She is one of Britain’s greatest actors with an amazing stage and film career but Dame Judi Dench harbours a secret regret.
Despite her incredible success, which she modestly puts down to luck, she wanted to be in more sex scenes.
Judi, 85, said: “I have done a few bed scenes. Not many in the theatre. What a disappointment.”
The Bond legend may not be known for steamy performances but has lost none of her ability to surprise.
This week she became the oldest star to feature on the front cover of Vogue magazine.
The fashion bible, which pictured her in a Dolce & Gabbana floral silk trench coat, described her as “a kind of cultural tea cosy to be popped soothingly over the nation’s beleaguered identity in times of crisis”.
That may be true but it hardly does justice to theatre doyenne Dame Judi, who has had seven Oscar nominations since turning 60.
Impressive for someone who was once told she did not have a face for film.
Yet despite all her success she is still wonderfully modest.
Dame Judi said: “It’s really called luck. The whole business of theatre is suddenly being in the right place at the right time and by chance somebody will say, ‘That person might do.’
“It is not really to do with talent I don’t think. It just happens that you fall into the slot at that time.”
To aspiring stars she says: “My advice is go see as much theatre as you possibly can. I think it is very, very difficult. We are just lucky we are employed.”
Judi’s CV stretches across six decades from queen of the theatre to blockbuster film roles such as M in Bond movies, Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown and, more recently, in the screen version of Cats.
Her first starring role saw her play Ophelia in Hamlet at The Old Vic in the late 50s, the first of numerous stage successes at the National, West End and RSC for decades to follow.
She got even more exposure as a naked Titania in 1968 in a film version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
She also entertained Britain on TV with sitcoms such as A Fine Romance with her real-life husband the late Michael Williams.
In 1999 she won an Oscar for playing Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love.
Judi is currently self-isolating at home in Surrey during the Covid-19 crisis.
She said: “I’m sure I feel like everyone else. Such unprecedented times are hard to comprehend.
“What is a good thing is that it has made people aware of the predicament of others who are completely alone. If a great deal of kindness comes out of this, then that will be a plus.”
She has also appeared in videos posted by family members.
Last month her actress daughter, Finty Williams, 47, posted a Twitter video of Judi, wearing a novelty dog hat with pop up ears, saying: “Just keep laughing. That’s all we can do.”
It has now been watched 5.4 million times.
Earlier this month Judi and her grandson Sam Williams did a TikTok dance to the song Cheryl by the US rapper Yung Gravy.
The same week a video of her washing her hands with Gyles Brandreth, 72, while reciting the poem The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went viral.
Finty said the Vogue shoot “gave her a little boost of confidence to make her go, ‘Oh, maybe I’m still OK.’ Then of course after the photoshoot, she came back thinking she was Beyoncé.”
When asked about ageing, Dame Judi said: “I don’t like it at all. I don’t think about it. I don’t want to think about it. They say age is an attitude. It’s horrible.”
Dame Judi’s eyesight has deteriorated so much she has to read scripts with large type. Later this year she will star as Madame Arcati in a new adaptation of Blithe Spirit – her 60th film.
Yet she reveals how she was once told she didn’t have a face for movies.
“They told me I would never make a film. To which there is no reply. I put my chair against the wall. I am not quite sure why. I walked out.
“I did not want to do films anyway. I never thought I’d have a future in films as the stage is my passion. It’s never ever the same in a theatre, never. You always got a different reaction to things.”
Still, she said she would love to work with director Martin Scorsese and told how it was a dream teaming up with Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio on 2011’s J. Edgar, about former FBI chief Hoover.
She said: “The phone rang and I thought it was my friend and I said, ‘This is so boring’ and he said, ‘No. It is Clint.’ I did not meet him until I was ready to do the first scene.
“I felt a hand on my shoulder and it was Clint Eastwood.
He said, ‘We better have a go at this.’”
It sounds like she enjoyed it.
“You finish at 4.30pm every day. Clint goes and plays golf and you go home and have a quick gin.”
With a twinkle in her eye she added: “He does not send me a Christmas card. Tony Blair does.”
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