Judi Dench is not about to put the brakes on a remarkable career that has already spanned nearly six decades.
But the 80-year-old wouldn’t mind shaving off a few of those years.
In an interview in PEOPLE’s new issue, she shares some candid thoughts about her time in life.
“There’s nothing good about being my age,” she says with a smile. “Someone said to me, ‘You have such a wealth of knowledge,’ and I just said ‘I’d rather be young and know nothing, actually.’ Bugger the wealth of knowledge.”
Dench’s latest movie, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, puts her back on screen with an ensemble including her friend and fellow dame, Maggie Smith, and other longtime pals Bill Nighy and Celia Imrie. Joining them for the sequel to the successful first movie is Richard Gere.
The movie is very much a celebration of age. And the Oscar winner doesn’t want to hear about retiring either.
“I don t think about slowing down,” says Dench, whose husband, actor Michael Williams, passed away in 2001. “So celebrate the things that you can do and also try and do new things. I believe in that tremendously. But in our job, that’s what we have to do all the time.”
Dench, whose partner David Mills joined her at the London premiere of the film, has played queens Victoria and Elizabeth I (for which she won her Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in 1999) in her varied career. And she met up with real royals Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cambridge, at the London premiere last month.
“I find [the royals] utterly charming, doing an unenviable job,” Dench says. “We can all think ‘I’ve got to work very hard for the next four days or whatever, and have a couple of days off,’ but theirs is day after day after day and forever being in the public eye.”
When she was made a dame by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988, she was directing young Kenneth Branagh in Much Ado About Nothing. And she had a surprise for costar Richard Clifford, who played Don Pedro and normally wore what she calls a “badge of office.”
“I said ‘That won’t do, I’ve got something better,’ ” she says, chuckling as she explains that she she pinned her dame medal on him. “So for one night, there it was with the others, a little badge. He wore it for that one night, in amongst others!”
For much more from Judi Dench, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday