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Judi Dench: "They told me I was too ugly to act"

Legendary actress Judi Dench has opened about her acting past, good manners and tea with the MI6.

By Mahalia Chang
In a revealing interview, acting legend Judi Dench has revealed she was initially pushed out of acting because she was “too ugly”.
The 80-year-old actress sat down with BBC4’s Richard Eyre to discuss acting, manners, and the MI6. In the interview, she touched on her very first film audition, where she was turned away for her looks.
“I didn’t become a film star in the 60s and that’s because I once went for a film - which I have always kept a secret, and the director a secret too,” said the actress, “He said at the end of the interview, ‘Jolly nice meeting you but I’m sorry, you won’t ever make a film because your face is wrongly arranged’.”
Luckily enough for us, Dame Judi Dench wasn’t about to let a lone director stifle her acting career – she forged on, and has since become one of the foremost actresses in the world, with an Oscar, a Tony, six Oliviers, two SAGs and ten BAFTAs under her belt - not to mention an OBE nod from the Queen herself.
Not too bad for someone with a ‘wrongly arranged’ face.
A young Judi Dench.
As for the newer generation of actors, the acclaimed actor and singer had some advice: be nice.
Dench, who is set to appear in Kenneth Branagh’s West End Theatre debut, The Winter’s Tale, told Eyre that the key to making it as an actor is to have good manners, and to treat others nicely.
“I have seen bad behaviour and episodes of people being late and it’s not right. It’s something that young actors can always be told about. The rehearsal time is so important for everyone, it’s not right for the actor to not do it at home and come and do it while everyone else is standing around,” said Dench, “You have a job to do and whether you go home and watch videos to prepare or do whatever, there’s a certain amount of work you need to do to prepare. That should take up other actor’s time.”
“If you work in the theatre a long time you do learn to have good manners. You can’t afford not to have them,” she continued, “I know lots of things that have happened to actors who haven’t behaved very well to the crews. I won’t name names, but it doesn’t go down well. It’s to your own disadvantage, not behaving yourself.”
Judi as the formidable M in the James Bond films.
After her stint as icey Secret Service Director, M, in the James Bond films (she recently bowed out in Skyfall, after 17 years in the role), the Englishwoman revealed that, although her role was fictional, she’s seen plenty of real spy stuff before – including being invited to lunch by the MI6.
But, as it turns out, the real MI6 isn’t as exciting as the fictional one.
“I was asked to lunch. I didn’t see one potential Bonds when I was there, not one,” she told BBC4, “I think there was about seven people, six men and one woman. I longed to say, ‘What is your speciality?’”
C – who the real life equivalent of Dench’s secret service character, M – also gave Ms Dench a top secret gift.
“They gave me a wonderful present. It was a tiny little camera in a Smithsons leather folder. When you open it you pull it apart and it’s incredibly precise to look through,” said Dench of her MI6 visit, “They said, ‘We can’t give you the film for it but all we can tell you is that it was used to crack something very, very important’. You open it and written inside is, ‘To M, from C’.”
Dame Judi Dench opened up to The Weekly’s Caroline Overington in our March issue this year about her failing eyesight, and about the loss of her late husband, Michael Williams.
“When Michael was going away, when he was going filming or something like that we used to have a special dinner the night before,” said Dench of her late husband, “Don’t think for a minute you should ever expect that, because you’ve been together for a while, they should come back to you unless you make a bit of an effort.”
After Michael's death Dench threw herself into her work, something that helped with her grieving. A new relationship hadn't been in her plans, but as she tells The Weekly, she bonded with her new partner, conservationist David Mills over their shared love of animals.
He makes her laugh, accompanies her to film premieres and while the couple do not live together, they are make excellent company for one another.
"I am not good at being on my own," Dench told The Weekly.
What she has with David Mills, she says, is a "lovely and lucky thing."

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