British Actress, Dame Judi Dench, experienced a personal tragedy during the early days of her career when a co-star who was infatuated with her died unexpectedly.
Dame Judi Dench is one of the most decorated English stars of the last century. She is an Academy Award-winning actress who won an Oscar for her role as Queen Elizabeth in “Shakespeare in Love.”
Dench’s presence in the movie scene has been a pleasant experience for most of her fans. The actress is widely loved for her role as M, James Bond’s boss in “GoldenEye.” Dench later reprised her character for another six Bond films, ending with “Skyfall” in 2012.
Despite being a lovely star, Dench was thrown into mourning after her friend and co-star Charlie Thomas committed suicide while they were both touring Australia in 1969 with William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”
The incident was heartbreaking for the young actress who had nothing but love, respect, and admiration for the young actor who unfortunately wanted more from Dench. Here’s a look at her life and how the incident happened.
Judith Olivia Dench was born on December 9, 1934, in North Yorkshire, England, to Reginald and Eleanora. Dench had a lot of exposure to the world of acting from a young age. Her father was the resident doctor at York’s Theatre Royal, and she frequently accompanied him on his visits there.
Dench has always had a penchant for acting, even as a child. Her favorite pastime was dressing up and singing while her mother played the piano. It was impossible for her not to fall in love with the craft seeing the proximity her family had with the stage.
Dench began her education at an all-girls Quaker school, then moved on to the York School of Art for a brief stint before enrolling at London’s Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art.
She would subsequently blame her decision on pursuing acting on her brother, Jeffrey, who himself was an ambitious actor. As she grew, Dench’s natural talent and dexterity were difficult to overlook.
She made her stage debut at the Royal Court in 1957 with the Old Vic Production Company, playing Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. For another four years, Dench worked at the Old Vic.
She later upgraded and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1961, beginning a 30-year association with the company that saw her play every central female character in a Shakespeare play.
Dench, unlike some of her colleagues, was not content with Shakespeare or theater roles; she demanded more from her career and believed she had the talents to make it big in the movie industry.
Choosing to appear in bigger roles, she made her television debut in the “Hilda Lessways” series in 1959 and caught the eyes of movie directors of her time. She pushed herself even further by taking on humorous roles, including Oscar Wilde’s theater performances.
The 1960s were golden years for Dench’s career as it featured several top roles and recognitions. Dench won her first British Academy of Film and Television Award for her performance as a young wife in “Four in the Morning.” The role was the beginning of bigger things to come for the actress.
Following that, she gave strong performances in a number of other British films. Since she only acted in several theatre plays, Dench was only popular in her native country, England. She would have to make the big move to gain wider prominence.
Although some of her stage works had brought her to America, it was a different story getting a foothold with American audiences. Everything changed after she became the star of the TV romantic comedy series “As Time Goes By.”
Dench became an international celebrity after she played M, James Bond’s employer, in “GoldenEye.” From then on, she joined the elite class of actresses to gain global stardom.
Throughout her career, Dench has been recognized with a series of awards to showcase her talent and skill. She was the first actress to win two Laurence Olivier Awards in 1996, for Best Actress and Best Actress in a Musical.
Dench also won a Tony Award for her leading role in “Amy’s View” in 1999, the same year she won her Oscar. Dench takes an unconventional approach to her work.
She is well-known for not reading parts before accepting them; instead, she relies on the words of her friends and coworkers to guide her decision. She frequently arrives during rehearsals for her stage job without having read the full piece, and this makes her exceptional to her colleagues.
The early days of Dench’s career were met with some sort of controversy involving a co-star who had grown infatuated with the actress. When words emerged that Charlie Thomas had committed suicide, all guesses pointed that his feelings for Dench might have led him to the drastic action.
Jeffery, Dench’s brother, confessed that the young actor was madly in love with Dench, and although the actress was fond of him, she did not share his feelings for her. Both stars had featured together in “Twelfth Night,” and Dench believed Thomas was talented.
Dench portrayed Viola in the play, while Thomas portrayed her lover Orsino. Although she admired Thomas as an actor, she did not see herself getting involved with the actor who had drinking problems and was already married with kids.
The event spurred Dench’s 1971 quick marriage to actor Michael Williams who rushed to her side, offering comfort in her pain and shock. Dench and Williams spent thirty years together before his death from cancer in 2001.
A year after she tied the knot with Williams, Dench welcomed her only child, Tara Cressida Williams, better known by her stage name Finty Williams, who was born on September 24, 1972.
Finty has gone on to have a successful acting career on screen and in the theater. She is mostly considered as her mother’s mini-me, both in terms of their facial resemblance and career feats.
Finty is most known for her vast voice work, having acted in the hit children’s show “Angelina Ballerina “and read audiobooks for Sophie Kinsella and Terry Mancour, among others.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.