Judi Dench has been nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Mrs. Henderson, a valiant widow who is determined to enliven war-torn London with a bit of stage nudity in "Mrs. Henderson Presents." This distinguished actress is no stranger to Oscar or to the stage.
Audiences in the United States know Dench best for a handful of memorable movie roles. She often plays grand ladies on film, including the grandest of them all, Queen Elizabeth I, in the 1998 romance "Shakespeare In Love." A year earlier, she played Queen Victoria as a heartbroken widow who befriends a groom in "Mrs. Brown."
In 2001, Dench and another distinguished British actor, Jim Broadbent, teamed up to film the story of the lifelong romance between novelist Irish Murdoch and her husband, John Bayley. Broadbent won the best supporting Oscar for his role, and Dench was nominated as lead actress for her wrenching portrayal of a brilliant writer descending into dementia.
Judi Dench also was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her small role in the 2000 romantic comedy "Chocolat."
In "Mrs. Henderson Presents," Dench co-stars with an old friend, Bob Hoskins. He plays the theatrical impresario Vivian Van Damm, who teams up with a wealthy widow to entertain London during the war.
In England, Judi Dench is both a renowned stage actress and a popular TV star. Born Dec. 9, 1934, in Yorkshire, her first stage role was as Ophelia in 1957 in Liverpool. She has since won a record six Olivier awards for London performances. One was for a 1987 portrayal of Cleopatra in "Antony and Cleopatra," a role she reportedly tried to turn down, arguing that a "menopausal dwarf" couldn't play Egypt's temptress.
Dench plays yet another grande dame, the insufferably snobbish Lady Catherine, in the 2005 version of "Pride & Prejudice." She is also familiar to fans of the James Bond series. Since 1995's "GoldenEye," she has played the small role of the mysterious "M" in both the films and the video games.
Small roles pose no problem for Dench. She won the Oscar in 1998 for a role that took up eight minutes of screen time in "Shakespeare in Love." Pictured on Oscar night 1999 are, from left, Best Actress Gwyneth Paltrow for "Shakespeare In Love," Dench, Best Supporting Actor James Coburn for "Affliction," and Best Actor Roberto Benigni for "Life Is Beautiful."
Nearly 50 years into her acting career, the honors are rolling in for Judi Dench. Her portrait, painted by Alessandro Raho, went on view at the National Portrait Gallery in London on Jan. 19, 2004. The gallery is a repository of portraits of famous Britons during the past 500 years.
In 1988, Dench was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Then, in 2005, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the Insignia of a Companion of Honour in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.