Dame Judi Dench has described her young Belfast co-star Jude Hill as a ‘fantastic actor’ whose talent rivals those with 25 years’ worth of experience in the industry.
The acting legend, who plays Granny in Kenneth Branagh’s film, said the 11-year-old Gilford boy, who was nine at the time of the shoot, was a ‘complete natural’ and always fun to be around.
Dench, whose mother hailed from Dublin, said she was ‘riveted’ by Branagh’s script when she first read it, but admitted it was a ‘nightmare’ trying to pick up the Belfast accent.
The 87-year-old Oscar winner, who has worked with Branagh at least 12 times, was speaking on ITV’s This Morning on Thursday ahead of the UK and Ireland cinema release of Belfast.
She said: “Jude is outstanding. He can show us all the way home. He’s so fantastic at taking directions and was like an actor with 25 years’ worth of experience.
“He does some Irish dancing and is just a complete natural, always full of energy, no complaints and enormous fun to be with.”
Telling presenters Philip Schofield and Rochelle Humes how she first came to learn of the script, she said Branagh had come round to her home and read it out to her ‘without a break’.
“I sat there, completely riveted,” she said.
“There was a moment when I just remember there was a very, very long pause and we both went completely quiet.
“For Kenny, it was very emotional and certainly for me too and then he went on and got to the end and there was no question in my mind that I wanted to play his grandmother.”
Dench, who stars opposite Ciaran Hinds in Belfast, said she had always admired the Belfast actor and was delighted to be given the chance to work with him. She explained that being able to shoot the film during lockdown and being released from ‘the oppressive feeling’ meant the cast bonded quickly on set and became like a family unit.
When asked about the Belfast accent and if Branagh had helped her to learn it, Dench laughed and said it was a ‘nightmare’ to try and get right. She told how a Belfast uncle used to spend holidays with her family when she was a child and how she had always been fascinated with his accent.
Meanwhile Philip Schofield has praised Jude Hill, who plays Branagh as a boy, as ‘possibly the best young actor’ he’s ever seen.
He told Dench: “His face is so expressive. You can see the emotions change on his face.
“He is quite extraordinary.”