Judi Dench had been a celebrated British stage actress for 40 years before ever gaining recognition in Hollywood. But since she starred as Queen Victoria in “Mrs. Brown,” the 1997 film which earned her the first of many Oscar nominations, she has embodied characters such as Queen Elizabeth (“Shakespeare in Love”), novelist Iris Murdoch (“Iris”) and the indomitable spy boss M in the James Bond franchise.
In her latest film, “Philomena” – in select theaters Nov. 22 – she stars as an Irish mother looking for a son she was forced to give up for adoption while living in a convent for “fallen women” 50 years earlier. She embarks on her quest with the help of a journalist played by Steve Coogan, who co-wrote the screenplay based on Martin Sixsmith’s 2009 nonfiction book, “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee.” Stephen Frears (“The Queen”) directed.