If one were to use an Applause-O-Meter at last week’s Jaguar Britannia Awards, the needle would have dropped off when Dame Judi Dench got up to accept (appropriately enough) the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment. I say it was appropriate because Broccoli produced (as his heirs do now) the James Bond pictures, and Dench has played M since the mid-’90s. The room was full of big deals—Robert Downey Jr., Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mark Ruffalo, Mike Leigh, and Emma Watson—they all accepted awards. I, like everyone else, was so happy to see Dench in the Beverly Hilton’s ballroom. I thought she might Maggie Smith the whole thing and not show up (Smith rarely hits the U.S.), but there was Dench (looking fantastic) heading to the stage after pal Dustin Hoffman said a few touching and funny things about her. Here’s what we were all waiting for…
“I’m amazed to see all these clips of films I’ve done,” Dench started. “Truly, that’s exactly the truth. When I was at the Vic, I went to the Vic in 1957 and I think in 1958 or ‘59, I went to see someone about a film. I’ve never actually divulged who this person was, but it was somebody very, very famous. And I talked to him and he talked back to me and then he said to me, ‘I’m so sorry to tell you this but,’ he said, ‘you will never make a film. Because your face isn’t quite properly arranged.’ And that was exactly so, nor did I make a film until, I think, 36 years later, when the blessed John Madden asked me to play Queen Victoria for television in Britain. And Harvey, blessed Harvey Weinstein, whose tattoo I still have on my bum—he asked for that, Harvey asked for that, after he was so rude—he said, ‘oh well, this will be a movie, we’ll make this a movie, we’ll make [Mrs. Brown] a proper film.’ And it was. And ever since then, I’ve done a lot of films.”
Dench was back on a plane to London the next day. Come back soon!
Photograph Getty Images for BAFTA Los Angeles