Oscar-winner Dame Judi Dench can ‘barely see’ due to a degenerative eye disease

Publish Date
Tuesday, 1 August 2023, 10:48AM
Dame Judi Dench said her eye disease is so bad she can’t read scripts or see on sets any more. Photo / Getty Images via NZ Herald

Dame Judi Dench said her eye disease is so bad she can’t read scripts or see on sets any more. Photo / Getty Images via NZ Herald

Dame Judi Dench, the star who has dominated the screen for decades, is well known for her role as MI6 head M in the James Bond franchise, starring in seven of the spy flicks over 20 years, has made a heartbreaking confession.

The 88-year-old Oscar winner has revealed she can’t “see on a film set” any more and can no longer read film scripts as a result of a degenerative eye disease.

Dench has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, most recently in 2022 for the coming-of-age drama Belfast. She won the best actor award in 1999 for her role as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love and has won six Baftas and two Golden Globes during her career in film.

However, chatting to The Mirror, Dench revealed her age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which she was diagnosed with in 2012, had progressed to the point she now could barely see.

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“I can’t see on a film set any more,” she said.

“And I can’t see to read. So I can’t see much.

Judi Dench in a scene from the film Shakespeare In Love. Photo / NZ Herald

“It’s difficult for me if I have any length of a part. I haven’t yet found a way.

“But you just deal with it. I have so many friends who will teach me the script.” She has previously said she couldn’t drive because of her AMD.

“It’s the most terrible shock to the system.” she said. “Ghastly. It’s terrible to be so dependent on people.”

Judi Dench as M in Tomorrow Never Dies, her second Bond film. Photo / Supplied

But Dench assured fans she had no plans to stop working.

“I have an irrational fear of boredom,” she explained. “That’s why I now have this tattoo that says carpe diem (seize the day). That’s what we should live by.”

Dench’s first husband, A Fine Romance actor Michael Williams, died in 2001 after a battle with lung cancer.

She now lives with her partner, David Mills.

“I never expected, not for a minute, that there would be anybody else in my life after Michael died,” she revealed. “I’ve had many, many good friends, but it’s been very unexpected to have somebody new who is as caring as my partner, David.

Dame Judi Dench now lives with her partner, David Mills. Photo / Getty Images

“I feel very lucky indeed. And to laugh with somebody is terribly important! Laughing is the most important thing. We laugh about everything.”

Last year, Dench caused a tiff with streaming giant Netflix about their hit TV series The Crown — and she ended up coming out on top.

The dame criticised the show for being “cruel” and convincing viewers that it was an accurate portrayal of the events and lives of the royal family.

Dench wrote in a letter to The Times that the “closer the drama comes to our present times, the more freely it seems willing to blur the lines between historical accuracy and crude sensationalism”.

Dame Judi Dench is known to have a close friendship with Queen Camilla. Photo / Getty Images

Dench is thought to be quite fond of the royals and is known to have a close friendship with Queen Camilla.

Former Prime Minister John Major also criticised The Crown, which chose to dramatise his own dealings with the royal family in its latest season.

Commenting on a scene between his on-screen character — played by Johnny Lee Miller — and Prince Charles, he dubbed the series as “damaging malicious fiction” and “a barrel-load of nonsense”.

Netflix responded to the high-profile disapproval of the series and added that the show was “fictional dramatisation” in the trailer.


This article was first published by the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission. 

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