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Judi Dench says she ‘can’t see’ as she discusses living with eyesight condition AMD

Actor told presenter Louis Theroux he looked ‘fuzzy’ to her

Isobel Lewis
Wednesday 26 October 2022 11:18 BST
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Dame Judi Dench appears on The Repair Shop for Comic Relief

Judi Dench has said that she “can’t see” as opened up about living with a degenerative eyesight condition.

The esteemed actor features on a forthcoming episode of Louis Theroux Interviews…, during which she speaks to the presenter about her life and career.

In it, she spoke about living with AMD (age-related macular degeneration), a common condition that usually first occurs in people’s 50s and 60s and affects vision.

According to the NHS website, AMD doesn’t cause total blindness, but can make reading and recognising faces difficult.

Asked about any plans to retire, Dench said: “I don’t want to retire. I’m not doing anything much at the moment because I can’t see.”

“Well, we should talk about that probably,” Theroux replied, with Dench explaining: “Macular degeneration. Same as my mother.”

Asked how bad the condition was, the 87-year-old replied: “Bad. Bad enough. Bad enough in that you’re quite fuzzy. You’re just a tad fuzzy.”

“You know I’m here though,” Theroux asked. “I do,” Dench responded.

She then recalled recently attending a dinner at an event that was “so dark”, she had to ask a friend to cut up her food for her and pass it to her on a fork.

Dench explained that while she could be on stage, so long as there weren’t “things to fall over”, her photographic memory meant she struggled to remember lines without reading them first.

“I’ve got to teach myself a new way of learning,” she said. “I’ve realised that I need to know where it is on the page. I’ll teach myself a way. I know I will, as long as I don’t trip over doing it.”

Dench and Theroux (BBC/Mindhouse)

In 2019, Dench said that she had had to give up driving because of her eyesight, which she said was “one of the most traumatic moments” of her life.

“It was absolutely appalling,” she said. “But I just know I’ll kill somebody if I get behind the wheel of a car now.”

Dench said that while she could no longer read newspapers, books, or do the crossword, she had learnt to “cope”.

“I can see enough,” she explained. “You adapt to it. So I ignore it altogether.”

Elsewhere in her interview with Theroux, Dench showed the journalist around the private forest at her home in Surrey, in which she has planted trees dedicated to recently deceased performers.

Alan Rickman, Helen McCrory and Stephen Sondheim all have “memorial trees” named after them.

Louis Theroux Interviews… continues Tuesday 1 November at 9.15pm on BBC Two.

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