Dame Judi Dench shares devastating health update – and the surprising new tattoo her health struggles helped inspire

Dame Judi Dench has opened up on her age-related macular degeneration getting worse – but vows to push on

Judi Dench
(Image credit: Andreas Rentz / Staff / Getty Images)

Dame Judi Dench belongs to a rarified and gilded category of living legends – having worked consistently on screen and stage for the last six decades.

From Shakespeare to James Bond, Dame Judi’s career has included some of the most memorable and coveted roles.

However, the seven-time Olivier award winner has shared devastating news with fans as she revealed she can no longer see on film sets.

Judi Dench is refusing to let her macular degeneration alter her 'carpe diem' attitude

(Image credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage)

The Mrs Henderson Presents actress has previously been candid about suffering from age-related macular degeneration, but her recent update suggests things have got steadily worse.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that can blur your central vision. It happens when aging causes damage to the macula — the part of the eye that controls sharp, straight-ahead vision.

She told the Suny Mirror’s Notebook magazine, “I mean, I can’t see on a film set anymore, and I can’t see to read, so I can’t see much.”

Proving she still has that tenacious, no-nonsense attitude, Dame Judi explained how she feels about it all though, adding, “But, you know, you just deal with it. Get on.”

There’s truly nothing like a dame.

Dame Judi Dench is believed to share a good relationship with King Charles and Queen Camilla

(Image credit: Andrew Matthews - Pool / Getty Images)

Despite her adamant belief in just dealing with it, the Oscar-winning actress did reveal that her condition has made it more difficult than ever to make any new films.

“It’s difficult if I have any length of a part. I haven’t yet found a way.”

But that doesn’t mean she’s giving up altogether. In fact, she believes there could still be a way for her to continue to make such memorable films as Philomena, Victoria & Abdul, and Ladies in Lavender – and it’s all thanks to her friends.

She revealed that, as she has a “photographic memory” her “many friends” can “teach [her] the script”, should the occasion call for it.  

It’s not out of the realm of possibility to imagine Dame Judi continuing to make films of merit this way, especially since she most recently starred in the Oscar-winning movie, Belfast - and even attended the Academy Awards accompanied by her grandson. 

Dame Judi Dench attending the 94th Academy Awards with her grandson, Sam Williams, in 2022

(Image credit: Gilbert Flores/Variety/Penske Media via Getty Images)

She had previously said in an interview before filming, “Because my eyesight is so bad now I can’t actually see very much and so I do go [to watch films] but a friend of mine usually has to say, ‘He’s kissing her now’ or ‘He’s walking away.’”

“So a lot of things I miss — it’s not so much fun.”

There’s another reason why we can expect Dame Judi to not give up on her lifelong passion – boredom.

In the Sunday Mirror interview, she added that she has an “irrational fear of boredom.”

Her reluctance to give up and let boredom win is such a firm belief that the legendary thespian has even tattooed a reminder on herself to keep going.

She explained, “That’s why I now have this tattoo that says carpe diem. That’s what we should live by.”

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.