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Judi Dench is our favourite actress.
Have a care with my name. You will wear it out.
I think we'd be quite happy if she became the next queen.
She's won awards in every form of the art,
from weighty Shakespeare...
-..to Hollywood epics...
-Come back alive.
She is a star, whether she likes it or not.
Without question, one of the greatest actresses.
-..and television drama.
-Shut up. BABY CRIES
Judi Dench is a tough old boot,
if I can call a dame of the acting empire that.
When I meet this woman, I'm going to hate her.
Half the world thinks she is actually part of the royal family.
She really has your balls in a noose.
These are the many faces of Dame Judi Dench.
Britain has a tradition of bestowing high honours on actors at the top of their game.
Men get a knighthood, and women the title of dame.
Any cheap comic or talk-show host can get a knighthood,
but to be a dame, you've got to be a serious actress!
Judi Dench was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1988,
marking a humble career of service to the monarch and the public.
Dame Judi was honoured when she was most familiar as a sitcom actress.
So, how often am I foolish?
Ten years later, she made three films that redefined her career almost overnight.
In 1995, she shook James Bond into shape...
-I think you're a sexist, misogynist dinosaur.
You need someone who has an impact in two minutes.
..and found an unlikely co-star in Mrs Brown.
CLOCK CHIMES Get him out!
She's just blissfully in the right job.
By the time she won an Oscar for Shakespeare In Love,
Hollywood nobility was falling at her feet.
She's very much an example
of somebody who connected with a movie audience
much later in her life than probably most people looking back now recognise.
They would assume she's been in that position for a long time, but she wasn't.
Worldwide fame had been achieved in just three films in three years.
For Judi Dench, that's hardly surprising.
She's been winning awards from the very beginning of a 50-year career,
which has had more twists than a epic Shakespearean drama.
But for a star with a huge reputation,
she's always kept a low profile off-screen.
She doesn't like being interviewed. She doesn't.
It's not an affectation. She genuinely does not like people prying into her background.
She's genuinely shy about that.
Judi studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London,
although she has confided that acting was not her first choice.
I was going to be a designer, decor and costumes and things,
and then that kind of got, like a disease in a way,
so I just kind of overnight thought, "I'll have a go at the other".
and in 1957 auditioned for Michael Benthall's Old Vic Company
before she had even graduated.
I did an audition and Michael said, "I'm going to take the most enormous gamble.
"We'd like you to play Ophelia in Hamlet." I just burst into tears.
It was the start of a lifelong passion for Shakespeare,
where great actors master the English language.
Here's the smell of the blood...
All the perfumes of Arabia
will not sweeten
The thing about Shakespeare
that makes it such an exciting prospect for an actor is the words.
He gives you the most incredible words,
the most extraordinary use of language,
and the challenge for you is to make those words sound like what you want it to say.
We've watched Shakespeare where the actor doesn't know what he's saying,
so we go, "I haven't a clue what it's about"
but when an actor really knows what they're saying and those words come alive,
it's the greatest thrill.
But in the '60s, the theatre faced a revolution.
Television brought gritty dramas right into the home.
Z-Cars spoke the language of the streets.
The hunt was on for feisty actors with passion
who could capture the rebellious young spirit of the time.
Judi's time in the stage spotlight had not gone unnoticed.
-Hey, come back here!
-She's only a bird, you can handle her.
-Where do your parents live?
-25 Lonsdale Road.
-You don't live with them?
When did you leave home, then, love?
Just tonight, was it?
No, "love". A year ago.
I walked out a year ago.
-And left ten years before that, if you know what I mean!
Don't push yourself explaining cos I'm not that interested.
John Hopkins wrote the episode featuring Judi.
He took her character as inspiration for a new drama,
Talking To A Stranger.
Far from the classical tradition of Shakespeare,
this was cutting-edge stuff.
One of the really great landmark TV dramas,
Talking To A Stranger,
often said to be the first real classic work of the medium.
And in that she plays very much a figure of the period,
you know, this woman who is pregnant by a man who isn't her husband.
Jessica Adams, Leonard Ngana.
Hi, little friend.
He's my husband!
-Was my husband.
-Still am, baby!
Going to have to do something about that. Can't have a baby born with the name Ngana!
You think you're going to have a baby?
You're really optimistic.
Certainly I can have a baby.
-How did we achieve that - remote control?! Be your ever-loving age, sweetie!
-No, not your baby!
-You're my wife, you're going to have my baby.
Pink with blond hair and blue eyes, I hope. One head, two arms and two legs.
It dealt with what we would now call a dysfunctional family.
