DAME Judi Dench has revealed she is no longer able to read film scripts after being diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition that can lead to blindness.
The actress said she has macular degeneration, a disease of the retina causing a progressive loss of eyesight, and can no longer see faces in front of her.
Speaking of her condition for the first time, the James Bond star explained that she now has to rely on her daughter and friends to read her scripts in order that she can learn her lines.
However, she spoke of her determination to cope with the condition and hopes recent treatment has stopped the progressive decline.
She said: “I can’t read scripts any more before because of the trouble with my eyes.
“And so somebody comes and reads them to me, like telling me a story.
“It’s usually my daughter or my agent or a friend, and actually I like that, because I sit there and imagine the story in my mind.”
Macular degeneration most commonly affects people who are over 50, when it is referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in the western world and is the reason behind more than half the registrations of blind and partially sighted people in the UK.
It affects nearly 240,000 people in the UK.
It is either “dry” or “wet” and affects the macula at the back of the eye, impairing central sight.
Dame Judi said: “I’ve got what my ma had, macular degeneration, which you get when you get old.
“I had wet in one eye and dry in the other, and they had to do these injections and I think it’s arrested it. I hope so.
“I can do a crossword if it’s bright sunshine, but if a cloud comes out the next minute I can’t see anything.”
The actress said one of the most distressing aspects of the condition was not being able to see the person she was having dinner with in a restaurant.
She added: “Actually, what I miss are people corpsing on stage. I know there might be something going on but sometimes I can’t see it, and that infuriates me as I think I’m really missing out.”
But she vowed not to be beaten by the condition, adding: “You get used to it. I’ve got lenses and glasses and things, and very bright light helps.”
She said she plans to buy a digital book reader which she hopes will allow her to read more easily by being able to increase the size of the letters.
Dame Judi, who said she has no plans to retire, made her name on stage and in television. She has won ten Baftas, and in 1988 was created a Dame of the Order of the British Empire.
Her film career took off when she played Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown in 1997 and she won a best supporting actress Oscar in 1998 for her role as Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love.
She is returning to the role of M in the 23rd James Bond film, Skyfall, alongside Daniel Craig.
Her latest film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, is about a group of British pensioners who spend their retirement in India after they have been cast aside by society in the UK.
The film will be released this coming Friday.
Dame Judi added: “It’s full of hope.”