In the immortal words of Azealia Banks, the girls are fighting! The girls being, in this case, Dame Judi Dench and Netflix’s The Crown. Dench successfully bullied the streaming service into including a disclaimer that the show is all a work of imagination, but the Royal Family fictionalization clearly did not take her provocation lying down.
This new feud is all playing out quite literally in the pages of The Times, where Dench published her open letter accusing the series of “crude sensationalism.” Now, a source tells the same paper that the production was befuddled by the Oscar winner’s complaints, as she had been in talks to appear on the latest season of the show.
The Crown sources divulge that talks for Dench to play the Queen Mother (a role that eventually went to Marcia Warren) “went on for a few weeks,” going so far that she actually met with the production team. She reportedly dug the script, and “Both sides were taking it seriously,” the Times insider claims.
There are a few reasons given for why Dench didn’t end up taking the role, including that the part was too small for someone of her stature and that she was “concerned that taking the role could compromise her relationship with the royal family.” (She is, the Times notes, “a friend of Queen Camilla.”) The outlet also states that the show has “a firm rule” that no actor should earn more than the person playing the Queen (in this case, Imelda Staunton).
So perhaps it was the meager proposed fee that was “cruelly unjust,” and not the “wounding suggestions apparently contained in the new series,” as Dench bravely railed against in her letter. No doubt the show has taken some serious artistic liberties at times, but Dench stating that such liberties “cannot go unchallenged” is nearly as dramatic as anything that’s happened in the series. Crossing fingers that all this behind-the-scenes tea gets spilled in some future, meta-season of The Crown.