But I think we didn't view it as that. It dealt with tragedy.
-I thought you were going to be...
So did I.
-What's the matter with you?
-Oh, don't be silly -
-Something's the matter!
-I'm perfectly all right!
Each of the four episodes takes the perspective of a different family member.
It's about the generation gap and Mother's shattered hopes when she was a bride.
-I'm so happy!
-'Happy, happy, happy!'
I think the pill was 1961,
and women were taking responsibility for our own reproduction
and also for...
..who one wanted to sleep with or one didn't want to sleep with.
So for my generation and Judi's it wasn't such a big thing,
but I imagine for our parents watching it, yes, it was.
To see what was actually happening with their children
would've been perhaps alarming.
Ow! TEACUP CLATTERS
-You have a filthy mouth!
-I better go and wash it.
How dare you speak like that in this house?
-Oh, that's right!
-Pray, tell me, what's so special about this house?
You think he's going to be offended? Why doesn't He strike me dead!
-I will not having you making your cheap jokes!
-Why doesn't He strike me dead?
-You think you're so important!
-I think anyone who needs something -
-Your friends think that's very funny, I suppose.
-I haven't got any!
-You could butter them on that bread, and you still wouldn't choke!
-I've just started!
-You don't make me laugh!
-Five elephants and a camel in a phone box wouldn't!
-If you can't control your tongue, it's better if you don't come and see us again.
I remember when they were rehearsing, all four of them,
I would ask Christopher Morahan if I could sit and watch.
I used to stay behind after rehearsal had finished just to see them.
She was known as a classical actress,
we knew she'd been at the Old Vic and the RSC,
and here she was totally modern, fresh, very... quite raw,
a very intensely emotional performance.
It was breathtaking. It was a slice of life, you know?
Always providing, that is, I go that natural-type death.
Myself, I put a lot of faith in the Third World War.
And no four-minute warning!
-Pull yourself together, Terry.
Women were questioning their place in society in the '60s.
In the film, Four In The Morning, Judi played a young mother
trapped at home with a new baby.
I suppose we could live the rest of our lives like this.
-If you're going to go on resenting me...
-But I don't resent you!
It's just, you can... you can get out of these four walls!
You can see your friends, you can go for a drink, you can break away!
I'm not prepared to cook your meals, look after your baby and be here when you feel like it.
-Oh, come on, darling, that's your part of the bargain!
I'm sorry, but that's the way society happens to be!
I'm not talking about society, I'm talking about me!
She captures something quite brilliant and quite moving in that film.
I suppose it's post-natal depression
in the days when people didn't really use expressions like that.
But that melancholy,
that sense of a woman trapped in the home,
waiting for feminism to happen...
This is a woman who is destined for real greatness,
not just on the stage but on the screen, too,
because the camera looks at her
and it sees an interior world that we can't quite know,
but you know that within this character
is a world of sadness and a world of experience.
Four In The Morning won Judi Dench her first BAFTA as Most Promising Newcomer.
She had shone in Shakespeare
and captured the melancholy mood of a changing society with documentary precision.
A career in film and television was unfolding.
But Judi Dench was not about to be typecast
or leave the theatre.
GENTLE PIANO MELODY
In rehearsals, Judi prepared for the lead role in a new production.
But this wasn't Shakespeare. This was musical theatre.
When she was cast as Sally Bowles in Cabaret,
a lot of people thought that was an utterly ludicrous idea.
Everyone was, "What's this going to be like?"
But she was wonderful! Absolutely amazing!
Sally Bowles is not meant to be the world's greatest singer anyway,
or the world's greatest dancer.
I mean, unlike lovely Liza, who changed it when she did the film,
but the musical and the book and the play
is actually Sally Bowles isn't supposed to be wonderful.
# Hush up, don't tell Mama
# Shush up, don't tell Mama
# Don't tell Mama
# Whatever you do #
I mean, she can sing, she can dance. She can do all those things.
Often the best singers don't sing all the extraordinary notes.
They actually make you feel a song and make you believe the lyric
and it's the feeling that you get over, not just the notes.
# So won't you kindly do a girl A great big favour?
# And please, my sweet patater... #
Cabaret opened to fantastic reviews
and set up Judi as a musical theatre star.
She played it so well and she was wonderful, absolutely amazing as Sally Bowles.
Judi Dench's performance as Sally Bowles in Cabaret
will never, ever be eclipsed.
It was everything that Christopher Isherwood ever dreamt of.
And she sang, too, and sang wonderfully in her way,
but she summoned up a whole era,
she summoned up a whole way of life, a whole generation.
