Dame Judi Dench put her rehearsals on hold and took time out to visit the Winchester guildhall for a Conversation with good friend and biographer John Miller. Backed by solicitors Dutton Gregory, the event raised nearly £7,000 to support our work in and around the city.
The pair reminisced about Judi’s early years honing her craft with the incomparable – and very fussy – Sir John Gielgud through to her latest film where she reprises her role as Queen Victoria, four years on from the death of John Brown. Victoria and Abdul is a touching story about the monarch’s friendship with a young Indian boy, which will be released next autumn.
Judi declared a passion for India, discovered during her filming of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, where filming with Bill Nighy was interrupted by a mob of 40 macaque monkeys racing across the rooftops. She was delighted when The Second Best Marigold Hotel was filmed enabling her to return to Jaipur and she is keeping her fingers crossed for a third outing.
Dame Judi regaled her audience with tales of naughtiness with Tim Pigott-Smith, whom she found strangely alluring with his gloved hand in the Jewel in the Crown and mysteriously a glove would make its way around the world to various productions and appear in unusual places – under the lid of a tureen and even through a hole in the wall of an outside loo when she was filming with Kevin Spacey in The Shipping News.
When asked by a member of the audience what was the most terrifying experience in her career she said working on As Time Goes By. Geoffrey Palmer was a veteran of comedy series’ but for Judi, starting work on a Wednesday, learning lines, setting up and rehearsing, with a live performance on the Sunday was always a completely nerve wracking experience.
Home-Start Winchester Chairman Liz Cooper thanked sponsors Dutton Gregory for their generosity in backing the starry evening and presented Dame Judi with a bottle of champagne as a thank you for taking time out of her busy schedule to come to Winchester.