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'Playing Philomena was a poignant step in my life's journey', says Judi Dench


Judi Dench

Judi Dench

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in PHILOMENA

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in PHILOMENA


Judi Dench

oscar-winning actress Judi Dench has reflected on the profound impact playing Philomena Lee has had on her life.

Dench played Lee in the 2013 film Philomena which told the story of Lee's search for her son, Michael Hess.

Hess was sold for adoption in the 1950s Ireland and was later denied access to his biological mother by the nuns of Sean Ross Abbey.

"Philomena will always be somewhat special," Dench said.

"All your work means something. It's part of your path, but Philomena was a very significant, poignant step on that journey that I will never forget."

Dench met with Lee (inset left) several times before filming on the movie began.

"It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting down with Philomena for the first time," she said. "Touched and saddened by her passion and life. It was such a deeply sacred story to tell and I never lost sight of that."

Dench described filming the movie as a "wonderfully moving journey" filled with "such joy, such sorrow".

The highly-regarded actress has Irish roots and enjoyed meeting up with her many relatives while shooting.

"My mother comes from Dublin and all my relations are there and in Ballinasloe and around the West," she told Woman's Way.

"While we were filming in Northern Ireland, I discovered all these relatives I never knew about.

"And it was the first time I've ever properly attempted an Irish accent and even that lent itself to the personal nature of the film."

Dench's next movie, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, is much lighter in tone.

The comedy is a sequel to the popular 2012 film that starred Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie and Penelope Wilton.


Dench said that reuniting with the gang had been "nothing short of a treat".

"You don't have to worry about making a fool of yourself or anything like that because they've all seen you making a fool of yourself for years," she said.

"We're all such good friends. Sometimes acting can feel like taking your clothes off. You have to make a fool of yourself to get anywhere, but you don't have this need when you're around this bunch."