Judi Dench opened up about her degenerative eye condition on an episode of The Graham Norton Show that aired on Friday.
“It has become impossible and because I have a photographic memory, I need to find a machine that not only teaches me my lines but also tells me where they appear on the page,” she admitted on the show. “I used to find it very easy to learn lines and remember them. I could do the whole of Twelfth Night right now.”
This isn’t the first time the Shakespeare in Love actress has talked about her condition.
Dench first revealed her condition in 2012, telling ET at the time, “In response to the numerous articles in the media concerning my eye condition – macular degeneration – I do not wish for this to be overblown.
“This condition is something that thousands and thousands of people all over the world are having to contend with…and it’s something I have learnt to cope with and adapt to – and it will not lead to blindness.”
According to John Hopkins Medicine, “Age-related macular degeneration [AMD] is the most common cause of severe loss of eyesight among people 50 and older. Only the center of vision is affected with this disease. It is important to realize that people rarely go blind from it.
“AMD affects the central vision, and with it, the ability to see fine details. In AMD, a part of the retina called the macula is damaged. In advanced stages, people lose their ability to drive, to see faces, and to read smaller print.”
Dench talked about living with AMD at an online event in 2021 held for the London sight loss charity, the Vision Foundation.
“You find a way of just getting about and getting over the things that you find very difficult,”she said, detailing ways she copes with living with AMD. “I’ve had to find another way of learning lines and things, which is having great friends of mine repeat them to me over and over and over again. So I have to learn through repetition, and I just hope that people won’t notice too much if all the lines are completely hopeless!”
The 88-year-old Goldeneye actress also talked about AMD while on BBC’s Louis Theroux Interviews last October.
“I don’t want to retire,” she responded to Theroux’s question of if she had any plans to retire due to her condition. “I’m not doing anything much at the moment because I can’t see.”
She continued, pointing out that even Theroux, who was sitting in front of her, appeared “a tad fuzzy”.
“I’ve got to teach myself a new way of learning,” she said, referencing her photographic memory as a tool she previously used to memorize lines. “I’ve realized 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’s latest project, the film Allelujah, hits theaters this March.