Judi Dench: "I Have Always Had a Terrible Fear" of Schoolchildren

Photos by Colston Julian

She can handle James Bond and international terrorists, but Dame Judi is "absolutely petrified" of groups of pupils

The fictional character M from the James Bond series may seem fearless, but Judi Dench has revealed that even seemingly innocuous schoolchildren scare her senseless, Radio Times magazine reported on Monday.  

Speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, Dench, 79, let slip the details of her rather curious phobia: “I have always had a terrible fear of a lot of schoolchildren together...I don’t know why, but I just have,” she said, adding that matters came to a head on the set of Notes on a Scandal, a school-set movie where she "played a complete monster with Cate Blanchett."  

Dench, who was nominated for a best actress Oscar for Notes, explained how when confronted with her greatest fear she had to suck it up on the first day of shooting. "On my very first day playing this rather difficult part, I was confronted by a whole school of children. I was absolutely petrified,” she said.

Read more Judi Dench on Beating Failing Eyesight, Bad Knees and Retirement

After getting to know some of the children, though, Dench was able "to some extent" get over her fear. “We used several of them in the film. They all turned out to be absolutely wonderful completely committed and enthusiastic and interesting to talk to and interested in what we were doing," she said. 

Dench also spoke about her failing eyesight — or rather the unexpected benefits of suffering from macular degeneration. “A more frightening experience I have yet to have," the Philomena actress said regarding her appearance at the BBC Proms in 2010, adding: "Fortunately now I can’t see very clear. I used to be able to see every member of the audience and exactly what they were doing. I can’t do that anymore, which in a way is a wonderful blessing. I didn’t realize it was a blessing until I went on that night at the Proms. There was like a sea of corn in front of me and I looked up and thought, ‘There’s nobody upstairs.’ "

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