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Dame Judi Dench hints at retirement after 60 years on screen and stage

Dame Judi Dench at the Chelsea Flower Show in London, May 2024
Dame Judi Dench at the Chelsea Flower Show in London, May 2024 Copyright AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Copyright AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
By David Mouriquand
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Actress Judi Dench has suggested she will retire from acting because of her worsening eyesight. She currently suffers from advanced macular degeneration.

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Oscar-winning British actress and national treasure Dame Judi Dench has hinted at a possible retirement at age 89, after sharing an update on her health.

The award-winning performer – whose work encompasses theatre, film and television – was at the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show, during which she shared that she did not have any upcoming film projects.

“No, no. I can’t even see!” she said, referring to her current affliction of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is an eye disease that blurs central vision, a common condition that is the leading cause of vision loss for adults, which happens when aging causes damage to the macula (the part of the eye that controls sharp, straight-ahead vision).

When asked further about possible retirement, Dench’s agent told British outlet the Daily Mirror that the 89-year-old actress had “nothing more to add than all she mentioned”.

Speaking at the flower show, Dench did say that she has further plans in the pipeline, including appearing at the Cheltenham Book Festival.

Dame Judi Dench holds a seedling from the Sycamore Gap tree in the Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust at the Chelsea Flower Show in London
Dame Judi Dench holds a seedling from the Sycamore Gap tree in the Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust at the Chelsea Flower Show in LondonKirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Dench was diagnosed in 2012 and has previously spoken about her wish to continue working indefinitely, calling retirement “the rudest word in my dictionary” in an interview with the Telegraph.

“And ‘old’ is another one. I don’t allow that in my house. And being called ‘vintage’,” she added. “I don’t want any of those old words. I like ‘enthusiastic’ and I like the word ‘cut’ because that means you’ve finished the shot.”

She has admitted that she can no longer see clearly on film sets, as well as her need to memorise lines orally before going on set.

“It has become impossible and, because I have a photographic memory, I need to find a machine that not only teaches me my lines but also tells me where they appear on the page,” she said on The Graham Norton Show in 2023.

Dench has appeared on stage and screen since the 1950s, with a film career which has made her a household name around the world with films like Mrs Brown, Iris, Pride & Prejudice, Notes on a Scandal, Philomena, and the Oscar-nominated Belfast in 2021.

Other key big screen roles include eight James Bond films (from Goldeneye in 1995 to a cameo appearance in 2015’s Spectre) and Shakespeare in Love, for which she won an Oscar. Dench has also won a Tony and eight Olivier awards for her theatre performances.

Her last film appearances were in Allelujah, Richard Eyre’s adaptation of the Alan Bennett play, and a cameo as herself in the Christmas musical comedy Spirited in 2022.

Additional sources • Daily Mirror, Telegraph

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