There you are in 1967, as early as that,
where she was giving a definitive performance.
That's quite something.
# Doesn't even have an inkling
# That I left them all in Antwerp
# And I'm touring on my own #
Judi played the lead role of Sally Bowles in the original stage production of Cabaret
and went on to star in The Good Companions
for 255 performances.
She focused on theatre throughout the '70s.
She could command the stage in anything, from Shakespeare to musicals
and had a BAFTA to show for gritty television performances.
But her career was about to take another twist
with a chance to co-star in TV comedy
alongside her husband Michael Williams.
Michael read the scripts and said to Judi,
"These are good. We should do it."
# A fine romance
# With no kisses #
A Fine Romance ran for four series on ITV from 1981 to 1984,
giving Judi a high profile with a mainstream TV audience.
It was her first sitcom
and I remember there were things in the Press that said, "Judi Dench doing a sitcom!"
Horror of horrors.
But we had the most fantastic time. It's one of my favourite jobs.
-This is Mike.
I played Judi's younger sister, who's very happily married
and Judi played the spinster older sister,
who meets Michael,
who's a gardener,
and it's about their love affair and how they get together - a fine romance.
MUSIC PLAYS IN BACKGROUND
Laura is a linguist!
They loved to work together.
They used to go off at weekends and do poetry recitals and Shakespeare readings
after having a week of rehearsing A Fine Romance.
-Er, well, let me give you a lift home at least.
-Is it out of your way?
A rose features in the titles and often in the programme,
inspired by a real-life weekly romantic gesture by Judi's husband Michael.
He gave her a rose just after they first got together.
And he carried on doing that. He used to give her a rose every week.
She used to come in with it sometimes, into rehearsal.
That's a wonderful, romantic thing to do!
Their daughter, Finty, has continued the rose-giving tradition
since Michael died in 2001.
Family has always come first for Judi.
I think she was often offered things, she was certainly offered theatre in America, on Broadway,
which might've led to movies from Broadway.
She never wanted to leave Michael and Finty. They came first. That was a lot to do with it.
THEME MUSIC: "As Time Goes By"
Judi left the world of sitcom at the end of the run to return to more serious roles.
But destiny was to call her back for a new BBC comedy,
As Time Goes By.
She wasn't first choice for that part at all.
I like to rub that in a bit to her. Are you watching?
We were going to have Jean Simmons.
We had lots of lunches with her. We waited a time
and then we thought we ought to get on with it,
so Judi Dench was approached.
I thought she'd never do it, but someone said, "Let's try her."
We didn't know at the time that Judi never reads a script,
she just likes working, so if someone offers her a job, she takes it.
She's crazy really.
I don't think she knew who I was or Syd Lotterby, the director, but she thought, "It's a job!"
Pretty well everyone said, "Oh, how wonderful!
"You know Jude?" I said, "No, I don't."
"You've never worked with Jude?!" "No, I haven't."
"Never, ever? She's wonderful! You'll love her."
And after about 15 people had said this, I thought,
"Bloody hell, when I meet this woman I'm going to hate her."
I mean, I was really right off her.
I shan't be a moment. Mum, Sandy, Lionel.
-Do sit down. Two minutes.
Can I get you a drink?
-No, thanks. I've got a taxi waiting.
Geoffrey and Judi play characters who were separated as young lovers,
then unexpectedly reconnect many years later.
AUDIENCE LAUGH TENTATIVELY
-Shall we get on?
-Yes, of course.
The audience in that sitcom studio are watching it on the big screen,
because half the time, their view is obscured by cameras and set,
but still you're getting a live reaction from the audience,
so that requires some theatrical experience
to be able to play to the audience and with the audience.
Ahh! Now, isn't that a picture of domestic bliss?
The series had a natural narrative arc to it.
We thought it would go for three series
and when they get together, that would be the natural end,
but I think Bob Larbey decided that there was more to it.
Let's see how they get on living together.
He was written as a very independent, curmudgeonly character
and she was settled with her life and her daughter,
and so there seemed to be some interest in keeping that going and seeing how that went.
So he moves into her house in Holland Park
and then it went on for another six series after that.
Over the course of the series,
we see the couple kiss again
and, in the fullness of time, get married.
I remember, during the first series,
Judi and I having lunch and saying, "How much do you think we'll get out of this?"
We said, "Maybe it'll go for more than one series.
"Maybe it'll go for three."
We were very lucky, weren't we? We got a second chance.
Some people never get a first.
I love you, Lionel.
Just as well, because I love you, too.
It's an indefinable chemistry, I think, between Geoffrey and Judi.
That's undeniably what is at its route.
