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Judi Dench discusses working while losing her sight: 'I've had to find another way'

One thing she's not doing is hiding out; Dench says she'll continue working.
/ Source: TODAY

Dame Judi Dench has been a presence on TV and film screens for 60 years, and at 86, she's not planning to stop acting anytime soon.

That enough would be inspiring, but Dench is currently battling an issue that makes it positively extraordinary: She's losing her vision.

Judi Dench visiting TODAY in 2017. Nathan Congleton / NBC

Currently suffering from age-related macular degeneration, which affects nearly 11 million people in the United States, Dench recently told The Guardian that while she may have to adjust her life and work styles, she's not going to retire.

"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. 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!"

The petite, white-haired, no-nonsense actor is familiar to American audiences from her turns in films like "Shakespeare in Love" (for which she won her Oscar); "Mrs. Brown," "Victoria & Abdul," "Skyfall" (and several other modern James Bond films) and "Philomena," among others.

Dench with Daniel Craig in "Skyfall" in 2012.Alamy

She's also delighted us in recent years by getting a tattoo at 81 and being the oldest person on the cover of British Vogue at 85.

The loss of her sight, Dench explained, appears to be genetic: Her mother also had some sight loss; her daughter, Finty, "goes and has her eyes checked" regularly.

Still, she noted what she considers an upside: "It does enable you to do one thing and that is that you have to get very close to people before you can recognize who they are. During lockdown I made a film and I was up close addressing people wearing masks during rehearsals, nothing to do with any scene I'm in. It's kind of exquisite if you can do that and that's the good side of it, and you have to look at that side of it."

Dench has played Queen Victoria twice (including in 2017's "Victoria and Abdul") and Queen Elizabeth I once.Alamy

And you have to admire that Dench can even laugh a bit at the way her body is changing.

"I was doing 'The Winter’s Tale' with Ken Branagh a couple of years ago, playing Paulina, and after we had been running for three weeks or so at the Garrick (Theater) 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) arch," she said.

Then she laughed: "I rely on people to tell me!"