, because you have every single thing wrong with your face." It seems absurd today, but this was the damning verdict following Judi Dench’s first film audition in 1959. Since then she created an astonishing career in film and television, having amassed an Oscar, 2 Golden Globes and 10 Baftas. It is a remarkable CV that has embraced many fascinating roles.
Dench’s film career was launched with a compelling performance as a weary housewife in Four in the Morning (1965), a role which won her a Bafta for Best Newcomer. She then gave a tour-de-force performance in the groundbreaking drama Talking to a Stranger (1966), stealing scenes with her charisma as a wayward daughter unable to connect with her family. Despite these two incendiary roles on screen, Dench continued to concentrate on her stage career, and in the 1970s her most compelling performances were on stage, such as her extraordinary, now definitive performance as Lady Macbeth (1979).
In the 1980s Dench moved into comedy – on TV she starred in four series of the fizzy sitcom A Fine Romance (1981-84), while on the big screen she delivered marvellous comedy supporting role in A Room with a View (1986), winning another Bafta. A Damehood followed in 1988.
Up until the mid-1990s, Dench had enjoyed a career that would be the envy of all actors, but it was in 1997, following her acclaimed performance as a bereaved Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown, that her career entered its most exciting stage. She won an Oscar for five bravura minutes in Shakespeare in Love (1998); since then she has chosen fascinating, unpredictable roles – Iris Murdoch in Iris (2001), a bawdy vaudeville manager in Mrs Henderson Presents (2005), a troubled lesbian in Notes on a Scandal (2006) – even M in the James Bond franchise! Next up – Dame Sybil Thorndike in My Week with Marilyn and President Hoover’s mother in J. Edgar. She is often cited as being a national treasure, and she is – but which other national treasure has her daring and thirst for such intriguing and exciting characters?