Judi Dench Says It's 'Impossible' for Her to Act Because of Eyesight Loss

A heartbreaking update. Judi Dench revealed that her eyesight is making it difficult for her to memorize scripts for new roles.

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“It has become impossible,” the Oscar winner, 88, explained during a Friday, February 17, appearance on The Graham Norton Show. “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.”

The Cats actress went on to say that she previously had no problems learning entire scripts quickly. “I used to find it very easy to learn lines and remember them,” the U.K. native recalled. “I could do the whole of Twelfth Night right now.”

The Tony Award winner hasn’t slowed down just yet, however. She’s currently promoting her film Allelujah, which is based on Alan Bennett‘s play of the same name. In 2021, she appeared in Kenneth Branagh‘s Oscar-winning movie Belfast, earning an Academy Award nomination for her performance as Granny.

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Dench revealed in 2012 that she was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration. “I do not wish for this to be overblown,” she told Reuters in a statement at the time. “This condition is something that thousands and thousands of people all over the world are having to contend with. It’s something that I have learnt to cope with and adapt to — and it will not lead to blindness.”

Nearly 10 years later, she opened up about how she’d adapted to her condition, learning to memorize her lines via repetition.

“You find a way of just getting about and getting over the things that you find very difficult,” she explained during a February 2021 charity event for London’s Vision Foundation. “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!”

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Despite the difficulty, the Shakespeare in Love actress quipped that her condition occasionally leads to some funny moments. “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 … 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,’” Dench recalled. “I rely on people to tell me!”

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