Judi Dench worries that we’ll never watch another predator on-screen again

The Chelsea Flower show

Dame Judi Dench is 84 years old. She’s still vital and funny and talented, but she’s had some health problems for years now. The biggest thing is a degenerative eye condition, which basically means she’s been going blind for a decade or longer. But as I said, I still think she’s sharp as a tack. “Senility” is not an excuse for what she said this week in an interview. She was asked about some of the men she’s worked with in the past, namely Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein. Dame Judi made an argument of “sure, they might be terrible people but we can still appreciate their work.” Which is a common enough argument from artists. Here’s what she said:

Judi Dench, who has condemned Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey for alleged sexual harassment, told a British magazine that she worries their work may be forgotten.

“What kind of agony is that?” Dench told the latest issue of Radio Times, The Guardian reported. “Are we going to negate 10 years at the Old Vic [the London theater where Spacey served as artistic director] and everything that he did – how wonderful he’s been in all those films? Are we just not going to see all those films that Harvey produced?”

Dench added: “You cannot deny somebody a talent. You might as well never look at a Caravaggio painting [the painter was sentenced for murder after a brawl]. You might as well never have gone to see Noel Coward [who was accused of harassment].”

Dench, 84, previously spoke out about people shunning Spacey after his scenes were removed from Ridley Scott’s 2017 film All the Money in the World. She has lauded the actor for supporting her after the death of her husband, Michael Williams, from lung cancer in 2001. The actress has also credited Weinstein as a key contributor to her Hollywood career. Weinstein’s fall from grace led to the rise of the #MeToo movement.

[From The Hollywood Reporter]

Similar arguments have been made for Roman Polanski and Woody Allen too, and as I’ve said before, it’s a personal choice and everyone should decide for themselves. I can legitimately enjoy Chinatown AND think Polanski is a serial predator and rapist. But I recently re-watched Vicky Cristina Barcelona and I was struck by how empty that film is, how poorly written, how overhyped it was. I feel like Woody Allen’s oeuvre might struggle as people put his work in context with his life. Will I be able to watch LA Confidential and The Usual Suspects knowing what I now know about Kevin Spacey? Will I be able to watch all of the films Weinstein produced? Again, it’s a personal judgment call about how you can separate art from artist.

For what it’s worth, I don’t even think “but can we still watch their movies?” is the main conversation anyone is really having. Give people the space to tell their stories about what these predators did to them. See if we can get the predator prosecuted or brought to justice in some way. Ensure that they never hurt another person again, and that the predators know they don’t belong in any artistic community ever again. Then, after all that, we can have the conversation of “but what about the art?”

The British Independent Film Awards

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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64 Responses to “Judi Dench worries that we’ll never watch another predator on-screen again”

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  1. Mab's A'Mabbin says:

    Judi Judi Judi….

  2. Megan says:

    It’s really hard for me to watch a movie with or produced by a predator. It’s all I can think about while I watch.

    • Genie says:

      Same. It’s not even that I am making a conscious decision to shun their work. It just makes me ill – especially when you see the performers on screen.

    • Arizona says:

      My feeling on both music and movies are that if I already own it, or don’t have to pay for it, I will engage. I don’t stream music, and wouldn’t stream artists like R. Kelly because they profit from the streaming revenue, but if I already paid for a song in my library I’m not going to never listen to it again because they’re not continuing to profit from it.

      So I have several Kevin Spacey & Weinstein & Johnny Depp movies at home – I will still watch those, because they’ve already gotten my money. But I wouldn’t support any of their future endeavors. That’s what seems to work for me.

      • Diplomanatee says:

        That is a really good way of viewing it, Arizona. And I agree with Kaiser that it must be a personal choice because ultimately there are things we cannot avoid.

        Applying a “cancel” rule retroactively would pretty much lead us nowhere, as the amount of movies produced/directed/performed by predators is staggering, and many we don’t even know about yet! I’m still surprised by how many movies from the past few years have a Weinstein in the credits!

