Dame Judi Dench is without doubt worthy of her status as a national treasure, but it’s not a term she likes, having said in interviews, “National treasure? I hate that. Too dusty, too in a cupboard, too behind glass, too staid.” And staid is something she certainly is not, nor is she ever likely to be, so here are 5 lessons we can all learn from Dame Judi if we want to share her youthful lust for life into our 80s and beyond.
1. Age is Just a Number
Born in 1934, Judi Dench will celebrate her 83rd birthday on December 9th, 2017, but age is not something she likes to talk about – other than to stress the fact that age is just a number.
After celebrating her 80th birthday in 2014, she said in interview, “I’m tired of being told I’m too old to try something. I should be able to decide for myself if I can’t do things and not have someone tell me I’ll forget my lines or I’ll trip and fall on the set… Age is a number. It’s something imposed on you. It drives me absolutely spare when people say, ‘Are you going to retire? Isn’t it time you put your feet up?’”
Just Keep Going
Judi brushed off any concerns over knee surgery slowing her down by saying, “I have a completely new knee. It’s brilliant. I am not feeling my age at all. I feel about 43; a willowy blonde 43-year-old with long legs.” At barely an inch over five feet tall, it suggests that knee surgery is the way to go!
However, Judi also has macular degeneration and she admits that not all aspects of ageing can be welcomed: “Suddenly I get up out of a chair and can’t rush across the room. But there’s nothing I can do about that, alas. My energy levels are OK, but I can’t see very well. People have to come up and wave at me. If a restaurant is too dark I can end up talking to the backs of chairs.”
2. Variety is the Spice of Life
To some, Judi Dench will always be socially inept Laura Dalton, the role she played from 1981 to 1984 in the TV sitcom A Fine Romance. To others, she will always be Jean Hardcastle, the role she played in the hugely popular TV series As Time Goes By which ran from 1992 to 2005.
But, for many, Judi Dench is Queen Victoria, a role she first played in 1997 in the film Mrs Brown, and then twenty years later in Victoria & Abdul, and many more think of her as M, a role she played from 1995 to 2012 in seven James Bond films… all of which demonstrating her versatility as an actress.
Nominated for seven Oscars and winning Best Supporting Actress for her role as Queen Elizabeth I in the 1997 film Shakespeare in Love, Judi is a multi-award-winning actress in film, TV and theatre; winner of six British Film Academy Awards, four BAFTA TV Awards, seven Olivier Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and a Tony Award – to name but a few.
In interviews, she has said of her varied career, “I don’t want to be thought of as recognisable – I always want to do the most different thing I can think of next. I don’t want to be known for one thing, or as having done huge amounts of Shakespeare and the classics.”
3. Keep Trying New Things
Following on from the above, it’s incredible to note that all seven of Judi Dench’s Oscar nominations have come her way since the age of 63 – her first for Mrs Brown in 1997 and the seventh for Philomena in 2013. In 2009, Judi grabbed the opportunity to do something completely different by appearing in Rage, an experimental film. She says,
I like to do something that’s not expected, or predictable. I had to learn to smoke a joint, and I set my trousers alight.
4. It’s Never Too Late for Love
Judi married Michael Williams, a fellow actor and co-star in A Fine Romance, in 1971. Michael died from lung cancer in 2001, aged just 65, and after 30 years of blissfully happy marriage, Judi never expected to find love again. But, a new relationship blossomed in 2010, and in a recent interview, she said, “I wasn’t even prepared to be ready for it. It was very, very gradual and grown up … It’s just wonderful.”
Judi’s new-found love and continuing lust for life echoes the belief of Evelyn, her character in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, when she says, “There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it.”
5. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
At the age of 80, Judi had the words ‘Carpe diem’ tattooed onto the inside of her wrist, summing up her youthful attitude to life. She has considered plastic surgery, saying, “Every time I go to America I wonder if there is some process where it could all be sucked out and I could be out of there in time for dinner, but I’m frightened it would all drop off under the anaesthetic.”
So, let’s learn from Dame Judi – get out there and seize the day!