Dame Judi Dench



  1. Susan Hampshire, The First Churchills, TV, 1969.    Hampshire was deemed essential to all major BBC mini-series after the global triumph of The Forsyte Saga in 1967. Hence, Vantiy Fair that year, The Pallisers in 1974, The Barchester Chronicles, 1982, Monarch of the Glen, 2000-2005 – and Sarah, the wife of the first Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill.

  2. Eileen Atkins, Smiley’s People,. TV, 1982.       Her busy diary prevented Judi from playing Madame Ostrakova in Alec Guinness’ second stanza as John Le Carré’s genial spymaster, George Smiley. Talking of spymasters, in 1993, Judi started 007 films as James Bond’s boss, M. 

  3. Colette O’Neill, Doctor Who #124: Snakedance, TV, 1982.       Judi and Carry On star Joan Sims up for the same part  – kidding, right? Nope! Scandal-ridden producer John Nathan-Taylor suggested 14 ladies as Lady Tanha, for when Doc5 Peter Davidson landed on Manussa. The others were Jill Bennett, Eleanor Bron, Elspeth Gray, Sheila Hancock, Jean Marsh, Anna Massey, Kate O’Mara (the future Time Lady Rani), Barbara Shelley, Elizabeth Spriggs, Wanda Ventham (mother of Benedict Cumberbatch) and Fiona Walker. The Scottish O’Neill had scored 77 mainly UK credits by 2016.
  4. Polly James, Doctor Who #131: The Awakening, TV, 1984.       Now imagine Glenda Jackson and Helen Mirren up for the same Whoverse visit. Plus Bond ladies, Honor Blackman, Judi Dench, Diana Rigg and Pamela Salem. Well, producer John Nathan-Taylor had a female casting/dart) board, as well as one for the guys.   As proved by his 18 choices for Jane Humpden in Doc5 Peter Davison’s four-parter in half. The others were James, Lynda Bellingham, Eleanor Bron, Pauline Collins, Diane Keen, Jean Marsh, Sheila Ruskin, Barbara Shelley, Sylvia Syms, Wanda Ventham, Fiona Walker, Penelope Wilton.
  5. Rula Lenska, Doctor Who #133: Resurrection of the Daleks, TV, 1984.         Fourteen ladies, including four Bond Girls (Honor Blackman, Jenny Hanley, Joanna Lumley, Pamela Salem) and a future M  were in the melting pot for Dr Styles… strangely lacking any scenes with Doc5 Peter Davison. Also listed: Lenska, Polly Adams, Eleanor Bron, Rachel Davies, Judi Dench, Diane Keen, Maureen Lipman, Kate O’Mara, Jacqueline Pearce, Sheila Ruskin, Fiona Walker and Penelope Wilton
  6. Phyllida   Law, Much Ado About Nothing, 1992.         As actor-director Kenneth   Branagh can attest when you   cannot land Dame Jude, it’s always handy to have (at the time) a mother-in-law who’s an accomplished actresss.
  7. Eileen Atkins, Gosford Park, 2001.      Judi was set as Mrs Croft the cook. But Robert Altman needed something for Eileen Atkins. She wanted Maggie Smith’s aristo, he made her the melancholy housekeeper – Helen Mirren collected her second Oscar nomination for that as Atkins wound up in charge of the kitchen.
  8. Imelda Staunton, Maleficent, 2012.      Another fairy tale joins the Hollywood reboots, telling all from the viewpoint of Sleeping Beauty’s nemesis – the titular Angelina Jolie, no less. But who should play the fairies: Knotgrass, Fittle and Thistletwit. DIsney ideas ranged from reviving  the Hocus Pocus trio  of Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy , Sarah Jessica Parker to Dame Jude, Emma Thompson,  Tara Reid  – to, finally, Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple.  Not released until 2014.
  9. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County, 2012.  Oklahoma playwright (and -Meryl Streep, August: Osage County, 2012.  Oklahoma playwright (and actor) Tracy Letts wanted the Steppenwolf cast of his 2008 Pulitzer Prize winning play to be in the film. He was downright furious when Brits (and an Aussie) were suggested for the dysfunctional Westons. “They must be all-Americans!” Producer Harvey Weinstein won the battle for Benedict Cumberbatch and Ewan McGregor but gave in about Nicole Kidman – and Judi Dench (too old, anyway, at 78 to Meryl’s 63 for Violet aged 65). in what seemed a Western-set take on Lilian Hellman’s Little Foxes.Therefore, candidates for Violet quickly became Annette Bening, Glenn Close, Jane Fonda, Sissy Spacek – and Jessica Lange, wed to Sam Shepard, another Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, cast as Violet’s husband
  10. Jane Fonda, Better Living Through Chemistry, 2013.   Dame Jude was set to narrate the romcom noir (you heard)  until booked elsewhere. Fonda rushed to the rescue.
  11. Tilda Swinton, Suspiria, Italy-US, 2016.    Eight years earlier, when David Gordon Green was due to re-make Dario Argento’s giallo  classic, Dame Jude was due to be Madame Blanc, head choreographer at   Germany’s  prestigious – and mysterious  –  Tanz Dance Akademie. Hollywood veteran Joann Bennett was Blanc in 1967. Argento was unimpresed  by his director friend Luca Guadagnino’s re-tread.  “It betrayed the spirit of the original,” he told Italy’s Rai 1 TV channel in 2019.  “There is no fear.”   And DGG stayed true to  the neighbourhood, producer-directing  2020s’ cinema orTV chapters of The  Exorcist, Halloween  and Hellraiser.


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  11