Judi Dench joins Elba, McKellen, Hudson in ‘Cats’

British actress Judi Dench at the 74th Venice Film Festival, September 2017 (AFP pic)

The December 2019 cinematic adaptation of stage musical “Cats” has added Dame Judi Dench to a cast that already includes Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson and Taylor Swift.

She’s been secret service chief in seven James Bond films, Queen Elizabeth in “Shakespeare in Love,” and a woman who spent over half her lifetime looking for her son in “Philomena.”

Now, the multi-award winning octogenarian is to play the leader of a tribe of cats, Old Deuteronomy, who can choose which tribe member will be born anew.

As Variety notes, Dench was at one point in line to star in the show’s 1981 West End debut, but was forced to withdraw due to an Achilles tendon injury.

At that point, Brian Blessed (of “Flash Gordon” and, more recently, “Peppa Pig”) played Old Deuteronomy; in the 2019 movie, singer and actress Jennifer Hudson occupies Dench’s original part, that of scraggly reincarnation hopeful Grizabella.

Directed by Tom Hooper of “The Danish Girl,” “Les Misérables,” “The King’s Speech” and “Byker Grove,” “Cats” is headed for a December 2019 theatrical debut.

British writer T.S. Eliot wrote the poetry collection “Old Possum’s Books of Practical Cats,” which was first published in 1939, which Andrew Lloyd Webber then adapted into the 1981 musical.

Its enduring popularity has ensured that “Cats” has become one of the longest-running shows both on New York’s Broadway and in London’s West End.