The actors starred together in 'The Chronicles of Riddick'

When the first trailer for Vin Diesel’s The Chronicles of Riddick dropped in 2004, audiences were surprised by the first voice and face that they encountered on-screen.

There was the imperious Oscar-winning Dame Judi Dench, appearing as a sort of mystical oracle dressed in a flowing white robe, intoning the words, “They are a plague that now sweeps through the worlds of man….”

While discussing her whole 60-year career for EW’s latest issue (on stands now), Dench explains how this unlikely Diesel-Dench movie marriage came to be.

“I was doing a play at the Haymarket Theatre in London and I didn’t know that Vin Diesel, the one and only, was there,” Dench says. “Vin sent me a bouquet of flowers that were so big they couldn’t fit up the stairs to my dressing room. They could not get them into the corridor. Then he asked if I would be in his film. And of course I said yes. Why ever not?”

Dench studied theatrical design before making a pivot as a teenager towards acting, so the potential of appearing in a large-scale CGI parade was irresistible. “And I filmed for four weeks in Vancouver, Canada,” she says. “Such a lovely town Vancouver is and I had such a wonderful time working with there. And all those soundstages, my goodness.”

She also remembers, with a whiff of regret, her first costume fitting for the sci-fi film. “They put me in a glorious, very long wig and brilliant blue contact lenses. But when I arrived later on the set, the wig had been cut a bit shorter, which was really a pity. But, anyway, that was their choice.”

In life, Dench has worn her own hair cut characteristically short since her early 20s. She explains, “That began when I was acting the Old Vic in the 1950s. I’ve got kind of child’s hair, very fine, so that’s why. It’s easier short.” And that length also gives her a big advantage over fellow actors. “If I’m going be wearing wigs all the time anyway, it’s much better to have short hair. Pin it up a little bit and put wigs over and all that. I’ve worn many wigs in films and in the theater, yes I have. Then when the wig comes off, I can just rough it up afterwards.”

No word on whether Diesel and Dench may reunite for another movie someday. She’s allergic to the word retirement — and now that her run is officially over as James Bond’s boss M in the 007 franchise, there’s no reason why she couldn’t pop up in a future Fast and the Furious blockbuster.

Dench’s new movie Victoria & Abdul is in limited release now (and expanding to more theaters on Sept. 29). She also appears as a part of the all-star ensemble in Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express (out Nov. 10).

The Chronicles of Riddick
  • Movie
  • 115 minutes