Dame Judi Dench recalls being asked to play Ophelia
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After six decades, Dame Judi Dench has continued to be hit with audiences dating back from her first-ever performance as Ophelia in Hamlet. Regarded as one of the best actresses in British history, the Dame has often shunned film roles to be on the stage or in TV sitcoms. In an interview on The Wogan Show, Judi was probed by the host on whether she was content with her appearance but the much-loved actress sternly rejected his question.
During a classic episode of the BBC’s Talking Pictures, an archive interview with Terry, which dated back to 1985, saw the host question why Judi hadn’t appeared in many films.
The Dame candidly told viewers: “If you don’t go looking like the person you’re meant to look like in the film, people perhaps don’t cast you in that part.”
Terry asked: “But, I mean, you like what you look like, you have no hang-ups about that?”
“I don’t even want to talk about that,” Judi snapped.
To younger audiences, she is perhaps best known as M in the Bond franchise, first appearing in GoldenEye before stepping down from the role in Skyfall, when her character was killed off.
Her most recent role was Granny in Kenneth Branagh’s Oscar-nominated Belfast.
Reflecting on her acting career, the 87-year-old explained that she was rarely cast for films because she was “not what they want to look at”.
She added: “Whereas in the theatre, you can fool a lot of people, a lot of the time.
“You can look taller in the theatre and you can do amazing things to yourself that makes you actually not look like yourself at all.”
In her early career, the Hollywood star went on to perform in several Shakespeare plays including classic productions.
She took on the role of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth.
When she did break out into films, she appeared in Chocolat, A Room with a View, Shakespeare in Love – for which she won an Oscar – and Mrs Brown.
Later, in Judi’s episode of Talking Pictures, BBC viewers saw how the TV mogul got the part as Ophelia.
In a clip that was released in 1968, she confessed: “I didn’t take it all that seriously. I was a kind of, enthusiastic schoolgirl, do you know?
“And the person who really, really made a big difference was Dicky Hudd at Central.
“In my third year, Dicky Hudd said to me, ‘Michael Benthall wants to see you at the Old Vic.’
“And so I went along and saw him and he said, ‘Now, I want you to learn this speech from Hamlet of Ophelia.’
“I did the audition and Michael said, ‘I’m going to take the most enormous gamble, we’d like you to play Ophelia in Hamlet.'”
Making history, at the age of 85, the TV icon became the oldest woman to appear on the cover of the British Vogue Magazine in its 104th year.
The popular actress glowed as she rocked her silver locks and wore a bright floral high neck shirt.
Talking Pictures is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.
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