Judi Dench Says 'It's Become Impossible' to Act amid Eyesight Loss: 'I Have a Photographic Memory'

In an appearance on The Graham Norton Show, the actress revealed how she's coping with her deteriorating eye condition

Judi Dench is opening up about her degenerative eye condition.

In an appearance on The Graham Norton Show that aired Friday, the 88-year-old Iris actress said her worsening vision is making it increasingly difficult to remember her lines.

"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," the Oscar winner said. "I used to find it very easy to learn lines and remember them. I could do the whole of Twelfth Night right now."

But the beloved actress, who has been battling macular degeneration for more than a decade, isn't letting the diagnosis slow her down.

In December, she regaled New Year's Eve revelers alongside singer Sharleen Spiteri with an impromptu rendition of ABBA's "Waterloo" at a hotel in Scotland. Currently, she's promoting her new movie Allelujah, which is based on a 2018 Alan Bennett play that is set in a geriatric ward.

Judi Dench in 2018. ANDER GILLENEA/AFP/Getty

Dench previously spoke out about her eye condition — caused by age-related macular degeneration — in a 2021 conversation benefiting the Vision Foundation, a sight loss charity based in London.

During the talk, reported on by The Guardian, Dench revealed how she's memorized scripts ever since she stopped being able to read.

"You find a way of just getting about and getting over the things that you find very difficult," Dench said. "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!"

And until there are machines that tell the Shakespeare in Love actress where her lines are on a given page, she said she will rely on the kindness of her fellow actors.

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"I was doing The Winter's Tale with Kenneth Branagh a couple of years ago, playing Paulina, and after we had been running for three weeks or so at the Garrick he said to me — I have a long speech at the end — he said: 'Judi, if you were to say that speech about eight feet to your right, you'd be saying it to me and not to the pros.' "

She added at the time: "I rely on people to tell me!"

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