Judi Dench to miss Oscar ceremony

  1. Due to knee surgery

    BERLIN (AFP) - Academy Award nominee Judi Dench said that well-wishers should not tell her to break a leg on Oscar night because she is going to have to miss the ceremony to have knee surgery.

    Dench was speaking at the Berlin Film Festival where she and fellow Oscar contender Cate Blanchett gave their kinky tale of sex and intrigue in a London school, "Notes on a Scandal," its international launch after successful runs in Britain and the United States.

    "I can't go to the Oscars because I've got to have a knee operation so 'break a leg' is actually quite apt because they're going to have to break it and put it back together again -- I'll be much taller," the diminutive star quipped at a packed news conference.

    "But I shall watch and cheer from my bed," said the six-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner.

    In "Notes on a Scandal," 72-year-old Dench plays Barbara, a predatory schoolteacher who develops an amorous interest in her beautiful, married colleague Sheba (Blanchett).

    The two women strike up a friendship but when Sheba begins to pull away, Barbara threatens to expose her affair with a 15-year-old student at the school (Andrew Simpson).

    When asked how his parents reacted to his steamy love scenes with Blanchett, the freckled 18-year-old actor blushed and said: "My dad was probably a bit happier with the role than my mum. Next time I'm going to have to do something different."

    Blanchett, 37, said that despite the spectacular nature of the story, the characters had a depth that appealed to her.

    "A lot of people who say that they're in love -- it perhaps says more about them than it does their object of love," she said.

    "And for Sheba, I think if she hadn't chosen to embark upon a relationship with a student, which is disastrous and diabolical, that she would have found another way to self-destruct."

    Dench said that the opportunity to work with Blanchett, who is nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar, is what had convinced her to work on the film.

    "I'm sure there could have been a hundred different ways of playing scenes between us. That's what so irritating about seeing yourself on film, you think 'Why on earth is that the one I chose?'," she said.

    "My bathroom has seen the best performances I've ever, ever given. And that's too late of course."

    Dench said each role gave her a chance to try on a new personality but she struggled to avoid being typecast.

    "Very often when you play a part, you'll get a lot of scripts sent which are very, very similar," she said.

    "In fact, if you have a choice and you're lucky enough to have a choice, it's the last thing you want to do. You want to do something now which is as far away from that as possible."

    When asked about the message of "Notes," Dench smiled.

    "Look out for people who are extremely lonely -- don't ask them round for tea," she said.
    "Notes on a Scandal" is screening out of competition at the Berlinale, one of Europe's top three film festivals. The event wraps up Sunday after the awarding of the Golden and Silver Bear prizes at a gala Saturday night.