Judi Dench opened up in a conversation benefiting the Vision Foundation about continuing her acting career while coping with deteriorating eyesight (via The Guardian). The Vision Foundation is a London sight loss charity. Joined by Stephen Fry and Hayley Mills, Dench told the audience she remains a working actress by relying on close friends to help her memorize new scripts through the repetition of reading them aloud to her.
“You find a way of just getting about and getting over the things that you find very difficult,” Dench said. “I’ve had to find another way of learning lines and things, which is having great friends of mine repeat them to me over and over and over again. So I have to learn through repetition, and I just hope that people won’t notice too much if all the lines are completely hopeless!”
Acting through eye sight loss has given Dench more than a few humorous moments during production. As the Oscar winner said, “I was doing the ‘Winter’s Tale’ with Kenneth Branagh a couple of years ago, playing Paulina, and after we had been running for three weeks or so at the Garrick he said to me — I have a long speech at the end — he said: ‘Judi, if you were to say that speech about eight feet to your right, you’d be saying it to me and not to the pros.’ I rely on people to tell me!”
Dench continued, “But it does enable you to do one thing and that is that you have to get very close to people before you can recognize who they are. During lockdown, I made a film and I was up close addressing people wearing masks during rehearsals, nothing to do with any scene I’m in. It’s kind of exquisite if you can do that and that’s the good side of it, and you have to look at that side of it.”
Of paramount importance for Dench is ensuring her eyesight loss does not “interfere” with the making of any production she’s working on. The actress has stayed busy through her condition with titles such as “Cats,” “Artemis Fowl,” “Blithe Spirit,” “Red Joan,” “Off the Rails,” and the upcoming “Belfast.”
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