And it's written by someone who can write
the kind of dialogue that seems perfectly natural.
The huge surprise about it was that it's incredibly popular in the States.
And we still get little cheques come in from the US of A, which is lovely!
That was the huge surprise.
And the fact that it's a bit cross generational,
obviously it is middle-class, semi-geriatric,
but it seems to appeal to most people.
Oh, damn and blast.
I need a pee.
As Time Goes By shows how comfortable Dame Judi Dench is with comedy.
That's no surprise for the actors and crew who work with her
and it has provided fans with a peak of the playful Judi Dench behind the scenes
and often on camera.
..and had long black hair and... SHE STIFLES LAUGHTER
It's written down!
We did have the odd retake, erm,
and some of them were down to her.
Stop making excuses and face facts! You're making it sound like an accusation.
We all care about you and want to help!
You simply can't turn a blind ear to your hearing!
-Is that a mixed metaphor?
-Blind eye! AUDIENCE LAUGH
In a way, Judi wasn't usually quite ready, if I can say that.
It didn't matter a tuppeny damn because she just does it, you know.
Well, don't worry, I won't leave you to do it alone.
That way, if they rush us,
at least we won't be a... dwindling minority!
I've no idea what I'm saying! No idea!
The audience loved it if we got it wrong. They loved her more and more.
Almost everyone you meet intends to write a book.
All you have to do is express a deep interest
and suddenly they're very accommodating.
SHE GIGGLES Sorry!
She has a wicked sense of humour
and, I think other people have pointed out,
probably one of the dirtiest laughs in English theatre.
She's a very, very mischievous actress.
You did know there was something wrong! You knew about his thumb...
His thumb! AUDIENCE LAUGH
It's nothing to do with me!
-It's nothing to do with me!
-He's always like -
-All week, she hasn't known this line!
So I've been going...
He's been doing this!
Tonight he doesn't do it!
I didn't do it tonight, so...!
Is Eileen Atkins free? Maggie Smith?
During her years in sitcom, Judi had continued her stage career
and added to her cabinet of film awards.
A Room With A View and A Handful Of Dust won BAFTAs
and she was nominated as Best Actress in Wetherby and Behaving Badly.
She wasn't a comedy actress in serious roles,
she was a serious actress with a serious sense of humour.
She doesn't want people to be in awe of her
or treat her any differently.
I mean, inevitably, you do,
but she uses humour as a way of...
..making people not be in any way subservient to her.
She just wants to be a friend.
I had done one very small TV part
and then I was cast as Judi Dench's daughter,
which unbelievably blew my mind because I knew all about her, I thought she was amazing.
I was so nervous about meeting her.
How on earth was I going to be able to act with her?
And I think the thing I felt about her the most was,
she was unbelievably human and humble
and totally one of the gang.
-I love you!
She larked around all the time, joked all the time,
was always making everybody laugh and have fun
and the minute the camera turned,
her concentration was absolutely focused.
I used to be fascinated by it, how she could talk to people
and be joking and laughing and seemingly not in the zone at all,
and then something would happen and she would go "click".
It was really amazing to watch.
In sitcom, Judi epitomised middle-class, well-behaved Britain.
In Behaving Badly,
she took us back into the most uncomfortable areas.
The first scene we ever did was this very tricky scene
of me coming home and telling her that I was going to leave her.
'I was thrilled and excited
'and a little bit nervous,
'as you always are with a great celebrity doing a part.'
-We have to talk.
This is the trickiest bit.
'She instinctively just kept her back to me.'
Her name's Rebecca.
She's a journalist.
She's a bit younger than I am.
Well, a lot, really. It doesn't matter.
'There was something about this back that had a special vulnerability.'
I'm trying to think of a way to tell you this kindly, but there isn't one.
Bridget, I'm in love and Rebecca, she seems to love me.
'She manages to convey from every pore,
'whether it's front or back or sideways,
By 1995, Dame Judi was a woman of more mature years.
Star of a long-running TV sitcom,
she'd enjoyed an enviable award-winning career on stage and screen.
She might've thought she had done it all, but she was about to find a new audience.
TV is where I first saw Judi Dench
and there was definitely a point in my life when other people, much more educated and learned than myself,
were talking about Judi Dench as a great actress and having seen her on the stage
and I was thinking, "What, Judi Dench off As Time Goes By?
"The same Judi Dench who was in A Fine Romance?"
So I never quite put the two together.
She definitely was a sitcom actress when I first knew of her.
That's just what I thought she was and I'm sure I wasn't alone in that.
MUSIC: "James Bond theme"
-You were saying.
