At 88 Judi Dench Can’t See & Work Has Gotten ‘Impossible’ – Despite Long-Time Partner Caring for Her She Won’t Marry Him
Judi Dench found love again in her 70s. After nine years of widowhood and loneliness, she found her destiny with former farmer David Mills. In addition to their love, they stay connected through caring for each other, which the actress especially needs during her complex illness. And despite keeping their romance alive, she still won’t marry him.
“Shakespeare In Love” actress Judi Dench is an English actress recognized for her versatile work in film and TV programs encompassing various genres. She debuted her career in 1957 after appearing in Shakespeare’s plays as Lady Macbeth in “Macbeth,” Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet,” and Ophelia in “Hamlet.”
Over the next two decades, she established herself as one of the most significant British Theatre actresses and received critical acclaim for her starring roles in the 1981-1984 “A Fine Romance” and the 1992-2005 “As Time Goes By.”
Besides theatre, the actress also landed other high-profile roles, such as playing M in the “James Bond” films and Queen Victoria in “Victoria & Abdul.”
An eight-time Academy Award nominee, the “He Who Rides A Tiger” actress has achieved much in her career. Her success is, however, not limited to her job. She also had a wonderful life away from the silver screens, having been married to her husband, Michael Williams, for three decades until his demise in 2001.
Williams, a Liverpool native, was also in the entertainment industry and was a renowned actor who secured his first film role in 1962, aged 25, and later crossed over to TV and cinema. He went on to star in “Educating Rita,” “Elizabeth R,” “Henry V,” and many others. In 1971, William and Dench’s paths crossed during the production of the Jacobean revenge tragedy “The Duchess of Malfi,” a play by John Webster.
Theirs was a tale of true love that lasted three decades. However, getting Dench to marry him was not a walk in the park for Williams. Dench revealed she once turned down his marriage proposal because she wanted it to feel real.
She narrated how Williams had flown to Australia, where she was touring with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She and the group were in terrible shape because they had just lost one of their own, Charlie Thomas. And so, Williams’s visit was a welcome surprise. However, when Williams asked Dench to marry him, she answered:
“Will you please ask me on a rainy day in Battersea?”
Whether Williams was patient enough to wait for a rainy day in Battersea remains unclear. Still, he did get the girl, and the two tied the knot in 1971. The following year, they welcomed their only child, daughter Tara Cressida Williams, now known as Finty Williams.
Born in London, Finty took after her parents’ love for acting. She enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama and has paved a successful acting career path for herself over the years. Her acting credits include “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” “Delicious,” “The Secret Rapture,” “Cranford,” and “Nothing Like A Dame,” among others.
Besides sharing an incredible love story and a daughter, Dench, and Williams also worked together in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1999 film, “Tea With Mussolini.” Then two years later, on January 10, 2001, Williams was appointed as a Knight of St Gregory by Pope John Paul II for his work for the Catholic Church.
Unfortunately, Williams passed away the following day, on January 11, only three weeks before their 30th anniversary. He had battled lung cancer for years and had finally lost the battle.
Williams’ demise was tragic for Dench, and coping with his absence has been incredibly difficult. She, however, has beautiful memories of her late husband, once disclosing that their relationship came naturally and they did not have to work too hard on it.
She fondly spoke of her late husband on David Tennant’s podcast, “David Tennant Does a Podcast,” saying he was the most unselfish man she’d ever met, and she counts herself lucky to have known him. He also made her laugh, and she doubted she would ever truly get over him.
She sometimes walks in somewhere and sees his photo, which brings memories of her husband flooding back, making it even harder to forget him. She also opened up about the unexpected things that have happened since her husband’s demise, noting that she feels his presence in her home:
“Sometimes the door in this house just opens, and I think that he’s just wandered in.”
She feels that his presence is very much in their house, the garden, and everything in the home. She disclosed that she once found a tin on the floor inscribed with “I love you” right after she sensed his spirit in the home.
For years, Dench mourned her husband and hung onto the memories they made together for decades, but in 2010, nine years after her husband’s demise, love knocked on her door again. The “Run For Your Wife” actress and David Mills, a conservationist, met when he invited her to open a squirrel enclosure at the wildlife center he runs near her home in Surrey. There was an instant connection, which surprised the actress as she was not ready to find love again. She says their romance grew gradually and was very grownup.
When the pair first started dating, there was plenty of speculation concerning a possible romance between them. Still, Dench quickly came clean, saying that when someone has been widowed a long time, it felt nice to have someone else’s company:
“It doesn’t have to be a great passionate sexual affair, but it is nice to have someone who says, ‘I’ll find your keys for you,’ or ‘Let’s go to the theatre tonight.’ Very nice.”