        For most people in the industry, I guess if you’ve been working long enough, you’ve probably shared credits with at least one of them. It’s definitely a complex thing, and the solution will be equally complex :/

        As a survivor myself, I will always stand with the victims, but I still have very mixed feelings about how to navigate this whole thing.

        One last thought… Imagine how different Marylin’s life could have been, had she felt supported to call out some of her coworkers. Imagine how different Rock Hudson’s experience would have been had he felt supported to be honest about his sexuality. Had they been around in this century, their story might have been a lot different. I believe we owe it to all performers and staff –past, present and future– to make sure working conditions in Hollywood change for the better. And fast.

  3. MrsBanjo says:

    It’s tricky. I love Harry Potter but JKR is so terrible that it makes me think and rethink constantly. But I still love the universe. And I rationalise it to myself because she’s not a predator. I’m not quite ready to discount it even though I can’t stand her. I hope that makes sense because I’m exhausted and haven’t had much sleep, so brain fog is massive.

    With these predators, it’s a whole other level. They harm people. They’ve repeatedly harmed so many people that no matter how much I love the movies they’re unwatchable for me now. So many movies Spacey made that were great that I can’t even look at a poster for, it infuriates me so much.

    • Nuzzy says:

      If the JKR concern is about her liking Magdalen, I don’t know if I’d lump her in with rapists just yet. One, it just happened and she hasn’t even addressed it (or admitted her views are the same). Two, if we disagree with others (who haven’t committed crimes against humanity), it makes the world better to understand where people are coming from before discarding them.

      • MrsBanjo says:

        I never said I lumped her in with racists. I in fact said the opposite – that she’s super problematic (and the Terf shit isn’t all it is with her either) but because she’s not a predator I can rationalise it away.

        And to your second point, no. I don’t have to listen to anyone who believes things that actively harm people just because they themselves aren’t violent predators. Being racist, homophobic, and transphobic may not be on a level of raping someone, but they lead to violence. I’m not ready to discount the universe Rowling created but I don’t have to listen to anything she says when she’s notoriously tokenising and is perfectly fine discounting the lives and experiences of so many people.

    • buensenso says:

      what did JKR do?

      • Yamayo says:

        She followed Magdalen Berns on Twitter.

        Berns is a lesbian YouTuber.
        She’s made a lot of videos about the pressure lesbians are getting for not wanting to sleep with transwomen.
        Her argument is that some transwomen identify as women without fully transitioning- staying physically male. She believes lesbians are being pushed into heterosexual sex against their obvious sexual orientation.

        She describes herself as a hardcore lesbian feminist.

      • buensenso says:

        okay. that means nothing. she did nothing wrong.

      • CairinaCat says:

        She’s also an apologist for Depp

    • BorderMollie says:

      So tricky. I don’t in any way dismiss her neoliberal awfulness, it’s advanced, but Harry Potter is a huge source of nostalgia comfort for me, and these days I need the escape for multiple reasons. I am at least actively looking for alternatives.

  4. kgeo says:

    How many artists did we miss out on because they were driven out of their field by a predator? Don’t get me wrong, I still love Usual Suspects, and LA Confidential. I still listen to Michael Jackson WITH MY CHILDREN. They love the albums Thriller and BAD. I love watching them shake their little booties when we put it on the record player. But, come on. Some of these artists were awful people and there’s no reason to just gloss over it. Now we know. Now awful powerful people don’t get to act as gatekeepers allowing only those who will play along to pass.

  5. Nuzzy says:

    Yes… because true talent surpasses morality or humanity. Because true talent is rare. If we stopped supporting and celebrating the talent of those who have acted utterly without conscience, there would be no more talent to celebrate. Why, show business has always struggled to find talented people who are willing to endure the limelight with any modicum of decency. It’s not as if there are teeming hoards of truly talented people trying to make their way into show business.

    • MrsBanjo says:

      What? How many talented people were driven out by these predators who supposedly are so talented they “surpass morality or humanity”? You can’t possibly be arguing that only the monsters are truly talented because that’s a seriously bullshit take.

      • Nuzzy says:

        MsBanjo, it was sarcasm. It makes fun of the underlying premise of Dench’s argument.