-No, no, I was just -
Good. Because if I want sarcasm, Mr Tanner, I'll talk to my children, thank you very much.
It was 1995. GoldenEye launched Pierce Brosnan's Bond
and revealed a Secret Service that had changed.
You know, this sort of behaviour could qualify as sexual harassment.
Really? What's the penalty for that?
Some day you have to make good on your innuendos.
Well, the Bond films are extraordinary in their size.
I mean, until you make a film like that,
you have absolutely no idea of the whole machine,
not even the film itself, but the whole rigmarole that goes with it.
It was extraordinary that when we all started the first one, GoldenEye,
it was an incredible feeling of excitement.
I think you're a sexist, misogynist dinosaur,
a relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms are wasted on me.
There's another side to her, the bitchy side, the tough side, the hard side.
If you think for one moment I don't have the balls to send a man out to die,
your instincts are dead wrong.
I've no compunction about sending you to your death.
That's why she made such an impact, despite a small amount of screen time.
You don't like me, Bond. You don't like my methods.
You think I'm an accountant, a bean-counter,
-more interested in my numbers.
-The thought had occurred to me.
The thing about M is, she bosses James Bond about.
James Bond is one of the ultimate movie tough guys,
but M, played by Judi Dench, has the upper hand.
-GoldenEye introduced Judi Dench to the world.
..come back alive.
They saw a newcomer in her 60s.
Being interviewed by the press and everything, the Americans said,
"So we've seen you as M. What else have you been doing?"
Jude said it was like 40 years of experience
completely didn't matter!
M was a small role in a big film,
but even as it was released, there were preparations for a big role in a small film
that would confirm Judi Dench as an international movie star.
Mr Brown, ma'am.
Mrs Brown told the story of the relationship
between Queen Victoria and the Scottish ghillie John Brown, played by Billy Connelly.
It turned out to be a really terrific marriage.
She loved him
and he, in turn, felt that he was dining at the high table,
exactly as the character that he was playing does.
And so the symbiosis between the two of them,
and Billy feeling that he was going to have to pull off a legitimate performance
as opposed to winging it, which is what he does so spectacularly onstage,
was a very interesting dynamic, very productive for the film.
Mr Brown is here, ma'am.
That was made for BBC Television, that film,
financed by the BBC entirely,
and it was made at a time
when films had a small chance of translating to the big screen.
He kept saying, "This'll go in the cinema!" And we thought, "Shut up."
The whole court was represented by Richard Pasco and me.
We were the only courtiers. It was a very small budget.
She's been in deep mourning
and more or less dysfunctional since Albert's death.
You have a brother in service here, do you not?
-I forget his name.
-That will be company for you.
It was a tough scene for Billy. It was the first scene he did, the first scene we shot.
He knew that at the end of the scene there was a line he had to get right!
It took a few times to settle down on that,
and so Judy was going through those emotions quite a number of times
and I was watching the monitor with my mouth open,
just thinking, "How do you do that?"
Honest to God, I never thought to see you in such a state!
You must miss him dreadfully.
You do not...
He... CLOCK CHIMES
Get him out! Get him out!
Get him out! Get him out!
I thought, "God, this isn't the actress I've been working with!"
This was on another level.
And she was phenomenal in it, I think.
Absolutely phenomenal in Mrs Brown.
And with reason, her screen career took off after that.
What she brought to the role of Queen Victoria
was this quality of sensibility.
There's something very emotionally articulate about Judi Dench.
It's as if everything she says seems weighted with emotion,
with a sense of something about to break through.
She often sounds like she might be about to burst into tears or into laughter.
It's hard to detect.
I have noticed of late...
..that my feelings of grief
..are not so strong...
..and I find myself leaning
more on the comfort of living friends.
This is why she's so good. She can show these moments,
she can show somebody emerging from widowhood
into a kind of girlishness,
and do it without it seeming corny or cheap.
There's a subtlety to everything she does.
-Has someone seen to those bruises?
Having considered my position here in court,
I have come to the conclusion that, in Your Majesty's best interests, I should resign.
I do not accept.
I had foreseen that you would not.
But Your Majesty should understand...
..that I will not be changed in this.
-I leave for Deeside -
-The Queen forbids it.
I cannot allow it
because I cannot live without you.
She had had the most stunning career in televisual terms
and certainly amazing in theatrical terms,
and then it was quite late that the film world opened to her,
which she has embraced and is glorious in.
I mean, the big turn was Mrs Brown.
The Americans in particular
love it when the dignified, the classic British actors
take on the role of a British royal.
