All Hail Judi Dench, Cinema’s Ruling Queen!

The star of Victoria & Abdul wears the crown of one the greatest actors of all time. 

In deciding who should play the title Queen in Stephen FrearsVictoria & Abdul, the filmmakers had only one name on their list—Judi Dench. For one, she had already played Victoria in John Madden’s 1997 Mrs. Brown. But more importantly, she has the rare talent to convey the monarch’s complex mix of humor, heart, and intelligence. In this story of an extraordinary friendship between the world’s most powerful woman and an Indian clerk, Abdul (Ali Fazal), who becomes her close friend and spiritual advisor, Dench shows us a flesh and blood Queen Victoria few have seen before.

Since 1957, when she stepped onto the stage of the Old Vic, Dench has dazzled audiences with her sharp wit, commanding presence, and most of all, heart. “Judi is possibly the most empathetic artist acting on film,” exclaims Victoria & Abdul producer Tracey Seaward. “Her truthfulness as a performer shines through.” In 2010, readers of the noted British theater journal The Stage voted her the Best Theater Actor of All Time, ahead of such legends as Dame Maggie Smith, Mark Rylance, and Laurence Olivier. Last year, she became the most honored British actor after winning her 8th Olivier Award for her turn in The Winter’s Tale. With seven Oscar nominations and one Academy Award, Dench is more than just acting royalty.

As Focus celebrates its 15th anniversary, we have had the great honor of having Dench grace three of our films. In addition to Victoria & Abdul, Dench has appeared in Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre, showing us in each what makes a legend. 

See the grandeur of Judi Dench as the Queen in Victoria & Abdul.

Long reign the queen!

In some ways, Dench’s regal performance in Victoria & Abdul has been a lifetime in the making. From playing Titania, Queen of the Fairies, in the 1968 A Midsummers Night's Dream to her 1998 Oscar-nominated performance as Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown to winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love, Dench is very comfortable on a royal throne. Dench relished the chance to revisit the character of Queen Victoria: “I admire Victoria as a remarkable person, and this was an irresistible story that had only recently come to light.” 

Her majesty Judi Dench befriends Ali Fazal in Victoria & Abdul.

Dench can play as tough as nails…  

From her Olivier Award-winning turn as the murderous wife in Macbeth in 1976 to taking over the role of MI6’s no-nonsense chief M in eight Bond films, Dench proves to be a woman you don’t dare cross. In Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice, Dench as the icy Lady Catherine de Bourg proves unforgettable. “Judi Dench demonstrates the power of the character and her power as an actress—by doing as little as possible, frighteningly well,” exclaimed Slate, adding, “Her very existence makes…this Pride & Prejudice (ampersand and all) a joy to behold.”

Get Pride & Prejudice now on iTunes or at Amazon.

Dench as the haughty Lady de Bourg in Pride & Prejudice

Or move us with deeply emotional performances.  

Throughout her career, Dench has crafted unforgettable characters which one cannot help but care about. In her Oscar-nominated performance in Iris, she illuminates the plight of the brilliant novelist Iris Murdoch grappling with Alzheimer’s disease. She was again nominated for an Academy Award for Philomena, in which she poignantly captured a mother's angst and anger at being forced by the Church to give up her infant son decades before. As the trusted housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax in Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre, Dench extends a flickering touch of hospitality to the new governess (Mia Wasikowska). For the Austin Chronicle, “Dench is a thorough delight as she upholds the difficult line between discretion and compassion.”

Get Jane Eyre now on iTunes or at Amazon.

Dench provides emotional support in Jane Eyre

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