Dame Judi Dench



  • (1934 - ) British actress, renowned internationallyfor her Shakespearean and other roles. Initially interested in set design,Dench was persuaded to attend London's Central School of Speech and Dramaby her brother, the actor Jeffrey Dench. She made her debut with theOld Vic in London (1957), playing Ophelia to John Neville's Hamlet.After giving an acclaimed performance as Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli's1960 production of Romeo and Juliet, Dench joined the RoyalShakespeare Company to play Anya in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchardat the Aldwych Theatre (1961). In 1968 Dench made her musical debutas Sally Bowles in Cabaret at the Palace Theatre. Subsequentsuccesses included Grace Harkaway in Boucicault's London Assurance(1970), Juno in O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock (1976), andBrecht's Mother Courage at the Barbican (1984).

    In 1987 she was cast to play Shakespeare's Cleopatra at theNational Theatre opposite Anthony Hopkins. In her characteristicallyself-effacing style she told the director, Sir Peter Hall, at rehearsals,"I do hope you know what you're up to, casting a menopausaldwarf as Cleopatra." The production went on to complete a record100 performances.

    In over 40 years with the RSC Dench has played every majorShakespearean role for women - including, most recently, theCountess in All's Well That Ends Well (2003). Since the mid-1980sshe has taken a growing number of cinema roles and has also turnedto directing, staging Much Ado About Nothing in 1988 and asummer production of Romeo and Juliet at the Regent's ParkOpen Air Theatre in 1993. In that year she played a vengeful wifein the RSC production of Peter Shaffer's three-hour The Gift ofthe Gorgon, a role she later described as the most demanding ofher career. Other highlights of Dench's more recent career have includedDesirée in Sondheim's A Little Night Music (1995), Esmein David Hare's Amy's View (1997), and Judith Bliss in Coward'sHay Fever (2006). In 2010 she played Titania in Peter Hall'sproduction of A Midsummer Night's Dream, reprising a role shehad last played 48 years earlier. Dench was presented with a special LaurenceOlivier Award for her outstanding contribution to British theater in 2004.

    Dench also starred on television in the situation comedy A FineRomance, in which she appeared with her husband, Michael Williams(1935 - 2001). Her daughter Finty is also an actress.