    • R says:

      Had me in the first half….

    • whatWHAT? says:

      while I read this right, maybe put a /S after because you KNOW there are folks who will take this seriously.

      ETA: ok, already happened…

      • MrsBanjo says:

        Poe. Too many people have made that exact argument for it to be immediately understood as sarcasm. Especially on the internet and in text form.

  6. Patty says:

    Eh. It sounds like to me she’s more worried about censorship. People in power will determine what’s acceptable to be shown. History is full of very talented writers, artists, painters, songwriters, visionaries, leaders, etc who have made great contributions to the world in some way but may have also been shitty people. Should their work be censored in order to protect the masses? Absolutely not. Leave it out there and let people decide what they are okay with. It’s really not that complicated.

    • Maria says:

      Observing a work of historical significance has nothing to do with observing and paying to help subsidize the work of a contemporary predator who is preying on people now and continues to do so with help of their cronies.

    • Mrs.Krabapple says:

      “who have made great contributions to the world in some way but may have also been shitty people” —

      Being a sh!tty person is one thing. But did they USE THEIR POSITION IN THE INDUSTRY TO RAPE CHILDREN? That’s why predators in Hollywood should never be allowed to work again, or to financially benefit from their crimes. If a camp counselor used their position to rape a child, should s/he be allowed to continue to work as a camp counselor, and get paid for it? I think most people would say “no,” so why should Hollywood be any different?

  7. Jensies says:

    I won’t watch movies with predators anymore and as much as I liked some of those movies originally, I find that I don’t miss them that much now. It’s not a huge sacrifice for me.

    Re: Judi and Meryl and everyone caping for these men, I’d like to have even 1/100th of their compassion go to the victims and what they might have brought into the world if they weren’t abused.

    • GR says:

      @Jensies – yeah, there are a few older actresses who have taken this sort of position and it makes me so sad and disappointed. But as bad as it may be now for women in the entertainment industry (and elsewhere!) I guess it was even worse when Judi et al were coming up – maybe they had to be in some sort of denial to still work in that field? I dunno.

      • Jensies says:

        @GR That’s a good point, and a really good reminder about the harm internalized misogyny can do.

  8. Maria says:

    Yes because Noel Coward and Caravaggio are still alive and preying on people. Massive eye roll. She misses the point completely.

    • Becks1 says:

      I actually don’t think she does.

      Lots of bad people created some really great things. What gets “canceled” and what doesn’t? Its okay to appreciate Caravaggio because he’s dead?

      Michael Jackson?

      Can we appreciate Weinstein movies again in 20 years when he’s dead?

      I know there are centuries between us and Caravaggio, and her point is exaggerated, but I don’t think she’s completely missing it.

      • Maria says:

        I hate this strawman that Dench and others use: “you guys want to just ban everything??!!!”. That’s not the point at all.
        If someone is contributing financially to a person (and celebrating said person) who preyed upon others and their victims are still alive and out there–that’s on them. But appreciating art is HIGHLY nuanced and political. Being too defensive of these people for the sake of the art they have produced – not okay. That is what she is doing, even if plenty others who enjoy these works (like Kaiser) don’t.
        And there are too many who use this “appreciate art for its own sake not the artists” in order to completely excuse the issue. Roman Polanski is a child rapist and his themes of rape, violation, and misogyny are prevalent in all his works. You don’t have to cancel everything, but the person who made the art is going to inject themselves into it somehow which may or may not be problematic. Supporting that is another part of the issue.

        Dench’s statements are the equivalent of “I’m not a feminist because I don’t agree all men are bad”. Feminism (which is problematic in many ways but that’s a different debate) does not in its essence imply all men are bad, and those who know what feminism is about do not think that is the essence of it. It’s a reductive argumentative technique.

      • tealily says:

        But how is it financially contributing to anything if I pull out my 20 year old DVD copy of The Usual Suspects? (Although I will say it hasn’t held up at all.) I think you can absolutely enjoy someone’s art without supporting or celebrating them in any way, but it’s a personal choice if you want to or not.

