Dame Judi Dench shares heartbreaking health update with fans: ‘acting has become impossible’

Dame Judi Dench left fans devastated with a recent health update

Dame Judi Dench shared a sad health update with fans
(Image credit: Mike Marsland/WireImage)

She’s a prolific actress of both stage and screen, with a career rivaled by very few – we could only be talking about a legend like Dame Judi Dench.

From James Bond to William Shakespeare, the British icon has appeared in some of the biggest franchises in history, earning an Academy Award, a Tony Award, two Golden Globe Awards, four British Academy Television Awards, six British Academy Film Awards, and seven Olivier Awards along the way.

But we might be seeing less of her in the near future, as she revealed acting has become “impossible” due to health complications.

Dame Judi Dench has continued to act despite the hurdles from her health condition, earning an Oscar nomination in 2022

(Image credit: David Livingston/Getty Images)

The Victoria & Abdul actress has been dealing with age-related macular degeneration for over a decade, and while appearing on the Graham Norton chat show, she shared that she now finds it hard to read.

The Oscar-winning actress spoke about how her age-related degenerative eye condition is affecting her ability to remember lines, saying "It has become impossible and because I have a photographic memory, I need to find a machine that not only teaches me my lines but also tells me where they appear on the page.”

"I used to find it very easy to learn lines and remember them.”

Showing that enduring spirit, however, she cheekily added that she still has a lot of material memorized, jokingly boasting that she still remembers many of her prestigious Shakespeare roles by heart. She told fellow guest Hugh Jackman, “I could do the whole of Twelfth Night right now."

Now that’s an actress.

Judi Dench's new film role stars alongside Jennifer Saunders

(Image credit: David M. Benett/Jed Cullen/Dave Benett/WireImage)

Judi has been battling macular degeneration for over a decade and has previously spoken about dealing with the issue in support of the Vision Foundation, a sight loss charity.

"You find a way of just getting about and getting over the things that you find very difficult," she 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... 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 [proscenium].'"

"I rely on people to tell me!"

Judi Dench did the awards circuit in 2022 for her work in Belfast

(Image credit: Mike Marsland/WireImage)

You can’t keep a good Dame down, though. Despite the adversities she’s faced, Dame Judi picked up an Academy Award nomination in 2022 for her supporting role in Belfast, and was nominated for most of the major awards throughout the season. 

She can next be seen starring in Richard Eyre’s drama Allelujah, based on Alan Bennett’s play of the same name.

The movie is set within a hospital ward in the United Kingdom, and also stars Absolutely Fabulous’ Jennifer Saunders and Derek Jacobi.

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.

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