It could be a scene from any one of her films, but Dame Judi Dench claims she saw the notorious Haymarket ghost while attending a close friend’s memorial.
The celebrated actress, whose life and work has been documented in new biography Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent, says she glimpsed the ghostly presence at a memorial service for the actor Michael Denison at London’s Haymarket Theatre – a venue that is reputedly haunted.
She told the Sunday Times: ‘It was in the afternoon! I saw somebody wearing top hat and tails running down the stairs and I thought, “What a funny get-up!”
‘It may not have been a ghost. But I like the thought of them. Why on earth shouldn’t it happen?”
Dench, 88, cut her teeth onstage before branching into television and ultimately film, where she won a broader – and indeed younger – range of fans through her long-serving role as M in the James Bond franchise.
Spooky: It could be a scene from any one of her films, but Dame Judi Dench claims she saw the notorious Haymarket ghost while attending a close friend’s memorial
Old times: Ian Richardson as Oberon and Dame Judi Dench as Titania during the filming of Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1968 – the actress has implored young people to embrace the works of Shakespeare
And it’s the younger generation she implores to embrace theatre – in particular Shakespeare, after being startled by one young fans who – upon watching their first play from the Great Bard – asked her: ‘Will it be in that funny language?’
She said: ‘It’s so terrible to be put off because you think that it’s foreign. That’s the last thing Shakespeare is.
‘But people are on phones and devices all the time and that doesn’t help someone asked to watch a play. People worry they are not going to understand, but if you want to know more about love or being jealous or resentful, it’s all in Shakespeare’s plays.
‘They are about the human condition. You don’t have to understand the language, but you have to understand the emotion.’
The actress recently admitted she pretends to be younger as a way of ‘not thinking of age’.
She said: ‘We’ve got to keep going and not think of age too much. You have to think you are about 56. Also I don’t make a point of keeping fit. I am very bad at that.’
Dench is celebrating more than 60 years in showbusiness as she is set to appear as a special guest on the new series of Portrait Artist of the Year on Sky Arts.
Dench will sit for over four hours while having her portrait painted by 10 previous winners.
Iconic: Younger fans will recognize Dench from her role as M in the James Bond franchise
Tribute: Dench is celebrating more than 60 years in showbusiness as she is set to appear as a special guest on the new series of Portrait Artist of the Year on Sky Arts
She told presenter Dame Joan Bakewell: ‘I am not frightfully good at sitting still and I am very inclined to drop off. After lunch is a tricky time for me.
The actress went on to recall a funny time where she fell asleep on stage: ‘I dropped off once in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We’d been there a long time.’
Dench also revealed that she can’t see on film sets anymore and isn’t able to read scripts. She revealed that her friends help her learn lines instead and she has a photographic memory.
‘I mean, I can’t see on a film set anymore. And I can’t see to read. So I can’t see much,’ she told The Mirror’s Notebook magazine. ‘But, you know, you just deal with it. Get on.
‘It’s difficult for me if I have any length of a part. I haven’t yet found a way. Because I have so many friends who will teach me the script. But I have a photographic memory.’