York-born Dame Judi Dench talks acting, insults and her bond with Bond

PUBLISHED: 10:41 27 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:26 20 February 2013

York-born Dame Judi Dench talks acting, insults and her bond with Bond

York-born Dame Judi Dench talks acting, insults and her bond with Bond

York-born Dame Judi Dench talks acting, insults and her bond with Bond

Dame Judi Dench has been a doyenne of the British stage for nearly four decades. A stalwart of the Old Vic Company, she has earned adulation and praise for her portrayals of Ophelia, Juliet and Lady Macbeth.

The National Theatre Company, the Old Shakespearean Company shes the first lady of them all while concurrently punctuating her career with BAFTA and Oscar-winning film performances.

Despite all that, however, the character shes most widely associated with these days is not a Shakespearian heroine but a gimlet-eyed spymaster known only as M.

Well, thats Bond for you, she says, smiling broadly. Bond has universal appeal. Everyone and their grandmother goes to see these films, twice.

Why on earth would I expect some young fellow to be aware of my body of work, most of it on stage? Its normal really.

For a record seven-time Olivier Award winner, isnt it somewhat insulting? I cant be insulted? Am I that self-important a human being? No chance!

There have been rumours that Skyfall, Dame Judis seventh outing in a Bond movie, will be her last appearance in Ms formidable shoes. But she, like her MI6-trained character, remains resolutely tight-lipped on the issue, preferring instead to talk about the long-running Bond legacy.

Its a true honour and privilege, really, she says of her role in the multi-million pound franchise. You can sense that some people just feel very, very precious about Bond, and all those around him, so you want to keep those diehard fans happy.

But you also want to bring something of your own to the table, and the simple fact that Im a woman has helped, I think, move the Bond franchise forward a little.

Skyfall is directed by Oscar-winner Sam Mendes and features a heavyweight cast including Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe and a mesmerising turn from Javier Bardem as arch villain Silva, but for Dame Judi its all about one man her good friend Daniel Craig.

We have a lovely bond, a nice working relationship, she says, fondly. Theres always so much upheaval, so much going on when it comes to a Bond movie, but to have Daniel there as a constant is wonderful. And thats rare as an actor. You often spend so much time building a bond with someone, then its all over. Its broken and then comes the time to make new friends, which is wonderful but can also be somewhat disorientating.

But Daniel and I are very good pals at this point; weve been through a lot. Mind you, he failed to mention to me about his little Olympic Ceremony stunt with the Queen; he kept that to himself!

After a frantic global criss-cross for Skyfall, taking in Shanghai, Istanbul and the Scottish Highlands, the 77-year-old Oscar winner (famously awarded for a 12-minute appearance as Elizabeth I in John Maddens Shakespeare in Love) is temporarily based in the Swedish fjords for Italian Shoes, a film with close confidante Sir Anthony Hopkins, before a three-month shoot in Louisiana for Geoff Moore and David Posamentiers debut feature Better Living Through Chemistry.

Does Dame Judi believe shell take her foot of the accelerator anytime soon?

As long as there is a possibility of working, Im not going to retire, she says. Im very conscious that Im in the minority in that I love what I do.
How big is the number of people who are running to work to do a job that they like? And how lucky to be employed at it how incredibly lucky.

Dame Judi has lived with her daughter Finty and teenage grandson Sam in the Surrey countryside since her husband, the highly-acclaimed actor Michael Williams, died from lung cancer in 2001. She recently confirmed she suffers from an ocular disorder called macular degeneration, which means she now has to have her scripts read to her because of failing eyesight.

The revelation led to numerous column inches in the press none of which impressed Dame Judi.

Oh yes, that was rather overblown, she says, with a wry smile. This condition is something that thousands and thousands of people all over the world have to contend with and its something I have learned to cope with and adapt to.

It will not lead to blindness, even though the press had me with dark glasses and white cane by the end of the week. Im okay, and nothing will stop me from doing what I love.

Latest from the Yorkshire Life