Judi Dench can no longer read.
She is suffering from macular degeneration, a type of dystrophy in which eyesight simply deteriorates. It afflicts the elderly in higher numbers, but there are young people with the disease as well.
I admit I nearly titled this post “Judi Dench Is Going Blind,” but it just isn’t true: macular degeneration, I’ve discovered, seldom results in total blindness: instead, it turns faces into blurs and makes reading impossible. Great, right?
Dench’s condition is “advanced,” which is to say she has already lost the ability to read scripts. The Mirror:
In a deeply moving interview, Dame Judi said her sight is already so bad she cannot see faces in front of her and friends have to read scripts to her so she can learn her lines.
But she said she is determined not to let the condition beat her and hopes recent treatment has stopped the progressive decline.
She confessed: “I can’t read scripts any more because of the trouble with my eyes.
“And so somebody comes in and reads them to me, like telling me a story.
“It’s usually my daughter or my agent or a friend and actually I like that, because I sit there and imagine the story in my mind.
“I’ve got what my ma had, macular degeneration, which you get when you get old.
“I had wet in one eye and dry in the other and they had to do these injections and I think it’s arrested it. I hope so.”
Meeting the Mirror in a trendy London hotel, Dame Judi said: “I can’t see your face at all now, but I can see your outline.
“I can see over there [she indicates the far side of the room, some 15ft away].
“The most distressing thing is in a restaurant in the evening I can’t see the person I’m having dinner with.
“Actually, what I miss are people corpsing on stage.
“I know there might be something going on but sometimes I can’t see it and that infuriates me as I think I’m really missing out on something.”
Dame Judi has vowed not to be beaten by it.
She said: “You get used to it. I’ve got lenses and glasses and things and very bright light helps.
“I can do a crossword if it’s bright sunshine but if a cloud comes out the next minute I can’t see anything.”
She plans to buy a digital book reader so she can make the words bigger.
OK. This is no death sentence, I know. There are plenty other actors who function just fine despite invisible handicaps. Take James Spader, for instance: the guy reportedly looks so boggle-eyed all the time because he refuses to wear eyeglasses. He can’t see anyone! Ever!
Still. I think there is nothing more terrifying than feeling yourself slowly lose your sight, or your wits, and anyway I love Judi Dench so, so much.
Dench is probably best known, from the mid-90s onward, as “M” in the James Bond movies, but she has been a star (thank you) since the 1960s.