Dame Judi plays royal characters
the way that we want the royals to be, not how they really were,
but with great severity, vulnerability - just enough -
but also she can be very scary.
Within a year, Dame Judi was crowned again,
playing Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare In Love, a very different monarch.
We don't have royalty in America, so we have to take yours.
We like very pushy British women. Americans love that.
This stems from the fact that we think that British people are superior to us,
but we would never say that.
What do you love so much?
-Speak up, girl! I know who I am!
the script is the thing that decides whether it's any good or not
and this was obviously a corker.
-That woman is a woman!
What? A woman? You mean that goat?!
I'll see you all in Clink,
in the name of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth!
Mr Tilney! THEY GASP
Have a care with my name. You will wear it out.
Unless we absolutely messed it up, which of course we could've done, any of us,
or John Madden or whatever,
but that was a fabulous script, it was a joy to do
and the job was to do it very well and that's it.
It's a cross-dressing rom-com
where only cold Queen Elizabeth can salvage Shakespeare's love life and career.
They are not acted for you, they are acted for me.
Of course, she's played the great Shakespearean roles,
that was the lifeblood of her career, really,
and she has a capacity
to display tremendous power and assurance
from quite a small frame, erm,
and I think that comes, strangely, quite naturally to her,
even though she isn't remotely like that in person.
She brings a sort of intellectualism
and an emotional sophistication to the material that she works with,
so that no matter what she's saying,
there's a sense of a hinterland of some kind,
of a history of the things going on at the back of this character's mind, as well.
And that's something that comes, I think, from her.
She's been plucked since I saw her last, and not by you.
It takes a woman to know it.
I think we could actually pinpoint a Judi Dench style,
which is very refined, very classy, very dignified,
but don't mess with her.
I think that's what we love to see,
because she is small, she is petite, she's not loud and brash.
She is a very classy-looking lady.
But we like to see her with some guts, as well.
Come here, Master Kent. Let me look at you.
Yes, the illusion is remarkable.
And your error, Mr Tilney, is easily forgiven.
But I know something of a woman in a man's profession.
Yes, by God, I do know about that.
Famously, she had, like, 12 minutes of screen time...
Eight minutes, I think. I haven't totted them up.
..but won the Supporting Actress Oscar
because she makes such an impact in such a small amount of time.
She comes into the movie, she bosses everyone about,
she's tough, she makes a real impact,
and you think you've been watching her for much longer than you were.
There was a sense that
a lot of people were so taken aback by her performance as Queen Victoria
that they were surprised, in a way, that she didn't win for that.
Shakespeare In Love came out the following year,
and it was a Supporting Actress nomination,
and she was playing another monarch,
and I suppose, possibly, there was a sense that
the Academy had suddenly become aware of this actress.
Too late. Too late!
Judi entered the 21st century as a worldwide film star.
She's built M's part in the Bond films.
But although Hollywood loves Judi Dench as a steely, hard woman in a man's world,
she refuses to be typecast.
Alongside the Hollywood blockbusters
is Dame Judi of the low-budget film and TV series,
in a huge variety of roles.
She's had an extraordinary career. She's one of the few actors I know who's never been out of work.
She literally has not been out of work. From the very beginning, she's worked all her life.
I think the key to that is that,
while she's not made many errors in her time,
she's also chosen wisely in the sense that she's chosen stuff that,
even if it seemed unlikely, it has worked triumphantly for her.
From the leafy suburbs of south London,
the Bombshell who made all this possible, Elizabeth on tenor sax!
SHE PLAYS UPBEAT JAZZ
Judi won a BAFTA for Best Actress in The Last of the Blonde Bombshells,
the story of a woman reuniting a wartime swing band.
I didn't know.
Do you remember that dance hall I told you about?
-You Rascal You?
-Well, I played in the band.
-Did women do that then?
What do you know about the war, the 1939-45?
We beat Germany one-nil?
It was an upside-down world.
Women drove ambulances and worked in ship yards and...
..and I played in a band. We called ourselves The Blonde Bombshells.
-Were you a star?
-Well, we played on the wireless once.
You were a star!
Don't you remember?
Metropole Ballroom, Moonlight Serenade,
The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy From Company B?
-See, you do remember.
The man we were all warned about.
At least offer me the hand of friendship.
I might never see it again. THEY LAUGH
MAN PLAYS GENTLE MELODY
If you're gonna do that, do it properly.
I was just trying to catch the spirit of the moment.
SHE PLAYS FAST-PACED JAZZ
Just a year after Blonde Bombshells, she won the Best Actress BAFTA again
for a film about novelist Iris Murdoch.
