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24 September 2014
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08.03.02

TV ENTERTAINMENT


Dame Judi Dench joins tap dancing Kevin Spacey before taking "extended breaks" from movie-making to talk to Parkinson, Saturday 9 March at 9.00pm on BBC ONE

Judi Dench talks to Michael Parkinson

In her first major television interview since winning a BAFTA and receiving an Oscar® nomination for her performance in Iris, Dame Judi Dench joins Michael Parkinson to talk about life with late husband Michael Williams, her growing friendship with Kevin Spacey and being labelled a "national treasure".


Michael talks to Judi about her marriage, and especially on those reports that described her relationship with Michael as "volatile".


Judi says: "I read this recently in The New Yorker. It was a volatile marriage in, I expect yours is, or any marriage is. People kept saying, ‘oh you’re an absolute perfect couple’ and we were - I was so lucky to meet somebody like that. And I knew him for nine years before we got married so I knew him for 39, nearly 40 years. Lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place."


She continues: "When people asked us if we ever had rows, we would say, ‘do we ever have rows?! You’re joking!’ Hot cup of tea once! Of course [we rowed] but he would have been my best friend if I hadn’t married him. And I feel incredibly lucky that we met and worked together, and had our rows."


Judi describes a "wonderful row" when the two were working in theatre together. She says: "We were at the Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue [and we were rowing about] the boiler going off. We were sitting in the car. He was looking out one way and me the other. We stopped in the traffic and a woman passing caught sight of us and sang ‘A fine romance, with no…’ and it did make us laugh. He was the best."


Michael then asks if it’s true that the actress never reads her scripts before choosing a role? Judi answers: "No I don’t. I used to know [if the scripts were right] because Michael would tell me. He always knew. He would read the script and would say, ‘why don’t you read this line?’ And he would be right, he’d always be right."


Michael asks her why she uses this technique and she replies: "I read recently that [Director] Richard Eyre said it’s to do with free-falling and that’s exactly what it is. I didn’t realise - it’s real fright. It’s being pushed out of the plane… I like to feel real fear. The more you [prepare for a script/role], the more is expected of you and the more frightened you get. And the fear, like any emotion you feel, is what generates you."


When Michael asks Judi whether she deliberately threw herself into work following her husband’s death, she says: "I didn’t deliberately… but because of the supposed strike at the end of June, those three films had to be made and I took an enormously deep breath. My agent asked was I sure about it - with only one or two days between each thing, and crossing the Atlantic? And I said, ‘yes, absolutely.’" She continues: "But now I’m going to have a bit of a rest and come face to face with it all. I think I must do it, and it’s time for me to do it now. And good friends [got me through it] including making friends with the person who is going to sit next to me now [Kevin Spacey], who got me through the tricky weeks."


Finally, Judi laughs when Michael asks her what it feels like to be a national treasure? She says: "I don’t like that! I think Alan Bennett’s a national treasure too. I think you’re probably one as well - I think it’s a Yorkshire thing!"


On being a Dame, she continues: "In America nobody knows what a Dame is. So you are constantly saying that it is kind of an equivalent of a Knight. And then everybody says that a Dame is quite different here, and it’s very nice to be an American kind of Dame. But I also get called Dame Dench quite a lot. Nobody quite knows what it is."


Oscar® winning actor Kevin Spacey joins in the chat with Michael and Judi. Michael asks Kevin to talk about his and Judi’s "blooming relationship" and asks especially about their competitive games of Ping-Pong. Kevin says: "Well [she] cheats at Ping-Pong. Let me tell you what she does. She tries this little act. If you make a great move, and I would occasionally make a great move, she would go [puts his hands on his side], ‘well if you’re going to play like that then I don’t want to play with you’. And you go, ‘but that’s a good move’ and she’d go, ‘well I know what it is, but I just simply don’t want to play like that.’" He continues: "She tries to psyche you out and then she does some great move and goes ‘aha.’"


Michael then asks about the "ongoing saga of the black glove". Judi and Kevin laugh, and the actress explains: "Tim Pigott-Smith did a scene from Jewel In The Crown playing a character who has a wooden hand and he had a glove on. When we were doing Antony & Cleopatra at The National… Tim Pigott-Smith was playing Octavius Caesar. I happened to say… ‘there’s something strangely attractive about that hand in a glove - something strangely uneasy that it makes me.’"


