Unstoppable Dame Judi Dench defies health struggles to remain in the spotlight

Aug 01, 2023
With a career spanning over six decades, Dench has certainly left her mark on the world of stage and screen. Source: Getty Images.

In an inspiring display of determination and passion for her craft, legendary actress Dame Judi Dench has shown the world that not even her recent health struggles can hinder her commitment to the stage.

Dench’s illustrious career has spanned decades, earning her accolades and adoration from fans worldwide through her portrayal of beloved characters in various critically acclaimed films.

However, the 88-year-old star has been battling advanced macular degeneration, which has posed challenges in reading scripts and delivering the powerful performance she has become known for.

Despite the challenges her condition poses, Dench remains steadfast in her commitment to her career, telling The Mirror she wants to work “as much as I can”.

“I mean I can’t see on a film set anymore,” she told the publication.

“And I can’t see to read. So I can’t see much. But you know you just deal with it. Get on. It’s difficult for me if I have any length of a part. I haven’t yet found a way. Because I have so many friends who will teach me the script. But I have a photographic memory.”

While Dench is putting on a strong front in the face of her health struggles, she showed her vulnerable side recently during an interview with journalist Louis Theroux when he brought up her late husband, Michael Williams who died of lung cancer in 2001.

Theroux began by asking: “Are you okay talking about how it came to an end and how he came to die?”

After trying to explain, Dench struggled to hold back the tears.

“I’m not good at it actually,” she said holding onto a tissue, trying to avoid being overcome with emotion.

“Yes, he died in 2001 of lung cancer. Smoking you see, all that smoking when we were young.

“I was in New York and they said he was not well so my agent flew out and we came back on a Concord the next day and it aborted take off.

“We got off and got back on the next day and thought it would be all right and we got on another plane and the same thing happened.

“So it took us a long time to get back, but we did get back and we were all in the house together and that was very good indeed.”

With a career spanning over six decades, Dench has certainly left her mark on the world of stage and screen. Dench made her professional debut in 1957 with the Old Vic Company. Over the following few years, she performed in several of Shakespeare’s plays, in such roles as Ophelia in Hamlet, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. Although most of Dench’s work during this period was in theatre, she also branched into film work and won a BAFTA Award as Most Promising Newcomer.

In 1968, she drew excellent reviews for her leading role of Sally Bowles in the musical Cabaret. Over the next two decades, Dench established herself as one of the most significant British theatre performers, working for the National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

She received critical acclaim for her work on television during this period, in the series A Fine Romance  and As Time Goes By, in both of which she held starring roles. Her film appearances were infrequent, and included supporting roles in major films, such as James Ivory’s A Room with a View in 1985 before she rose to international fame as M in GoldenEye in 1995, a role she continued to play in eight James Bond films, until her final cameo appearance in Spectre in 2015.

An eight-time Academy Award nominee, Dench won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love in 1998; her other Oscar-nominated roles were for Mrs Brown (1997), Chocolat (2000), Iris (2001), Mrs Henderson Presents (2005), Notes on a Scandal (2006), Philomena (2013) and Belfast (2021).

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