Dame Judi Dench's M is an iconic figure in the James Bond franchise, with a version of the character having appeared in eight movies.


However, speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com for our Bond at 70 season, Debbie McWilliams – casting director on the 007 film series since 1981 – revealed that she never expected Dench to accept the part.

"I tell you who I thought wouldn't be an easy part to cast and who actually was the easiest part was Judi Dench," McWilliams explained.

"I thought, 'She's never going to say yes to this – a huge commercial film and she's the top Shakespearean actress in the world.'"

It was a personal connection to actor Bernard Lee – the original on-screen M who had portrayed Bond's boss in 11 films opposite Sean Connery, George Lazenby and Roger Moore – that influenced Dench's decision to sign up.

"When she was a drama student, she had been a lodger in Bernard Lee's house," McWilliams recalled. "She had a huge fondness for him. and so when this opportunity came up, she went, 'Well, of course, I have to do it,' and so that was an easy one."

George Lazenby and Bernard Lee in 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service
George Lazenby and Bernard Lee in 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service. United Artist/Getty Images

Dench became only the third actor to portray M in the official Bond series – following Lee and Robert Brown – when she took up the mantle for 1995's GoldenEye starring Pierce Brosnan as 007.

In the wake of the character's demise in 2012's Skyfall, Ralph Fiennes's character Mallory became Daniel Craig's superior, though Dench's iteration made one last posthumous appearance in 2015's Spectre via video message.

No Time to Die is available to stream on Prime Video, with other Bond films also available to purchase – try Amazon Prime Video for free for 30 days.

Visit our Film hub for the latest news and features. If you're looking for something to watch, check out our TV Guide or Streaming Guide.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 12 issues for only £1 with delivery to your home – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.