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Last Updated: Friday, 10 June 2005, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Dame Judi: Stage and screen star
Dame Judi Dench in Shakespeare In Love
Dame Judi played Elizabeth I in Shakespeare In Love
Dame Judi Dench, who has been given the prestigious Companion of Honour award in the Queen's birthday honours, is one of the UK's most revered actresses.

Having been made a Dame in 1988, she is one of only 65 people in the UK to receive the Companion of Honour.

It is recognition of her contribution to drama in an acclaimed 47-year career covering stage, screen and TV work.

Best known at the box office for her role as 'M' in the James Bond movies since 1995's Goldeneye, she received nominations for four Academy Awards in five years.

She won the best supporting actress Oscar for Shakespeare in Love in 1999, despite appearing on screen as Queen Elizabeth I for a mere eight minutes.

She was also nominated for Academy Awards playing Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown the previous year and for her performance as cranky villager Armande Voizin in Chocolat in 2001.

Her most recent Oscar nomination came in 2002 for her portrayal of author Iris Murdoch's battle with Alzheimer's in Iris.

Dame Judi's other popular films include Tea with Mussolini and A Room with a View.

She famously does not like to watch herself on screen and is modest about her talents.

Acting background

"I don't know how you assess acting," she once said. "It is so much about personality."

Dame Judi was born into a family with acting connections in York in 1934.

Judi Dench
Dame Judi began acting with the RSC in 1961
Her father was resident doctor for the city's Theatre Royal and both he and her Irish mother walked the amateur boards.

Dame Judi followed her elder brother to study at London's Central School of Speech and Drama.

She made her stage debut playing Ophelia in the Old Vic production of Hamlet in Liverpool in 1957.

Since then she has played all the leading female Shakespearean roles, as well as those of Ibsen, Chekhov, Wilde and Coward.

Notable stage performances include her role as Sally Bowles in the 1967 premiere of Cabaret in London's West End.

Dame Judi won two Olivier awards simultaneously for Absolute Hell and A Little Night Music in 1996.

She also has five Bafta awards, including two for best actress.

Billy Connolly and Dame Judi Dench in Mrs Brown
Billy Connolly and Dame Judi starred in Mrs Brown

Dame Judi is one of the few actresses to be revered in Hollywood as well as on the British stage.

Miramax producer Harvey Weinstein once said that he would have Judi Dench in every one of his films if he could.

She has also appeared in popular TV shows, like the sitcom As Time Goes By with Geoffrey Palmer.

Royal links

She married actor Michael Williams in 1971. The couple worked together many times, most memorably in the popular 80s TV sitcom A Fine Romance.

The couple have one daughter, actress Finty Williams.

In an enduring romance, Dame Judi called her husband "my great Irish splodge", while he sent her a red rose every Friday throughout their 30-year marriage.

Tragically, Williams died in January 2001, with Dame Judi and his daughter by his side, after a long struggle with lung cancer.

Dame Judi Dench
Dame Judi is patron of the British Shakespeare Association
Following the death of her beloved husband, Dame Judi confessed to throwing herself into her work in a bid to overcome her grief.

She appeared opposite friend Kevin Spacey in The Shipping News in 2001 and made films including The Importance of Being Earnest, the Bond film Die Another Day and most recently, Ladies in Lavender.

In a tribute to popularity, she was asked by the families of the 77 British families who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks to read at the memorial service at Westminster Abbey.

Like the public, her colleagues are full of admiration. Kate Winslet said: "I would work with Judi if I had to be a tea lady hovering in the back of frame."


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