Judi Dench has opened up about her worsening vision loss, and how it’s impacted her career.
Last year, the Oscar-winner revealed she was diagnosed with advanced macular degeneration (AMD) in 2012, but at the time shrugged off the possibility of retirement despite grappling with vision loss.
But now, the 88-year-old Belfast star has revealed she’s increasingly struggling to read scripts and learn her lines, something she says used to be a breeze.
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“It has become impossible,” Dench said on The Graham Norton Show this week of being able to read scripts.
“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.”
The aforementioned eidetic memory is what Dench says she’d rely on when memorising scripts, however, without being able to physically see them, it’s since become an extremely challenging process.
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“I used to find it very easy to learn lines and remember them,” Dench said. “I could do the whole of Twelfth Night right now.”
According to the Macular Disease Foundation Australia, age-related macular degeneration, commonly shortened to AMD, is a chronic and painless disease of the macula, an area at the very centre of the retina, at the back of the eye.
The illness causes “progressive loss of central vision” but leaves one’s peripheral vision intact.
“This loss of central vision affects the ability to read, watch TV, and recognise faces. But, by itself, AMD doesn’t lead to total vision loss,” the foundation explains.
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In 2022, Dench explained that her AMD was in its advanced stages, leaving her unable to read or write.
”I’ve got to teach myself a new way of learning. I have a photographic memory so a person saying to me, ‘This is your line’… I can do that. And I have many people who can help me,” she told Louis Thereoux in an episode of his BBC 2 show.
At the time, however, Dench remained resolute in continuing to act and memorise scripts.
She said: ”I’ll teach myself a way, I know I will. So long as I don’t trip over doing it.”
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