Iris was a great performance. A tragic performance, as well,
because we saw... well, it was a real person.
We saw Judi portray her
as someone who was once so intelligent, charismatic
and just fading in front of our eyes.
So a really tragic performance from her.
-Between the soup and the baked beans.
Thank you! Thank you so much!
I caught her before she got to the checkout.
She's been g-gone for hours.
I thought I'd never see her again, n-never.
She doesn't always have the joie de vivre that we associate with her.
Sometimes she can play a character who's much more insular.
She is an actress rather than a movie star,
which means that she gets subsumed into the roles.
So when she's in, let's say, Iris, she disappears into that role.
W-Were you trying to get away from me?
D-Did you want to leave me, Iris?
Judi plays Iris
as she spirals into the despair of Alzheimer's disease.
And Notes On A Scandal was an award-winning, international success.
It's a psychological thriller where Judi plays a manipulative spinster
besotted by Cate Blanchett.
Let's go to the pub, OK?
When... When will you tell them?
I need to know the circumstances. You must inform me of everything.
She's this kind of old harridan.
It's not always about the regal aspect.
Sometimes she can just be an old witch really.
Please, I tried to end it, honestly! I just couldn't!
I risked everything for you and in return, you humiliate me!
I didn't mean to upset you, Barb, please! I need your help! Please don't go like this!
You promised to end it. Why didn't you?
-Because I -
-What? You're in love?
And the child? Do you imagine he reciprocates your soppy feelings?
I dare say he's fascinated by the neurotic compulsions
of a middle-class lady with marital problems!
-There's nothing crueller than the adolescent boy.
Once he's had his fill, he'll discard you like a old rag.
You're not young!
I say this to help you. End it now.
-Y-Y-Yes, yes. I'm thinking.
-Don't think. Do.
-Do, do, do, do! Or shall I just sit here doing my nails till your husband returns?
-I'll do it.
-Well, what are you waiting for?
I think she can be the national treasure.
She can be the cosy Judi Dench, who's beautifully spoken
and lovely to look at and all cosy and cuddly and lovely,
and that's absolutely one side of her.
We see it in something like Mrs Henderson Presents.
It is most inconsiderate of Robert to die.
What on earth am I supposed to do now?
The first rule of widowhood, my dear,
important conversations occur at lunch.
It's really not so bad. Widows are allowed hobbies.
-Yes. Embroidery, things like that.
-Are you mad?
-I've graduated to weaving.
-Would you care to see my tapestries?
-I'd rather drink ink!
What on earth are you going to do with a theatre?
Well, I thought music hall or...
What do they call it in America? Vaudeville.
Actually, I haven't thought about it! What am I going to do with it?
-Clearly, you need someone to run it for you.
-Oh, you think?
Oh, I knew you'd give me sensible advice!
You're 20 minutes late. And you're rude.
-Perhaps he's the wrong man.
-Oh, I don't think so.
All of these things seem very disparate,
but I think there are notes that are there in those performances
that those performances have in common,
and I think it's to do with a sense of intelligence
and a sense of something calculating, something going on.
This is her great skill, I think,
and it's a skill that enlivens and sophisticates material
that sometimes doesn't deserve it.
After 50 years in the business, a dame could be forgiven for taking things easy.
For Judi Dench, comfortable territory is a pretty big place.
A rich costume drama like Cranford, for instance.
I suggest you open up a shop.
-In this dining parlour.
What kind of a shop?
I would advise you sell some sort of commodity
called-for on a daily basis.
Tea would be ideal.
I couldn't. I couldn't! To go into trade...
I'm sure your friends will accept it and admire your common sense.
Tea really is a very genteel form of trade, Miss Matty.
-It is purchased by people of every class.
-Including the most superior.
At least it is not a sticky form of merchandise,
for I could never bear to handle things that leave a residue.
-Good morning, Mrs Johnson.
-Good morning, Miss Jenkyns.
Last time you were in, you were looking at the silks.
I was. But today, I should like to confer with Mr Johnson.
What is it regarding?
SHE INHALES DEEPLY
Cranford might seem the right and proper place for a mature actress,
not taking risks with the unconventional.
But that's not Dame Judi.
It's hard to believe Matty Jenkyns is the same actress
featuring in the world's first film launched on a mobile phone.
Oh, have I shocked you? Good.
Rage is an experimental film presented as a video web blog.
It was released initially over seven days to mobiles,
the same period covered in the story.
For an unconventional film, it attracted a world-class cast.
I phoned her up and sent her a script and said, "Do you fancy it?"
We spoke on the phone and she said, "It's really scary but I'll do it!"
