By Ann Silverthorn
Dame Judi Dench’s first acting role was that of a snail when she was a young girl, but she was no slowpoke then – and she isn’t slowing down now. This diminutive actress often plays roles larger than life, in addition to those that are quite down to earth.
Born on December 9, 1934 in York, England, Dench studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama and to date, she’s won 63 entertainment awards, including BAFTA, British Independent Film, Golden Globe, and an Academy Award. Her most prestigious awards, though, are those received from the Order of the British Empire, earning her the title of “Dame.”
Here are the top ten Judi Dench films that DVD Netflix members have rented most.
Judi Dench plays different Dame in My Week with Marilyn—that is Dame Sibyl Thorndike, the actress who played the Queen Dowager in the movie The Prince and the Showgirl. Confused yet? My Week with Marilyn is based on the memoirs of Colin Clark, assistant to Sir Laurence Olivier, who directed The Prince and the Showgirl, starring Marilyn Monroe. My Week with Marilyn tells the story of Clark’s getaway with the overwhelmed and insecure Monroe.
What kind of cruel person opens a chocolate shop in a 1959 French village just as Lent is starting? Vianne Rocher (Julliette Binoche) does just that in Chocolat, in an era when the season of Lent restricted such pleasures. Judi Dench’s character, Armande Voizin, is Rocher’s landlady and is not sure she approves of Rocher, an attractive single mother who shakes things up in the village, but Rocher proves to be as irresistible as her confections.
The show must go on, and Judi Dench proved this while shooting J. Edgar. She reportedly had two broken toes during filming, suffered either during the production of this movie, or the one before, depending on the report. Dench plays Annie Hoover, J. Edgar’s mother, a prominent figure in the life of the longtime FBI director (Leonardo DiCaprio). This film follows the 50-year career of the man who served under eight presidents and whose personal life was as interesting as his methods of protecting the American public.
We’re all familiar with the plight of actresses who age themselves off the big screen, but this is not the case with Judi Dench, who seems to have found the fountain of youth and a steady paycheck throughout the decades. Perhaps this is because she is willing to play the occasional unnamed character, such as in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, in which she is simply “society woman.” When Captain Jack Sparrow jumps into her carriage, he might have asked her for directions in his own quest to find the fountain of youth.
Receiving top billing in this film as Evelyn Greenslade, Judi Dench plays one of seven British retirees who respond to an ad for an inexpensive seniors’ home in India. Evelyn, a recent widow, is short on funds, as are some of the others in the group, and when they arrive at the hotel, they find that it is nothing like what they expected. The manager, Sonny, created a business plan based on the assumption that western countries would like to outsource their elderly, but this group of feisty seniors is not quite what he expected.
Judi Dench’s M character, the MI6 (United Kingdom foreign intelligence service) boss, plays a key role in this edition of the James Bond franchise. Although Bond thinks he can trust M, he is shaken when he finds out that her decision made at his expense resulted in him taking a bullet. It seems it might be time for M to retire. She finds herself in a defensive position while her past catches up with her, making Bond question his loyalty to his boss.
Jane Austen’s novel comes to life, telling the story of a 19-century England mother who hopes to marry off her daughters in affluent matches. One of those daughters is Lizzi (Keira Knightley), and Judi Dench plays Lady Catherine de Bourgh, an arrogant aristocrat who terrorizes the young woman, whom she thinks is not a social equal to her nephew, Mr. Darcy. Interestingly, Lady Catherine unwittingly advances the budding romance rather than sabotage it.
Dench has played a spy boss, a couple of aristocrats, royalty, and even little old ladies. In Notes on a Scandal, she plays a school teacher, named Barbara Covett. But this particular educator is a master manipulator, and she preys on a younger instructor who has made a serious error in judgment with one of her students. The younger teacher is not completely naïve, though, and soon discovers that she cannot trust Barbara.
In this sequel to the James Bond Casino Royale (2006), Dench reprises her role as M, boss of the MI6. In Quantum of Solace, M wants James Bond (Daniel Craig) to investigate the hypocritical chairman of a green organization who plans to help overthrow a South American government in exchange for a favor. M’s faith in Bond is tested when he goes rogue in order to complete his mission.
Dench is introduced for the first time as an MI6 boss known simply as M, who sends James Bond (Daniel Craig) on his first-ever assignment as a secret agent. Bond must stop a banker to world terrorists, named Le Chiffre, from winning in a poker game in Montenegro at Le Casino Royale. M finds Bond a challenge to manage and must help learn how to keep his ego from sabotaging his mission.