        I can’t watch Kevin Spacey anymore. I can’t watch Johnny Depp. I feel like their behavior has overshadowed their films for me. Roman Polanski, Woody Allen I never liked (you can feel the creep vibes coming through the screen). I still listen to Michael Jackson and enjoy it. It makes me think of happy memories of my own childhood before I think of him as an individual and his behavior. I think reactions to art are so personal. Your right answer isn’t necessarily someone else’s.

  9. Lulu M says:

    I read the article headline and my dumb ass thought that Judi Dench was super worried about the Alien V Predator franchise 😳😳

  10. kerwood says:

    To a certain extent, I agree with her. I mourn the loss of ‘The Cosby Show’. It was such an important milestone and a very good show and I regret that it’s been pulled from the airwaves because of Bill Cosby’s crimes. I’ve listened to Michael Jackson’s music for years, even though I knew he was a child predator. I stopped watching Woody Allen movies years ago but that was because he had the nerve to make a movie called ‘Manhattan’ without any Black people in it.

    What bothers me about what’s happening now is how arbitrary the decisions are and the removal of personal choice. I despise Roman Polanski and would never see one of his movies. I was furious at the Academy Award (and the standing ovation in absentia) he received. But I would never say that his films should be pulled from the theatres. I choose not to watch a Polanski film, but if you want to, go ahead.

    I question how these decisions get made and who’s making them. The word goes out that someone is ‘cancelled’ and that’s it. Yet there are truly terrible people out there who seem to skate by because the group that does the ‘cancelling’ is okay with that person. And showing support for the person’s work, not the PERSON just their WORK, can bring an avalanche of hostility on you. I can’t believe that Judi Dench is being called out because she chooses to support Kevin Spacey’s WORK. We know where she stands on Spacey the MAN.

    What about all the people who aided and abetted these monsters? Apparently EVERYONE knew about Harvey Weinstein, yet nobody said anything when he had the power to make (or break) a career; they were more than happy to work with a monster. Lady Gaga CHOSE to work with R. Kelly when stories of his assaults on young girls was front page news. Why hasn’t she been CANCELLED? Is it because his victims are young BLACK girls?

    Is this why The Jonas Brothers are enjoying a comeback? Because artists have to pass some sort of morality test now.

    • Anon33 says:

      I fail to see how anything to do with bill cosby could be characterized as an “arbitrary decision.” He admitted to doing it. To several women.

  11. savu says:

    It’s hard to give up these works because of what they mean to us. Ignition was my JAM in middle school. I loved Woody Allen movies before I knew anything at all about his past. It’s tough to reject the things that made an impact on us even if we reject the artist.

    For me, my absolute line is never giving my money to those people or their work ever again. I’ve never paid to see a Woody Allen movie, always watching it illegally so my viewership can’t even count (#notsorry). They haven’t been good in years anyway. But my line is different for R. Kelly, I won’t listen to a single song but Ignition, and I had paid for most of his albums. They’ve been deleted from my library. Meanwhile I’ve had no desire to keep watching House of Cards (I was behind, so I’d have to get through a season of Spacey to catch up). My experience has been I’ll enjoy just a few (old) works of theirs but in despite of them, not in support of them. I realize this is not perfect. It’s just where I’m at with it.

    • Becks1 says:

      I am roughly here. I wont watch new things with these people in them (so no Crimes of Grindelwald.) But Edward Scissorhands? I don’t know.

  12. Becks1 says:

    I don’t agree with a lot of her comments, but I struggle with her overall point, and I think that’s okay to admit.

    Is Pirates of the Caribbean less enjoyable bc Johnny Depp is an abuser? For me right now it is, but others may feel differently. Is the Usual Suspects less of a good movie? is it wrong to enjoy Shakespeare in Love, considering that was produced by Weinstein? Etc.

    I think its okay to admit that there are things that were good that were put out by bad people, and its hard to figure out where you stand on that.

