Dame Judi Dench recalls being asked to play Ophelia

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Set in the late 1960s, Belfast is a semi-autobiographical film that chronicles the life of a protestant working-class family and their young son’s childhood during the tumult in the Northern Ireland capital. Judi Dench plays the grandmother of a young boy called Buddy (played by lead actor Jude Hill), which the film follows and the wholesome relationships that surround him. The Oscar-winning Dame joined This Morning hosts Phillip Schofield and Rochelle Hulmes to talk about her latest film, directed by the hugely successful Kenneth Branagh. Creating a sense of nostalgia for the actor, Judi recalled her earliest memories of an uncle who helped her master the Northern Irish dialect.

On getting the Belfast accent, Judi laughed: “It’s a nightmare! 

“I had an uncle who lived in Belfast who was much younger than me and he came over and stayed with us in York and he used to say this little rhyme and I used to make him repeat this little rhyme… and I used to say that every day before filming!”

The ITV hosts burst into fits of laughter before Rochelle praised her accent for being “so good”.

“But I used to get pulled up on it all the time like a naughty girl in class [with them saying] ‘No, that’s not right.’”

While discussing the Dame’s performance as Granny, Phillip gushed: “You [Judi], as always, are quite brilliant.”

Belfast, which is currently screening in cinemas across the UK has already been tipped for the Oscars and other major film awards.

Besides Judi, the star-studded cast includes Jamie Dornan (as Pa), Caitriona Balfe (Ma), Ciarán Hinds (Pop) and Colin Morgan (Billy Clanton).

Loosely based on the twinkly-eyed childhood of director Sir Branagh, Belfast largely plays out in black and white and features nine songs from East Belfast singer Van Morrison- who has also been shortlisted for Best Original Song at the Oscars.

As per the synopsis: “At the centre of the film is Buddy, a young boy on the cusp of adolescence, whose life is filled with familial love, childhood hijinks, and a blossoming romance. 

“Yet, with his beloved hometown caught up in increasing turmoil, his family faces a momentous choice: hope the conflict will pass or leave everything they know behind for a new life.”

During her interview on This Morning, Judi explained: “For Kenny, it was very emotional and certainly for me too…there was no question in my mind that I wanted to play his grandmother.”

The James Bond actor joked: “I initially said, ‘I’m much too young to play your grandmother,’ but of course, it turned out that I wasn’t at all.”

To some audiences, the 61-year-old filmmaker is perhaps better known for directing Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, Henry V – for which he won a BAFTA – and the film adaptation of Hamlet.

During COVID-19, the popular movie mogul had discovered he could access his earliest childhood memories at height of the Troubles with ease, triggering Kenneth to put pen to paper.

In an interview with Variety, Kenneth spoke candidly about his upbringing: “A rupture happened for me in the summer of 1969.

“There was a moment in life where things were settled and happy, and then immediately and instantly they were unhappy and unsettled.”

“The atmosphere of the streets themselves was a very electric one,” he remarked.

Belfast is currently screening in cinemas across the UK.

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