That's basically it!
At a certain point, she had to pull out of her handbag a reefer joint
and smoke it whilst contemplating mortality, really.
She wasn't over familiar with smoking joints,
so we had to get in a young man to tutor her
in how you hold it, with what fingers,
how you breath in and so on,
and this was a cause of enormous weeping levels of hilarity.
She has an incredible sense of humour.
They're most desperate, deluded individuals
who all think they're doing something new.
But nothing's new in this game.
I think she was nervous
about the idea of being so exposed,
of working with a monologue without another actor to play off,
because the actors never met each other on this film.
They each worked for just two days
and told the whole story through their monologues over that two-day shoot,
and then I started with the next one.
I shot the film with a hand-held,
and so there was me and the soundman and the actor,
three of us in a really tiny space, and that was how it worked.
So you'd think, in a way, that was quite safe and containing,
but in another way, it's a completely exposing situation for an actor.
There is really nowhere to hide.
Mona Carvell. Writer.
Beauty attracts, my child. Beauty is power.
Which is unfortunate
because, in fact, it is surface, Michelangelo,
surface through and through.
And when the bloom of youth fades,
only those graced with the right bones will survive.
What you get with an actor like Judi Dench is more than the role that's written,
more than the text, more than the part, more than the film.
More than any one film that she's done, or play or sitcom.
You're getting a total presence, which is an accumulation of all those things.
Part of that presence is the uniqueness of her voice,
which has quite an extraordinary depth and tambour to it,
a look and an intelligence,
an intelligence of approach that sort of glows, whatever she's doing.
She's been a dame for more than 20 years and has a Hollywood Oscar.
Surely it is time for Dame Judi Dench
to pick up her pension and put up her feet.
She's now an international star.
She's reminiscent of Dame Edith Evans, who I remember interviewing
and saying to her, "What was it about her that attracted audiences?"
She said, "I don't know, but I know this,
"when I walk on stage, I demand 'look at me, at nobody else'."
In a sense, Judy's got something of that.
Without being boastful or starry, she has that quality
to walk onto a stage and attract attention immediately.
You're drawn to her. And I don't think you can explain what it is.
It's not looks, it's not size, height, whatever,
it's something else much more powerful than that.
And it's to do, I think, as much as anything else, with a kind of self-confidence.
She surprises me, or rather I'm surprised by her range.
Like, er, A Little Night Music,
I mean, Send In The Clowns, I must've seen that three times.
I've seen Glynis Johns do it, Jean Simmons.
I never understood what the hell that song was about.
"What do these lyrics mean? It's a rather turgid song" I always thought.
Seeing Judi do it,
the lyrics, the story, what that song is about for that character,
it was absolutely crystal clear!
And she's not a singer.
But she can put over a song,
and that sort of song, I think, in the most incredible way.
# Isn't it rich?
# Are we a pair?
# Me here at last on the ground
# You in mid-air
# Send in the clowns
# Isn't it bliss?
# Don't you approve?
# One who keeps tearing around
# One who can't move
# There ought to be clowns
# Next year... #
But there is no swansong for Dame Judi just yet.
It's as if she's single-handedly set out to prove
that there is life for actresses of a certain age.
I think she just improves.
If you can improve. How can you improve on perfection?
Everything she does is so good anyway,
and she throws herself into everything.
I think it's wonderful for her that she gets the chance to do everything.
It is so difficult when you get on in years to get the chance to do things,
so she's flying the flag for all of us.
You think, "Oh, yes, people can do it."
She's got great tenacity,
but also a wonderful, wonderful talent
that is beyond beauty.
So in a way, her talent is outside of her ageing.
So many actresses rely on sexuality or their looks,
and Dame Judi Dench never needed to do that and she never will.
She doesn't believe she's beautiful at all, and yet she is.
She once said to me, "I hate being called attractive. I hate looking at myself on TV."
I said, "Why?"
She said, "Because I imagine myself to be a six-foot blonde and beautiful and I'm not!"
Well, she's somebody else. She's Judi Dench and she's precious.
She is probably the most talented actress of her generation.
Without doubt. I can't think of anybody who's in that league,
who has that special kind of aura about her.
Books... I wrote.
She is, quite boringly, everything that everyone says about her.
It is an awesome talent when you are on stage with it.
She's an extraordinary actress.
She can turn from laughter to tears in seconds.
An incredibly nice person
who swears, tells dirty stories and gets on with everyone.
What a cheap way of getting a laugh!
You want to be in Judi's gang because they're always going to have the most fun.
I kind of hate her for being what she is,
I quite like her, too!
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