Dame Judith Olivia 'Judi' Dench is an English Oscar award-winning film, stage and television actress who has been in the limelight since 1957. She is known for often playing strong-willed and dignified women in positions of authority, such as Queen Elizabeth I.
She was born on 9 December 1934 in Heworth, York to doctor Reginald Arthur Dench and his wife Eleanora Olave, who was a native of Dublin. Her parents met while her father was studying medicine at Trinity College, Dublin. A young Dench studied at Mount School in York, which is a Quaker independent secondary school.
Dench went on to study at the Central School of Speech and Drama before making her stage debut in 1957. It wasn't a surprise that she took up acting because her father was the GP for the York theatre and her mother was the venue's wardrobe mistress. This meant actors often stayed in the household. Her first stage appearance was as a snail in a school play.
She graduated from the Central School of Speech and Drama, where Vanessa Redgrave was a fellow classmate, with a first class degree in drama and four acting prizes. In September 1957, Dench made her professional stage debut with the Old Vic Company at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool as Ophelia in 'Hamlet'. She then made her London debut in the same production at the Old Vic.
Her career started on-stage and remained a member of the Old Vic Company for four seasons between 1957 and 1961. Dench's notable roles were Katherine in 'Henry V' (1958), for which she made her New York debut, and as Juliet in 'Romeo and Juliet' in October 1960.
In December 1961, Dench joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and played Anya in 'The Cherry Orchard' before making her Stratford-Upon-Avon debut in April 1962 as Isabella in 'Measure for Measure'. Dench then enjoyed seasons with the Playhouse in Nottingham and with the Playhouse Company in Oxford from April 1964. She then made her film debut in 'The Third Secret'.
The role that helped launch her career occurred in 1968 when she was offered the role of Sally Bowles in the musical 'Cabaret' despite never having sung before. It opened at the Palace Theatre in February 1968 and earned the actress rave reviews. After a long run in this play, she has enjoyed a long career alternating between the theatre, film and TV.
She rejoined the Royal Shakespeare company appearing as the duchess in 'The Duchess of Malfi' in 1971, 'The Comedy of Errors' in 1976, 'Much Ado About Nothing' in 1977. She then acted alongside Sir Ian McKellen as Lady Macbeth in 'Macbeth' in 1976. The production transferred to London in 1977 and was adapted for television. For this role she won the SWET Best Actress Award in 1977. During this period, she met and married actor Michael Williams. They had their only child Tara Cressida Frances William, known as Finty, on 24 September 1972.
Dench was also appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1970 before being made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1988.
Going back to her career, she returned to the TV screen in 1980 in the mini-series 'Love In A Cold Climate' before acting alongside her husband in the show 'A Fine Romance' between 1981 and 1984. She then featured in 'The Browning Version' (1985), 'A Room With A View' (1985), '84 Charing Cross Road' and 'A Handful of Dust' in 1988.
Dench made her directorial debut in 1988 with the Renaissance Theatre Company's touring season Renaissance Shakespeare on The Road. She staged 'Much Ado About Nothing' set in the Napoleonic era.
In 1989, Dench starred in 'Behaving Badly' and took on one of her most well-known roles in 1992 - Jean - in 'As Time Goes By' with one of her close friends Geoffrey Palmer. This show was popular and ran on and off until 2005.
She then took on the role of agent 'M' in the James Bond film 'Goldeneye' in 1995. She became the first female 'M' and has reprised this role in 'Tomorrow Never Dies' (1997), 'The World is Not Enough' (1999), 'Die Another Day' (2002), 'Casino Royale' (2006), 'Quantum of Solace' (2008) and 'Skyfall'.
In 1997, Dench took on the role of powerful female monarch Queen Victoria in 'Mrs Brown' and then played Queen Elizabeth I in 'Shakespeare in Love' in 1998. For the latter role she won the Best Supporting Actress award at the Oscars and Baftas. She spent just four scenes on-screen.
Dench then enjoyed roles in 'Tea With Mussolini' (1999), 'The Last of the Blonde Bombshells' (2000), 'Chocolat' (2000), 'Iris' (2001), 'The Shipping News' (2001) and 'The Importance of Being Earnest' in 2002.
In 2001 her husband Michael died from lung cancer at the age of 65 and Dench has since stated that she regrets not having more children with him. As a result, she slowed down before voicing a character in the children's animation 'Angelina Ballerina' between 2001 and 2002. Dench then appeared in 'The Chronicles of Riddick' and 'Ladies in Lavender' in 2004. In 2005, she played Lady Catherine de Bourg in the film adaptation of 'Pride & Prejudice' and Mrs Laura Henderson in 'Mrs Henderson Presents'.
Dench then gave a star turn as a creepy secondary school teacher who ends up obsessed with a fellow educator who is having an affair with a pupil in 2006's 'Notes On A Scandal' with Cate Blanchett. In 2007, she returned to TV playing the matriarch Miss Matty Jenkins in the BBC's period drama 'Cranford'. A role she enjoyed until 2009.
During this time, she returned to James Bond and enjoyed roles in 'Rage' and the musical 'Nine'. She also took over the care of her grandson Sammy Williams and has custody of him since 2004 when her daughter Finty went into rehabilitation for alcoholism.
Following a break in 2010, Dench returned in 2011 with roles in 'Jane Eyre', 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides', 'My Week With Marilyn', 'Friend Request Pending', the blockbuster 'J.Edgar' and the hit 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'.
Her latest roles include 'Philomena' (2013), 'RoaldDahl's Esio Trot' (2014) and 'Tulip Fever' (2014).
She is, perhaps, slowing down as it was revealed in February 2012 that the actress is coping with age-related macular degeneration, which is an eye condition that can lead to blindness if it is not treated. At the time, she revealed she now has to ask friends and relatives to help her read scripts but she has no intention of retiring.
We hope the actress who has been nominated for 11 Baftas, including the Bafta fellowship in 2001, seven Laurence Olivier Awards for her theatre work, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Golden Globes, an Oscar and a Tony Award continues her good work.