Judi Dench: “I don’t want to be told I’m too old”

“I want to see for myself if I can’t do it rather than be told you might have a fall or you can’t learn your lines. Let me have a go. Let us all have a go.”

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It’s inadvisable to ask Dame Judi Dench when she is retiring – the question drives the 79-year-old “spare”.

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Speaking at a screening of the BBC1 Christmas drama Esio Trot on Wednesday, Dame Judi – who turns 80 next month – said:  “Age is a number, it’s something imposed on you.

“It drives me absolutely spare when people say ‘are you going to retire, isn’t it time you put your feet up’ or tell me [my] age.

“I don’t want to be told I’m too old to try something. I want to see for myself if I can’t do it rather than be told you might have a fall or you can’t learn your lines. Let me have a go. Let us all have a go.”

The acclaimed stage and screen actress – whose roll call of hit films include Mrs Brown, A Room with a View and Notes on a Scandal – added that she has worried about her age only once in her life.

Speaking alongside her co-star Dustin Hoffman at the screening, she added: “The only time I got really upset was when I was 40, for some reason. I got really upset when I was 40 and I was alright after that. It’s that old thing: you are only as old as you feel. It’s not to do with age; it’s something to do with inside. It’s the engine.”

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Dame Judi stars alongside Hollywood star Hoffman in Esio Trot, the 90-minute Christmas TV film written by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer and based on Roald Dahl’s much-loved children’s book.