A national treasure here, but Judi Dench is judged too old for American chat shows

In Britain she is treated with the reverence accorded a national treasure. In America, it seems, Judi Dench is simply too old. The first lady of British film and theatre was snubbed by three of the leading network talk shows because she is regarded as over the hill, the film producer, Harvey Weinstein, said.

Dame Judi, 71, is doing the sofa circuit of American studios to promote her new film, Mrs Henderson Presents. But although her performance as the well-heeled purveyor of wartime titillation may have earned her an Oscar nomination as best actress, she is "out of step" with the prime-time TV demographic.

Mr Weinstein told New York magazine that Dame Judi was turned down for interviews by NBC's Today show and ABC's Good Morning America and The View. "They said she didn't fit their demographics. I told that to my mother, who was pretty offended," the Miramax chief executive said. "What do they think, 25-year-old people can't watch 70-year-old people? The insanity of youth. It also assumes none of us like our families."

Miramax Films is distributing Mrs Henderson, set in the Windmill theatre in London's Soho in the 1930s and 1940s. But while this may have won her approval at the highest level of the US entertainment business, the television talk shows - which can make or break a release - found themselves forced to deliver a flurry of embarrassing defensive statements after Mr Weinstein's remarks.

Bill Geddie, the executive producer of The View said Dame Judi had appeared several times on the show, including one to publicise her 1998 performance in Shakespeare in Love. But he added: "I was never pitched Dame Judi Dench to appear on The View in support of Mrs Henderson Presents, and we would welcome her back to the show any time we have an opening."

Bridgette Maney, a spokes-woman for Good Morning America, also released a statement. "Good Morning America welcomes a wide array of guests to the programme each and every day. Judi Dench is a screen legend who has been a guest on GMA in the past. Unfortunately, this time around, the show was unable to accommodate an appearance. We would warmly welcome her back again."

Lauren Kapp, a spokeswoman for the Today show, said: "We've been honoured to have Dame Judi Dench as a guest countless times over the years. In this case we weren't able to offer coverage of her new movie. We look forward to seeing her again on Today soon."

Dame Judi is in the race to win this year's Oscar for leading actress. But she is facing a challenge from Keira Knightley, half a century her junior, for her role as the feisty Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

Since Mr Weinstein, a staunch Democrat, co-founded Miramax Films, he has been behind some of the most celebrated and innovative films of recent years. He has been the executive producer of Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11, Kill Bill and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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