Oscars Flashback '99: Dench is Royally Humble

By ROBERT PACE

December 19, 2012

In her many years on the stage, on television, and in film, Judi Dench has possessed an air of reverence and humility that is rare in her profession. That inimitable aura about her has granted her some royal roles, including multiple roles as the Queen of England. One of those regal roles led to her first Oscar, which she didn't believe she deserved.

In 1998, Mrs. Dench was nominated for her first Oscar for portraying Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown. She didn't receive the Best Actress award that year, but after releasing her second Bond film (Tomorrow Never Dies), the English actress was once again nominated for an imperial role; this time as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love.

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To her surprise, Mrs. Dench was granted her first Oscar that year for her supporting role as the Queen. Having only appeared in a minor portion of the film, she reveals that she had no anticipation of winning an award that night.

"I'm absolutely over the moon," she says after winning the Oscar. "I can't believe it. I can't get my breath...I'm basically a realist and I didn't for a second think that eight minutes worth of somebody...was worth an Oscar, I have to say.

The unassuming actress elaborates that she would have been surprised to receive an award for any role, which she attributes to her upraising in a religious school that never encouraged competition.

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"I think it comes from...being at a Quaker school," she says. "We never competed with anybody; we didn't compete with each other and we didn't compete with other schools, and I somehow think that that might have been instilled in me. I don't like competition on the stage...I like the bit of being nominated all of us together. I just think it's a pity somebody's got to win."

Pity or not, that somebody was her that year. While that has proven to be Mrs. Dench's only Oscar to date, the quite-calm-but-never-at-peace actress reveals her plans to party and bask in the moment.

"Oh, yes! You bet," she says when asked if she plans to party. "[I'm going to have a] party and some champagne and a bit of hug."

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She may be popping the bubbly once more this year for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, for which she has already received a Golden Globes nomination.

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