Born in York, England, on December 9, 1934, Judi Dench made her stage debut as a snail in a junior school production. After attending art school,
she studied acting at London's Central School of Speech and Drama.
In 1957, she made her professional stage debut as
Ophelia in the Old Vic's
Liverpool production of Hamlet. A prolific stage career
followed, with seasons spent performing with the
likes of the
Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.
Dench broke into film in 1964
with a supporting role in The Third Secret.
The following year, she won
her first BAFTA, a Most Promising Newcomer
honor for her work in Four in the Morning. Although she continued to
work in film, Dench earned most of her
recognition and acclaim for her stage work.
Occasionally she brought her stage roles
to the screen in such film adaptations as
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1968)
and Macbeth (1978), in which she was
Lady Macbeth to Ian McKellen's tormented king.
It was not until the mid-1980s that Dench
began to make her name known to an
international film audience.
In 1986, she had a memorable turn
as a meddlesome romance author in A Room with a View,
earning a Best Supporting Actress BAFTA
for her tart portrayal. Two years later, she won the same
award for her work in another period drama, A Handful of Dust.
After her supporting role as Mistress Quickly
in Kenneth Branagh's acclaimed 1989 adaptation of
Henry V, Dench exchanged the past for the
present with her thoroughly modern role as M
in GoldenEye (1995), the first of the
Pierce Brosnan series of James Bond
films. She portrayed the character for the
subsequent Brosnan 007 films,
lending flinty elegance to what
had traditionally been a male role.
The part of M had the advantage of
introducing Dench to an audience unfamiliar with her work,
and in 1997 she earned further international recognition,
as well as an Oscar
nomination and Golden Globe award,
for her portrayal of Queen Victoria in Mrs.
Brown. The following year, Dench
did win the Oscar, garnering
Best Supporting Actress honors for her eight-minute
appearance as Queen Elizabeth
in the acclaimed Shakespeare in Love.
Her win resulted in the kind of media adulation
usually afforded to actresses one-third her age.
The following year, Dench continued to reap both acclaim
and new fans with her work in Tea with Mussoliniand the
Bond extravaganza, The World is Not Enough.
For her role as a talented British writer
struggling with Alzheimer's Disease in Iris (2001),
Dench earned her third Oscar nomination.
While her screen career has taken on an
increasingly high-profile nature, Dench
has continued to act on both
television and the stage. In the former medium,
she endeared herself to viewers
with her work in such series as A Fine Romance
(in which she starred
opposite real-life husband Michael Williams)
and As Time Goes By.
On the stage, Dench
made history in 1996, becoming the first performer
to win two Olivier Awards
for two different roles in the same year.