Dame Judith Olivia Dench, CH, DBE, FRSA (born 9 December 1934) is an English actress.
Originally trained as a set designer, Dench began her acting career in the mid 1950s in amateur productions, and made her professional debut in 1957 with the Old Vic Company. Over the following few years she played in several of William Shakespeare's plays in such roles as Ophelia in Hamlet, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. She branched into film work, and won a BAFTA Award as Most Promising Newcomer, however most of her work during this period was in theatre. Not generally known as a singer, she drew strong reviews for her leading role in the musical Cabaret in 1968.
During the next two decades, she established herself as one of the most significant British theatre performers, working for the National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company. In television, she achieved success during this period, in the series A Fine Romance from 1981 until 1984 and in 1992 began a continuing role in the television romantic comedy series As Time Goes By.
Her film appearances had been infrequent until she was cast as M in GoldenEye (1996), a role she has played in each James Bond film since. She received several notable film awards for her role as Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown (1997), and has since been acclaimed for her work in such films as Shakespeare in Love (1998), Chocolat (2000), Iris (2001), Mrs Henderson Presents (2005) and Notes on a Scandal (2006), and the television production The Last of the Blonde Bombshells (2001). Regarded by critics as one of the greatest actresses of the post-war period, and frequently named as the leading British actress in polls, Dench has received many award nominations for her acting in theatre, film and television; her awards include ten BAFTAs, seven Laurence Olivier Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Golden Globes, an Academy Award, and a Tony Award.
Dench was awarded the OBE in 1970, became a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1988, and a Companion of Honour in 2005. She was married to the actor Michael Williams from 1971 until his death in 2001. They are the parents of the actress Finty Williams.