Judi Dench Admits She 'Can't See on a Film Set'

Actor's macular degeneration worsens, though she's staying upbeat, complete with a new tattoo
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2023 7:45 AM CST
Updated Jul 31, 2023 10:35 AM CDT
Judi Dench: It's 'Impossible' to Act Due to Vision Loss
Judi Dench arrives at the Oscars on March 27 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.   (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
UPDATE Jul 31, 2023 10:35 AM CDT

Earlier this year, Judi Dench revealed how difficult it had become to learn her lines, as her deteriorating eyesight had made it too hard to read scripts. Now, the 88-year-old Oscar-winning actor tells the Mirror she "can't see on a film set anymore," though it doesn't appear that she's ready to throw in the towel on acting completely. "You just deal with it," Dench says of her macular degeneration, adding that even though she hasn't "yet found a way" to totally compensate for her waning vision, she wants to keep working "as much as I can." The Guardian notes Dench has long been forthcoming about her struggle with the incurable eye disease, and she isn't signaling that she plans on holing up in her home in the wake of this news. "I have an irrational fear of boredom," she tells the Mirror, revealing she has a new tattoo that reads "carpe diem." She adds of that mantra: "That's what we should live by."

Feb 18, 2023 7:45 AM CST

Dame Judi Dench has been contending with deteriorating eyesight for more than a decade. Now, the 88-year-old Oscar-winning actor says her vision problems have become so bad that, despite having a photographic memory, she's having trouble learning her lines on the job, reports People. Dench appeared Friday on The Graham Norton Show, where she talked about how her macular degeneration is continuing to affect her career. "It has become impossible [to read scripts], 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," she said.

"I used to find it very easy to learn lines and remember them," she added. "I could do the whole of Twelfth Night right now." Macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in people over 60, is an incurable eye disease whose risk increases with age. Two years ago, during an online event benefiting the Vision Foundation, Dench noted how she'd had to compensate for the vision she'd lost so far. "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," she said, per the Guardian. "So I have to learn through repetition, and I just hope that people won't notice too much if all the lines are completely hopeless."

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Dench has said she had to give up driving in 2017—"one of the most traumatic moments of my life," she told Radio Times, per Yahoo—and that her partner, David Mills, has had to help her with meals. She revealed to BBC journalist Louis Theroux that at a dinner last year, it was so dark in the restaurant she couldn't see if there was anything on her plate. Miller "cut it up and handed something to me on a fork and that's the way I ate it," she said, per the Sun. Still, the award-winning actor has no plans to ditch her career just yet. "I don't want to retire," she told Theroux. "I've got to teach myself a new way of learning. ... I'll teach myself a way, I know I will." (More Judi Dench stories.)

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