She laughs and continues: "Of course then, I cooked my goose because the next night, Octavius Caesar comes down and I get suddenly riveted by the fact that [he has] this leather glove on. Then this leather glove starts to appear everywhere, in the basket of snakes, everywhere. Then it goes back to him and it arrives in his loo one night, in his bed, on stage all across the world. Then of course we’re all in New York - Kevin, Tim Pigott-Smith on one side of the street on Broadway, and me on the other. And I get the glove to him when the President goes to see Kevin and Tim’s play."


Kevin continues the story: "President Clinton came and it appeared that night in our show and then it went back to [Judi’s show]. So when I discovered that I was going to get to do The Shipping News with Judi, I immediately telephoned Tim Pigott Smith and I said ‘send me the black glove’." [Audience laughs]


He continues: "So the glove arrives in Newfoundland. I very carefully studied the script because I don’t believe it ever had appeared on a film set before and I wanted to pick the moment when the black glove would appear on the film set. So Judi has a scene where she goes to an outdoor loo and it’s just a pretend loo, a set. It was an out house essentially. She thought I wasn’t working that day but in fact I was. I had dug a hole underneath the loo and she does a scene where she pretends to take her pants down, and she sat on the hole and I had the black glove on a stick and I began to just gently pop it…. Then I started to really bang it, and she got up and looks in the hole, and I hear ‘oh no! Not the dreaded black glove!’"


Kevin laughs: "Of course the great thing for me is, the revenge doesn’t come down on me, it’s Tim Piggott Smith. Somehow, somewhere she’s going to top what happened."


Michael talks to Kevin starting his career as a ‘stand-up comic.’ After doing a brilliant Bill Clinton impression to Michael’s other guest Rory Bremner [I’m glad to see my friend Tony Blair is here tonight!], Kevin explains: "I started out doing an impressions - I just had an ear for it but I did it in some unusual places in Los Angeles where I grew up, like bowling alleys at midnight talent contests. You know what this is like, when you’re doing you’re best material and all you can hear is the sound of bowling pins being knocked over. It’s not going exactly as you hoped but I found it great fun. And it really wasn’t until I hosted Saturday Night Live that I had a chance to really do impressions in a public way… Each time I work with someone, I love to be able to get them down. Just one kind of thing that they do [looks at Judi and says in British accent impersonating her] ‘Oh please! Stop it!’"


When Michael asks Kevin about one of his "great mentors", Al Pacino, Kevin says: "I did a film with him which was almost like a documentary about Shakespeare called Looking For Richard. We did that because we did Glengarry Glen Ross. He’d come to see me in a Neil Simon play and he recommended me to the director James Foley, and said [in Al Pacino accent], ‘Oh, I think he’d be good. Let’s have him. Can I get a cappuccino!’" [The audience and Michael laugh]


Michael then asks where Kevin’s love for song and dance came from? Kevin replies: "It was partly because of my parents. When I grew up we had music in the house all the time. In fact my father had this extraordinary collection of 78 records so I grew up listening to Peggy Lee, Perry Como, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra which I now have since my father passed. When I started out in theatre in high school, I did a lot of musicals - The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Oklahoma, Dames At Sea, Damn Yankees, a lot of musicals."


Michael asks if Kevin would ‘do a little ‘hoof’ [tap dance] for us’, the actor replies: "Well only if you ‘hoof’ with me." Reluctantly, Michael joins Kevin who begins to ‘shuffle’ and instructs the talk-show host to do the same, saying "Use your toe’" but Michael tries with not much success and says: "Can I make a deal with you? Can I watch you?"


Kevin’s professional tap dance gains a huge applause from the audience and he comments: "It’s not that complicated really."


Finally, Michael asks what the actor’s future plans are. Kevin says: "I’m pretty much doing what Judi’s doing. I’m taking an extended break from performing. I have a company in America and we’re producing a great number of films and we have a documentary that was just at the Berlin Film Festival. And that’s really what I’m going to focus my energy and time on in the next year."


Impressionist Rory Bremner is Michael’s other guest in the studio and there is music from The Lighthouse Family.



The next Parkinson will be transmitted on Saturday 23 March with award-winning singer Celine Dion, in her only British interview, Nigel Havers and Ian Hislop.


The Executive Producer of Parkinson is Bea Ballard.



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