In 1957, when Judi Dench made her first professional stage performance as Ophelia in Hamlet, a reviewer for London Evening Standard wrote that she had “talent which will be shown to better advantage when she acquires some technique to go with it.”
64 years later and she’s more than demonstrated she’s acquired the technique to go with it.
There are few people who can command the stage or screen quite like Dame Judi Dench.
Known as one of – if not the – best actors in history, she’s carved out a career defined by brilliance. She’s won one Academy Award, six Academy Award nominations, six British Academy Film Awards, four BAFTA TV Awards, seven Olivier Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and a Tony Award. She’s also received the BAFTA Fellowship in 2001, and the Special Olivier Award in 2004. In June 2011, she received a fellowship from the British Film Institute (BFI) and was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
As Tina Turner might say; she’s simply the best.
Her latest role is in Blithe Spirit, the new film adaptation of Noel Coward’s famous 1941 play. As infamous stage medium Madame Arcati, Dench brings warmth to the movie, which follows the crime writer Charles Condomine (Dan Stevens) who aims to solve his writer’s block by employing the supernatural abilities of Arcati. He asks her to perform a séance at his home, hoping to spark inspiration for his screenplay.
Instead, she unwittingly brings back Charles’ dead ex-wife, Elvira (Leslie Mann), much to the chagrin of his current wife, Ruth (Isla Fisher). Obviously, mayhem ensues. As Arcati, Dench is bumbling and bright, a woman still mourning the loss of her soldier boyfriend. In fact, it’s him she’s always hoping to rematerialise when she performs séances. There’s also a very amusing scene in which Arcati performs an occult ceremony in a beachside cave – and once again causes more harm than good.
The movie might not be earning her an Oscar nomination anytime soon, but it serves as a reminder of why it’s so easy to love Dench in the first place; she epitomises warmth, humour and charm. She lifts the film when it feels like it’s teetering on the brink of cringe and delivers one-liners that will have you chuckling into your wine.
On top of all of that, she’s got the skills to go viral on TikTok, too. When the pandemic broke out last year, Dench’s grandson, Sam Williams, posted a video of his grandmother as part of the ‘Famous Relative Check’ challenge, which he captioned: “Not sure who she is but seems that she is my grandma.” He also posted a video of the duo performing a dance to the song Cheryl by Yung Gravy, where, due to quarantine, it had to be done virtually. Williams filmed himself dancing alongside an iPad which featured Dench dancing perfectly in sync.
In an interview with Channel 4 News, Dench even said it helped her during lockdown as the film and theatre businesses were shut down. “It saved my life. I know nothing about TikTok. Sam is the person who is technically-minded and who has all the ideas, so he got very strict,” she said.
If you needed further convincing of her power to enchant, here’s a picture of her vacuuming Benedict Cumberbatch’s face. Because why not.
What’s not to love about Dame Judi Dench?
Blithe Spirit is streaming now on Amazon Prime.