Although she had long been a revered stage and screen star in her native England, this remarkable actress didn't come to prominence stateside until well past middle age, when she appeared in a string of art-house hits in the '90s. Beginning her career on the British stage in the '50s, Dench tackled some of theater's most iconic roles over the next few decades, such as Ophelia in Hamlet, the title Egyptian queen in Antony and Cleopatra, Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, and decadent diva Sally Bowles in Cabaret. Dench invariably earned raves for her work and in the '60s began adding TV roles to her résumé, proving that she was just as adept at comedy as classics by starring in two popular Britcoms: A Fine Romance, alongside her real-life husband Michael Williams, and As Time Goes By, opposite longtime friend Geoffrey Palmer. Throughout her lauded career, she earned practically every accolade possible in her homeland: a record six Olivier Awards for her stage work, 20 BAFTA nominations (and nine wins) for her TV and film performances, and was granted the title of Officer of the British Empire in 1970, then promoted to dame in 1988. And yet it would still take another 10 years for the U.S. to officially recognize her talents. She appeared in a number of supporting movie roles in the '90s, notably as the first female incarnation of M, James Bond's boss, beginning with 1995's GoldenEye. Two years later, she snagged her very first leading film role when she played Queen Victoria in the biopic Mrs. Brown, which earned Dench her first Academy Award nomination. But it was her turn as another monarch, Queen Elizabeth I in 1998's Shakespeare in Love, that would finally win her an Oscar. Although she only had eight minutes of screen time, she left an indelible impression as the headstrong leader. A few months after taking home the statuette, she netted another American award, the Tony, for her performance in Amy's View, her first Broadway appearance in 40 years. At an age when most people would opt for retirement, the sexagenarian thespian was in high demand, garnering praise and nominations for practically every project she tackled, including four more Oscar nods (Chocolat, Iris, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Notes on a Scandal) and a Golden Globe for her spirited turn in the TV-movie The Last of the Blonde Bombshells.