Dame Judi Dench has said she believes her appearance in the James Bond films have acted as a lure to draw a younger generation to the theatre.
The 78-year-old actress played the head of MI5 and James Bond's boss in seven films, starting in 1995 with Golden Eye opposite Pierce Brosnan, and bowed out of the franchise last year when M was killed off in Skyfall with Daniel Craig as 007.
"The reaction to Bond comes from lovely young chaps of about 11 and they have no idea what else I've done, and nor should they be bothered," she said.
"But they like to have met somebody who is in Bond and that's wonderful because I think, 'Well, there's an audience who would maybe go into a theatre'.
"It's to bait people for the theatre really. I never want people to not go to the theatre. I want it always to last."
The Oscar and Bafta winning actress said the stage was where her heart lies.
"The thing I like best is the theatre," she insisted.
"We used to go to Stratford in rep and you could play Lady Macbeth in the afternoon, Beatrice in Much Ado at night and the next day you could play Adriana in The Comedy of Errors.
"Now, that for me is the most exciting way of working. You could play four parts in a week, four different parts, four different Shakespeare plays. That's my idea of heaven."
Dench will next appear on the big screen in Philomena, the true story of Philomena Lee, an Irishwoman who set out to track down the child she was forced to give up for adoption as a teenager.
She said: "I like to be busy; I love the work. I'm in the two per cent of the population doing the job they want to. I think that's incredibly lucky."
Despite over 50 years in the business, Dench confessed: "I'm far more nervous now than I was.
"But that's something you just have to deal with. It's something you don't broadcast too much because nerves create adrenalin. You can use all that - it's petrol - but it's not your business to let other people sense it. All that fear or fright is really your own business."
:: Read the full interview in the November issue of Reader's Digest, out Tuesday October 15 2013.