“I do not consider this an autobiography. I have neither the time nor the skill to write one, and John Miller has covered much of my life in his 1998 biography, the seventieth birthday book from my friends which he edited, and the illustrated ‘Scenes from my Life’ we assembled together.”
Dench tells us that she was eventually convinced to add her own thoughts to the earlier books, filling out many of the anecdotes in the Miller bio — hence the title.
In other words, Dame Judi sets us up not to expect a big and juicy personal memoir, like the one Christopher Plummer did a few years back, or something emotionally charged by a very public “private” life, in the vein of the memoirs Jane Fonda and Mia Farrow have written.
Dench’s book is highly entertaining, however, because she leads us through one of the great stage and screen careers of the modern era — starting with her early triumph (in her 20s) in a Franco Zeffirelli production of “Romeo and Juliet” and then going on to include many of the major classical roles at the Royal Shakespeare Comapny and the National Theatre.
The high quality of Dench’s stage work made her a star in England, but she didn’t gain an international reputation until she was in her early 60s and broke through in movies with her Oscar-nominated performance in “Mrs. Brown” in 1996. Two years later, she won an Oscar for a brief but memorable appearance in “Shakespeare in Love.”
The actress shares with us an early encounter with a man who gave her a screen test and then told her, “Well Miss Dench, I have to tell you that you have every single thing wrong with your face.”
Dench happily became one of the reigning stage stars of England, but when the opportunity finally arrived to make films — and, no doubt, more money than she had ever dreamed of earning — the actress made up for lost time by appearing in 20 films in 15 years.
The stage was and is Dench’s first love, however, and most of the book is devoted to accounts of acclaimed British productions in which the star appeared with everyone from John Gielgud to Peggy Ashcroft to Maggie Smith. A chapter is devoted to the first London production of “Cabaret” in which Harold Prince cast Dench as Sally Bowles despite a less than stellar singing voice. Prince assured her that Bowles was not supposed to be a great singer — after all, she was just one of many acts in a sleazy Berlin nightclub — and Dench came through with an outstanding performance.
“And Furthermore” contains little gossip and no malice toward co-workers — the closest Dench comes to vitriol is some mild criticism of one of the directors of a James Bond film in which she played 007’s boss “M.” She had nothing personal against the guy, but was annoyed by the constant script changes.
Dench comes across as a witty, no-nonsense team player. Fans will love the book despite the absence of show biz dirt.