    • tealily says:

      I agree 100% with this comment. And maybe these feelings will change over time. I can’t watch Pirates now. Maybe in 20 years I’ll be able to give it a rewatch and enjoy the fun of it without seething with rage that that a**hole is STILL getting cast in films. I really like Keira Knightley and Jack Davenport. Maybe one day I’ll be able to simply enjoy their performances again. A whole lot of effort from a whole lot of people goes into making a film. Should we just never watch them again because a single piece of sh*t got cast in it? I think it’s a personal choice and it’s okay to feel conflicted about it.

  13. Giddy says:

    Dammit Judi!😡

  14. Mia4s says:

    “Dame Judi Dench is 84 years old.“

    I think that’s actually a key part of this conversation. It won’t be her call to make. What will and will not be watched/listened to will be an evolving process, and for the younger generation to determine. It will take a decade or more before we really know what will happen to the works of the people she mentioned. All we can really do now is try to do better on a go forward basis and really consider the new projects we are supporting now.

    That said…a lot of what I hear seems to be actors/artists worried that their earlier work is tainted by association. Well…. It is. Tough sh*t. Deal with it. MeToo is far more important than your Miramax Oscar winner.

  15. Polly says:

    I think I’ll save my sympathy for the victims. I couldn’t care less if Spacey’s work at the Old Vic is forgotten about.

    • North of Boston says:


      Especially with people who are still out there trying to take advantage of their position/wealth/privilege. No and No.

  16. cate says:

    the mere fact that this is the narrative around abuse is telling. that the concern for the “art” far outweighs the concern for the victims speaks volumes. she is coming from a warped place and its sickening. hollywood is so self congratulatory and self obsessed as if films are the end all be all of life. this is the problem with rape culture and hollywood. no one cares about the people just the $$$$ and industry. how disappointing that she is just another lemming

  17. intheknow says:

    When people say stuff like that I always think…’would they allow their kids/grandkids/great grandkids hang out with Harvey and Kevin?

    urgh. I loved her until i read this crap. I wish I could chalk it up to old age but it is not. It is people like her and their thinking that has allowed this behaviour to flourish and go unpunished. It is people like her why so many victims are not believed.

    Thank goodness her character died in the Bond movies because I wouldn’t see another one with her in it.

    • tealily says:

      How is acknowledging that someone made some useful theatrical contributions remotely the same thing as dropping your grandkid off at their house though? C’mon.

      • intheknow says:

        @tealily You are either ignorant or willfully obtuse. I don’t have time for either.
        Predators shouldn’t be praised. In fact any acknowledgements they have (emmys, oscar etc) should be revoked. They got those awards by being predatory and abusive. Neither of them have shown the slightest bit of remorse. That tells me they are without conscience and got off on causing harm to others. So NO acknowledgement from me. Feel free to adore them. Free will and all.

      • kerwood says:

        It’s not the same.

        Cardi B is a heroine to a lot of people. She brags about luring men to hotel rooms, drugging them and robbing them. That sounds like a predator to me. Why isn’t she ‘cancelled’? And why aren’t the people who support her dragged over the coals?

        Judi Dench isn’t defending Kevin Spacey or Harvey Weinstein. She’s gone on record to condemn both. She’s just saying they both did important work and it would be a tragedy if that work were thrown in the dumpster. For one thing, they aren’t the only people who contributed to their films. Should we toss out the work of the hundreds of people who worked on Spacey and Weinstein projects because they worked with a monster? Most of them probably didn’t know. Dench is probably thinking of her own performance and why shouldn’t she.

        I think it’s possible to hold two thoughts in your head. That these men are monsters who should never be accepted in decent society. And that they created works of art that people should be able to choose if they want to experience.

      • tealily says:

        @intheknow I guess ignorant?

      • Patty says:

        Thank you! There’s a lot of false equivalencies being bandied about. No one is saying they support predatory behavior and no one is saying they would want their friends, children, or loved ones to hang out with predators. People are simply acknowledging that sometimes horrible people have created things that mean a lot to other people. Can’t stand Bill Cosby but I think it absolutely sucked how quickly The Cosby Show was pulled from the air. It’s like people want to pretend that it never existed because of the actions of one man. If that’s the argument we want to go with maybe we should demolish all Catholic Churches in the US because of all of the abuse scandals. But we don’t do that because there is still a lot of value to be had in that institution. Same things apply to some art and entertainment that was created. Roman Polanski? Horrible person, he raped a 13 year old but I also get why his movies are popular and studied by film students. It’s not an endorsement of the man, it’s an acknowledgment of his skill as a filmmaker.

