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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 21:23 GMT
Hollywood's premier Dame
Jim Broadbent and Dame Judi Dench
Starring with Jim Broadbent in Iris
Dame Judi Dench's role in Iris has put her firmly in the spotlight yet again. BBC News Online looks at her long career on stage and screen.

Dame Judi Dench must be getting used to all the attention by now.

She already has two Bafta best actress nominations - best actress for Iris, and best supporting actress for The Shipping News - and now caps them off with a best actress nomination for Iris.

They are adding momentum to what is fast becoming another memorable year for one of British acting's most respected names.

Her recent success has, however, been overshadowed by the death of her husband Michael Williams, who lost his fight against cancer in January 2001.

Born on 9 December 1934 in York, Dame Judi first got a taste for the stage at a Quaker school in her home city.

She went to London to attend the Central School of Speech and Drama, leaving to join the touring company at the capital's Old Vic theatre in 1957.

Dame Judi Dench and Jeremy Irons
With Jeremy Irons in a 1978 play for the BBC, Langrishe Go Down
Dame Judi made her debut in a production of Hamlet, and stayed for four seasons, appearing in Franco Zeffirelli's 1960 stage production of Romeo and Juliet.

Shakespeare

She moved on to the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1961, and took her first film role in 1964, a small part in Charles Crichton's drama The Third Secret.

Despite an acclaimed role in Anthony Simmonds' kitchen sink drama Four In The Morning - which won her a 1966 Bafta award for "most promising newcomer to leading film roles" - Dame Judi mostly took stage and TV roles.

In 1967 she played Sally Bowles in the West End production of Cabaret, but it was her Shakespearian roles which really marked her out.

Dame Judi Dench
Dame Judi was awarded a Bafta fellowship in 2001
She has played nearly all of his major female parts - her 1987 Cleopatra at the National Theatre won her many plaudits - and shortly afterwards, she was made Dame Judi.

Away from the stage, she starred in wistful TV sitcoms A Fine Romance with her late husband Michael Williams and As Time Goes By.

She also directed Kenneth Branagh in a 1989 TV production of John Osbourne's Look Back In Anger.

Olivier awards

Further stage fame came in 1996 when she became the first person to walk away with two Olivier awards in the same year - best actress for Absolute Hell and best actress in a musical for A Little Night Music.

Shakespeare In Love
As Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare In Love
Movie recognition also arrived in the mid-1990s. Dame Judi played M in the Bond film GoldenEye, and then played Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown in 1997 - a role which won her a Golden Globe and her first Oscar nomination.

Another brief royal role - as Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love - saw her bag her first Oscar in 1999.

She was only featured for a short amount of time in the film, and she said of her best supporting actress statuette: "I feel I only deserve a little bit of him after only being on screen for eight minutes."

Dame Judi Dench
Shakespeare in Love won Dame Judi an Oscar
Grief

Despite the death of her husband, Dame Judi has kept busy - winning a TV Golden Globe for The Last of The Blonde Bombshells in 2001, and picking up another Oscar nomination for Chocolat in the same year.

"Grief produces more energy, and all that needs burning up," she told John Lahr of the New Yorker late last year, although she admitted feeling "lopsided" without the man who sent her a red rose each Friday during their marriage.

Their daughter, Finty Williams - herself an actress - told the newspaper her father's death had left her mother "curiously liberated".

But now Dame Judi is turning heads herself once again - she has received a Golden Globe nomination for Iris, in which she played the writer Iris Murdoch, and she now has a Bafta nomination for the role.

'Star-spotting'

Finty and Michael Williams, Judy Dench
Family life: With daughter Finty and husband Michael in 2000
She also has a second Bafta nomination for drama The Shipping News, in which she stars with Kevin Spacey. The film is released in the UK in March.

Dame Judi spoke earlier this year of how Michael, Finty and herself would go to awards ceremonies and spend all evening "nudging each other and star-spotting".

With plaudits for Iris and The Shipping News coming in left, right and centre, it seems there'll be plenty of chances for Dame Judi and her daughter to star-spot this year.

Follow the latest news and features from the Bafta film awards


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