At 82, Oscar-winning Judi Dench still finds acting 'frightening'

Actress Judi Dench at the 74th Venice Film Festival on Sept 3, 2017 at Venice Lido.
Actress Judi Dench at the 74th Venice Film Festival on Sept 3, 2017 at Venice Lido.PHOTO: AFP

VENICE (Reuters) - Making movies gets more terrifying the older you get, British actress Judi Dench said on Monday, a day after her royal comedy drama Victoria & Abdul premiered at the Venice film festival.

Dench, who won an Oscar for her role in Shakespeare In Love and was nominated for Academy Awards six other times, said unlike in theatre, where you can adjust with each performance, in films you get only one chance.

"It's always challenging, I am always frightened, always frightened," the 82-year-old said.

"I get more frightened the older I get. It's like having a huge bank of buttons and you chose to press so many in order to do what the writer and director want you to do, and then when you see it, you think 'oh no, I could have done that better'."

Dench began her career in theatre, followed by numerous TV roles, but recalls how during a film audition she was told she would never make a movie "because you have everything wrong with your face".

But the turning point came in 1997 when she was cast as Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown, the first time she played the late British monarch.

She stepped back into the queen's shoes for Victoria & Abdul.

"It's like coming back to meet an old friend," she said.

While Mrs Brown explored Queen Victoria's relationship with her servant John Brown, Stephen Frears' new comedy drama is based on her subsequent unlikely friendship with Indian clerk Abdul Kazim who was sent to England to present her with a gold coin.

Coming to London to shoot the film was the first time Indian actor Ali Fazal, who stars as Kazim, met Dench, "who is pretty much royalty among actors", the 30-year-old said.

"It was a sort of parallel, going along with the film: I like to think I gained a wonderful friend," he said.

Asked whether she would ever want to be royalty, Dench shook her head. "No, certainly not, I can't think of anything worse," she said.

But she added that the royal family were doing a"phenomenal job", especially given it was not something they had chosen, but "just the job you're born with".