At the Toronto International Film Festival Judi Dench opened up about playing Queen Victoria in the upcoming movie Victoria & Abdul and on getting her first and only tattoo at 81 — or at least the only tattoo she’ll confirm that she has.
“The whole business of getting ready and into that huge suit and then to the corsets and then to the dress and then having got your wig on and everything else, it conditions entirely the way you walk, the way you sit,” Dench, 82, told Entertainment Weekly about getting into character. “All you have to do then is just, you know, remember your lines and get on with it.”
Victoria & Abdul is a movie about Queen Victoria’s real-life friendship with her younger Indian servant. It’s also the second time Dench has played the monarch — the first was in 1997’s Mrs. Brown.
Speaking about her costar Ali Fazal — who plays Abdul — Dench said, “the moment I met Ali we really got on well. Without any effort whatsoever.”
“You know, then you think, ‘Well, that’s a big shortcut.’ ‘Cause, you know, we don’t have to act at all,” she added.
But not everything about the filming process was as easy as getting along with her costar.
Dench described one scene where she had to eat 11 eggs at once.
“[It was] quite difficult eating 11 eggs in one go,” Dench said, adding that she didn’t know the exact number until after the scene was finished shooting.
Dench also discussed the tattoo she got on her 81st birthday in 2016 and how she’s had to compensate for that while filming.
“Only since I’ve had it done have I done things where I’ve had long sleeves. But I know Dan Day Lewis has got tattoos all up both arms. Well, they’ve had to deal with that. So I guess this small one can be dealt with,” she said.
“I know people that say it’s a very infectious thing to do,” she added. “Once you have one tattoo you want a lot more. Well, it’s always said I have ‘Harvey Weinstein’ tattooed on my bum, but that’s just a secret between Harvey and me.”
RELATED VIDEO: What Happened on Judi Dench’s Worst Audition Ever?
According to Surrey Life magazine her new tattoo was a gift from her daughter Tara “Finty” Williams, is situated over her right wrist and bears the phrase “carpe diem” in bold font. “That’s my motto: Seize the day,” she told the magazine. “Finty gave it to me for my 81st birthday — she’s wonderful with surprises.”
While she seems pleased with the new addition, she says that at the time she got the tattoo, her costars in A Winter’s Tale would tease her that it actually said: “fish of the day.”
In 2015 Dench shared that she was toying with the idea of getting a tattoo, but got cold feet. “I am tempted to have a tattoo to mark my birthday. Finty’s very keen on me having one,” reported Good Housekeeping. And she even had a design in mind — an Indian symbol which she said “supposedly represents life and love and everything.”
Victoria & Abdul was released in the US on Sept. 22.