Judi Dench on Acting Regal

Actress Discusses What it Takes to Play a Queen on Stage, Screen

Judi Dench, as Queen Elizabeth

hide captionJudi Dench, as Queen Elizabeth, in 1998's Shakespeare in Love.

© Corbis Sygma

Judi Dench has won major acting awards on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Oscar, the Tony and six Oliviers (England's top theatrical honor). The British actress is famous for Shakespearean roles, but she's also played spy chief M in James Bond films and currently appears in the Vin Diesel science fiction action flick The Chronicles of Riddick. NPR's Susan Stamberg interviews Dench about the art of acting.

Dench, who became a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1988, is something of an expert on acting regal. She played Queen Victoria in the 1997 movie, Mrs. Brown. As Queen Elizabeth I in 1998's Shakespeare in Love, she won an Oscar for best supporting actress.

So, what does it take to be a queen? Dench says she tries to absorb what she knows about the character — her background, her fears — "and then somehow [tries] to distill it." Wearing an Elizabethan costume, complete with stiff corset and a ruff around the neck helps as well. "It informs the way [the character] moves," she says.

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