The two have been together since, weathering every storm and remaining just as smitten with each other as they were when they first met. It has been 13 years of pure bliss for Dench and Mills, and their bond keeps growing.
Mills Helps Dench Even as Her Eyesight Problem Deteriorates
In 2012, two years after the lovebirds met and started dating, Dench began developing trouble with her eyesight, and she can no longer see. She disclosed that her condition, Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), is common and affects the middle part of one’s vision.
It does not cause total blindness. However, it does make doing everyday activities such as reading very difficult. Despite the actress’s optimism over the years, the condition only worsens by the minute. And it has affected her everyday life. She told Radio Times, as Hello Magazine reports:
“I can’t read the paper now. I can’t do the crossword. I can’t read a book.”
She also stopped driving in 2017, a moment she says was the most appalling and traumatic for her. However, she realizes that if she got behind the wheel, she would likely end up knocking someone over or even causing grave harm to herself.
And while she was unwilling to retire from acting, her condition has seen her step back from her career because she can not read the script. She confessed:
“I don’t want to retire. I’m not doing anything much at the moment because I can’t see.”
She revealed that she has great friends who read her lines repeatedly, and she has had to learn by repetition. Acting has become impossible, and she is trying hard to cope with the condition and devise new ways to get about life.
While she tries to adjust to her new way of life, keeping her independence is becoming incredibly difficult. In 2022, she had a bad health scare after tripping over the carpet and falling. No one else was in the house with her, and she lay on the floor for half an hour, unable to get up.
Despite the challenges, Dench has maintained her sense of humor and joked that she has a beautiful parrot who keeps asking what she’s doing. The parrot, she says, is very convenient and can easily call somebody, and yet, when she was lying on the floor, unable to get up, the parrot did nothing about it.
She reveals that her vision has deteriorated so much that she could easily walk past someone she knows and not recognize them. She once told DailyMail that she would approach people and start conversations only for the other person to say they were not who she thought they were. To curb that, she has to get very close to people to tell who they are. She said:
“That’s tricky. But you adapt to it.”
While she can get through most of her day, she worries about her daughter constantly. She revealed that her mother suffered from the same condition, and now she fears her daughter will also inherit the condition since its genetic. She ensures her daughter has regular eye checks to ensure her eyesight is alright.
It is undeniably challenging to live with her condition, and when asked when she thought she would lose her sight entirely, the “Casino Royale” actress said she did not want to say and ignored the thought that that was a possibility altogether.
Mills Cares for Dench despite Her Outright Refusal to Marry Him
It has been a rough period for the actress, but she is thankful for the people who strive to make everything easy for her. Her daughter, who lives a short distance from her, has been one of her most incredible supporters, and so has her partner Mills, who also lives only four miles away from her.
Even with Dench’s condition deteriorating by the day, Mills, a former farmer, has been incredibly supportive of her and even cuts up the food on her plate. The actress disclosed that she was once at a very important dinner, and it was so dark she could not tell whether there was food on her plate.
The “Chocolat” star turned to Mills and asked whether there was food on her plate and whether it needed to be cut up. When he answered in the affirmative, she asked him to cut it up for her. She narrated the ordeal:
“He cut it up and handed something to me on a fork, and that’s the way I ate it.”
The two share lots of love but, ironically, have never gotten around to living together. “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” actress and her beau prefer living apart and even spent the lockdown separately, each in their respective homes.
However, Mills also revealed that they were always either in one house or the other, and their houses were only four miles apart, so they never were very far from each other. They have also shut down any suggestions for them to marry, with Dench sounding horrified at the prospect of Mills proposing to her. She explained that they were too independent to stay together: “And he is very busy. He has a business to run. But he is so lovely, with a great sense of humor.”
She gushed over their relationship, noting that her relationship with Mills was fantastic and expressing how wonderful she felt that she had someone who made her laugh. “Isn’t it lovely,” she wondered.
Despite never walking down the aisle, Dench still considers Mills very romantic, and she revealed that she is not afraid of spicing things up with him. She confessed that they had a fantastic swim during one hot summer night in 2017, then had a glass of champagne. The actress then beamed over how excited such things made her.
She also admitted to visiting a lingerie shop in London’s Covent Garden occasionally, even though she never is keen on buying what they sold there. Even after 11 years together, the award-winning actress doubted that intimacy between two people who loved each other should disappear. She wondered if the desire ever disappeared before posing the challenge:
“Does it ever go?”
Her eyesight may be dimming, but the actress remains just as charming as she has been for decades, thanks to her daughter and Mills for being by her side.