  18. Swan Lake says:

    I love her.

  19. intheknow says:

    @kerwood. I don’t give a shit about Cardi b. Don’t ask me why she isn’t cancelled. I don’t know her. She is cancelled for me as I don’t buy or listen to her music.

    Look, my line is the sand of life…if you rape children, you should be taken out back and put down. It’s not negotiable and there is no admiration….and for that to come close to changing, they’d have to find the cure for cancer. Or bring about world peace.

  20. Wilma says:

    There is enough great art made by people who don’t suck.

  21. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    Bohemian Rhapsody was a big hit, and we all heard about Bryan Singer, so . . . I don’t think the public will kill a movie just because a predator played a major role in creating it. That’s why Hollywood doesn’t care, because predators don’t hurt box office so it’s not a problem.

    • ToiFilles says:

      Well, Bohemian Rhapsody had the benefit of front loaded with a massive Queen / Freddy Mercury fan base. Then Singer was fired with weeks left to film, so that may have adjusted public perception a little. Trying to salvage the production & the following publicity gave it a bit of an underdog quality that dovetailed nicely w/ the nostalgia for the band.

  22. Ruyana says:

    I love Judi Dench, but what she said is equivalent to me of this: “Sure this glass of water has some sewage floating in it, but drink it anyway.”

    • North of Boston says:

      “It would be a shame to let the water go to waste, even though it is polluted with excrement.”

      Particularly when the work occurred with a backdrop of abuse, I’m OK with leaving the work in the dustbin for now. Maybe when the predator is dead and gone, I might revisit. Maybe.

      There are many allegations of abuse by Kevin Spacey WHILE he was at the helm of the Old Vic. If the allegations are correct, he used his status as a Hollywood star and position as artistic director there to gain access to victims, abuse them, and cover up the abuse.


      You can’t separate the abuse from the art or the art from the abuse, because Spacey made it one and the same. He chose to prey on people because his job gave him access to them and power over them.

      I don’t think there should be any official “This person is SO Cancelled” committee making official proclamations, but every chair of every committee who ever gave one of these predators an award, every executive of every arts, film, music, production company who has profited or stands to profit from a predator’s work needs to think long and hard about their values, what they choose to celebrate and all the talented (and just regular) people who got ground up and spit out, or damaged for life, for not bowing to a predator or after they became just another disposable victim. And every consumer of art, film, etc gets to choose for themselves whether to continuing consuming the output of a particular artist.

  23. tuille says:

    When I go to movies, I have no idea who “produced” them. If the premise/synopsis looks interesting, I’ll go. I may have inadvertently seen a Weinstein production but if it’s on HBO & I already pay for that service, I’m not going to boycott something because a pig produced it.
    There are plenty of actors & artists I don’t care for (various reasons, not always predation-there are other forms of “gross”.) I won’t watch or listen to them. Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, Pattinson, and others.
    I don’t purchase items grown or made in Myanmar, Peoples’ Republic of China, or the Soviet Union. (No Russian vodka for me.)
    Many older film stars were terrible abusers. To be consistent, refuse to watch anything with Errol Flynn, Sean Connery and many others?

  24. B says:

    As long as women like Judi and Meryl keep covering men’s asses, we’ll never evolve from patriarchy.

    Sisterhood is dead. Damn.

  25. Mina says:

    I think the “can we appreciate art” from predators is a dated debate already. Yes, you can appreciate it if you want you, if you’re able to separate man from artist good for you. But all those were made in a time when people didn’t know what was going on, or didn’t care, or there weren’t laws or social standards to uphold. What matter is what happens NOW, from now on. Now we can’t accept predatory behavior going on behind the scenes, and it needs to be stopped. Doesn’t matter how talented someone is, they can’t be allowed to keep predating on people, period.