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Desert Island Discs

Dame Judi Dench


The new James Bond film No Time to Die is out in cinemas on September 30. In it, Ralph Fiennes plays M, a role he inherited from Dame Judi Dench, who has “glorious memories” of her seven Bond films, she tells Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs in 2015. Her first performance was as a snail in a school play. She also grudgingly played a fairy in the nativity, although she knew it wasn’t a proper part. She made her professional debut as Ophelia with the Old Vic Company in 1957 but was panned by the critics and replaced on a tour around America. “I had to do an enormous swallow,” she says.

Dench went on to win an Oscar, 11 Baftas, eight Oliviers and two Golden Globes. She married fellow actor Michael Williams in 1971. The couple used to refer to Shakespeare as “the man who pays the rent”. They lived with Williams’s parents and Dench’s widowed mother for 12 years in Stratford, along with their daughter Finty. “It wasn’t easy sometimes – there was always something brewing, but it was terribly exciting and lively.” Williams died in 2001 and Dench recalls how he once started crying in a pub before a Frank Sinatra concert. He loved Sinatra and used to say he “got more people in and out of bed than anyone else in history”.

Farewell to Stromness, Peter Maxwell Davies 

All Right, Okay, You Win, Count Basie 

Sonnet 18, Shall I Compare Thee, Jeffery Dench and Jackie Williams 

Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday 

Losing My Mind, Dorothy Collins 

I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Frank Sinatra 

Shipping Forecast: issued by the Met Office at 05.05 on Saturday, December 1, 2001, Corrie Corfield  

Blue in Green, Miles Davis 

📕 Other Men’s Flowers, AP Wavell (audiobook read by her daughter, Finty Williams) 

🎁 Cut-outs of all her friends and family 

Listen to the episode here.