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Judi Dench Biography – Childhood, Family, Career & Love Life

Judi Dench Biography

Judi Dench does not need any extensive introduction. People recognize her thanks to her numerous roles on stage as well as on screen. She has worked in the entertainment business for over six decades now and has received many awards for her performances. She is one of the highest-profile actresses in the history of Britain and has appeared in numerous critically acclaimed plays, movies, and television shows.

Well, even though Judi Dench’s name is recognized by many around the world, few might not know about the personal side of her life. So, let’s take a look at Judi’s childhood, family, career trajectory, and love life.

Where Is Judi Dench’s Family From?

The celebrated actress was born Judith Olivia Dench in York, North Yorkshire, England on December 9, 1934. She was born as the youngest child of her parents and grew up alongside her brothers, Peter Dench and Jeffery Dench. The latter of whom was also an actor and was one of the reasons why Judi herself became interested in acting.

Talking about Judi Dench’s parents, her mother, Eleanora Olive Dench worked as a wardrobe mistress for the York Theatre Royal. On the other hand, Judi’s father was a military man who fought in World War I and also worked as a doctor. Dench’s mom was born and brought up in Dublin, Ireland while her dad is from Dorset, England but was raised primarily in Dublin.

Additionally, Judi’s famous family members include Greek-Australian actors Sebastian Elmaloglou and Rebekah Elmaloglou, who are her cousins. Through her late brother, Jeffery, Dench is an aunt to Emma Dench, who is a historian of ancient Rome. Moreover, Dench is reportedly the descendent of the Danish noble family, the Bille family. The information came after she became the subject of the show, Who Do You Think You Are? In 2021.

Well, it is evident that Judi Dench has a rich family history.

How Did Judi Dench Become Involved In Acting?

As stated above, the actress grew up in York alongside her brothers, one of whom was a professional actor. The family also had regular contact with the theater world as Judi Dench’s father served as the general practitioner for York Theatre Royal while her mom was the wardrobe mistress.

Moreover, actors involved with the theater company often stayed in the Dench household which resulted in Judi herself being involved with the theater. She trained as a set designer but was involved in the production of the York Mystery Plays in 1951, 1954, and 1957 on a non-professional basis. However, Dench only found interest in acting after her brother, Jeffery attended the Central School of Speech and Drama. Also, she saw Peggy Ashcroft’s performance as Cleopatra on stage which changed her life.

After finding her interest in the art form, Judi followed in her brother’s footsteps and applied at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She was accepted and graduated having won four acting prizes, one of which was the Gold Medal as Outstanding Student.

When Did Judi Dench Start Her Stage Career?

While Judi had been involved in the theater world in her hometown, her professional stage debut was in September 1957. For her first performance, Dench played Ophelia in the Old Vic Company’s production of Hamlet at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool. Her performance was well received and she also made her London debut through the same production.

She continued to be a member of Old Vic Company for four seasons from 1957 to 1961 and appeared in the production of Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, and more. During this time she toured in the US and Canada, while also performing at the Edinburgh Festival and in Yugoslavia.

Judi Dench then joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in late 1961 and portrayed the character Anya in The Cherry Orchard at London’s Aldwych Theatre. The following year she played Isabella in Measure for Measure making her Stratford-upon-Avon debut. Following this, she spent many seasons playing numerous characters with both Playhouse in Nottingham and the Playhouse Company in Oxford.

Following her extensive stage experience, Judi was offered the role of Sally Bowles in Cabaret in 1968. While she had never done a musical before Dench managed to wow the audiences from the first show at the Palace Theatre in London. The production ran for a long time with Judi earning much acclaim for her performance.

The York-born actress’ stage career continued with her rejoining the Royal Shakespeare Company. She appeared in many productions with the company in London and Stratford. A few of the plays she worked on are The Duchess of Malfi, The Comedy of Errors, British Raj, Macbeth, and more. She has continued her stage work and even won a Tony Award for her performance in the 1999 Broadway production of Amy’s View.

Besides her on-stage work, Judi Dench has also worked in many off-stage positions. She has served as a director and conducted a three-month-long repertory program at Phoenix Theatre. It is evident that Dench’s stage career has seen huge success over the years.

What On-Screen Projects Has Judi Dench Worked On?

Much like her on-stage career, Judi Dench has also found immense success as an on-screen actress. She made her debut in 1959 playing the titular character in the show, Hilda Lessways. Following this she had small parts in many movies and series such as The Terrible Choice, An Age of Kings, The Four Just Men, Love Story, Z Cars, The Third Secret, Four in the Morning, A Study in Terror, and Detective.

Judi also appeared in Theatre 625’s adaptation of Parade’s End between 1964 and 1966. She won a BAFTA for Best Actress in 1966 for her performance in Talking to a Stranger, a four-part series. That same year, Dench also received the BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles, for her work in the film, Four in the Morning.

Dench’s on-screen career continued to grow with her appearances in movies such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Wetherby, A Room with a View, Henry V, Hamlet, Shakespeare in Love, The Importance of Being Earnest, Ladies in Lavender, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Pirates of Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Run for Your Wife, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Besides the aforementioned films, Judi is also known for her performance as M in numerous James Bond movies throughout the years. Her first appearance as M was in the 1995 film GoldenEye where she starred alongside Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. She reprised the part in Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day. Pierce played Bond in all four of these films.

Dench returned to play M aka Olivia Mansfield in Casino Royale, Martin Campbell’s reboot of the series, with Daniel Craig taking over Brosnan as James Bond. She was the only cast member to be carried through Pierce’s series to Craig’s one. She continued to portray the character in the following Bond movies, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and Spectre. In the latter film, Dench’s character posthumously gives James his mission.

Along with feature films, Judi Dench is also known for her numerous television appearances. A few of the projects that she has worked on are listed below:

  • Jackanory
  • Behaving Badly
  • Screen One
  • The Torch
  • The Great War: 1914-1918
  • As Time Goes By
  • Angelina Ballerina
  • Cranford
  • Vicious
  • The Hollow Crown

It is evident that the English actress has found much success as a television, movie, and stage actress. Moreover, there is no doubt that Judi Dench’s net worth of $45 million is all thanks to her career on stage and on screen. She has starred in many successful projects over the years which has helped increase her fortune.

Is Judi Dench Married?

Talking about her personal life, the talented actress was married to fellow actor Michael Williams. The pair tied the knot in 1971 and were together till Michael passed away in 2001. Judi Dench’s husband had been suffering from lung cancer. Throughout their decades-long relationship, Judi and Michael welcomed a daughter, Finty Williams together. Finty was born in 1972 and followed in her parent’s footsteps. Moreover, Dench became a grandmother after her only child gave birth to her grandson in 1997.

Following the death of her loving husband, Judi did not expect to find love again. However, she met David Mills when he invited her to a squirrel enclosure at the wildlife center he runs in Surrey. The pair’s relationship saw a gradual growth and they are not enjoying their life together.

Well, Judi Dench has continued to appear in movies and is regarded as one of the most talented actresses in today’s world