National treasure Judi Dench tricks herself into thinking Im just 56

Dame Judi, 88, is celebrating more than 60 years in showbusiness, with countless roles in Shakespeare and on the big screen, as Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth I and as MI6 boss M in seven James Bond movies.

She says: “We’ve got to keep going and not think of age too much. “You have to think you are about 56.

“Also, I don’t make a point of keeping fit. I am very bad at that.”

The star talks about growing older this week when she appears as a special guest on the new series of Portrait Artist of the Year on Sky Arts.

Viewers will see Dame Judi sit for four hours having her portrait painted by 10 previous winners, all competing for the actor’s seal of approval.

On the show, Dame Judi tells presenter Dame Joan Bakewell: “I am not frightfully good at sitting still and I am very inclined to drop off. After lunch is a tricky time for me.”

She recalls a funny moment when she fell asleep onstage: “I dropped off once in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We’d been there a long time.”

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Earlier this year, Dame Judi opened up about her fading eyesight. Revealing she has age-related macular degeneration, she said she “cannot see on a film set anymore”.

But despite the condition, she says she still makes time for art at her £8million farmhouse in Surrey. She admits: “I do have a lot of art on my walls at home.

On the last Bond movie I was given a huge painting of me as M. “I put it on the wall very, very ostentatiously, so that nobody can miss it, of course!”

● Portrait Artist of the Year, Sky Arts, Wednesday, 8pm

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