Judi takes ‘break’ from Oscars

Nominated actress undergoing knee surgery

For those wondering whether to shout “break a leg” to Judi Dench — in short, wishing her good luck on her Oscar nom — that might not be the most appropriate thing to do.

Turns out the British thesp, who is up for best actress for “Notes on a Scandal,” won’t be at the Oscar ceremony in Hollywood Feb. 25: She will be undergoing a knee operation in London at that very time.

“Notes” screened here out of Competition Monday and Dench, at the press confab with producer Robert Fox, writer Patrick Marber, actor Andrew Simpson and co-star Cate Blanchett, was greeted by loud continuous applause.

To a questioner who asked whether it would be wise to place bets on her winning on Oscar, she immediately exclaimed “Don’t put money on me.” (Her colleague Helen Mirren has been copping most of the other award season trophies for “The Queen.”)

Dench’s character in the Richard Eyre-directed drama is a repressed, love-starved teacher who is in many ways quite reprehensible.

How did she feel about finally getting to play such a “dark” character?

Well, I don’t know, Dench mused. “I’d say Lady Macbeth (which she played some years ago) wasn’t always a very nice person,” she quipped.

Asked repeatedly, mostly by femme journos, about the meaning and message of the movie, Dench suggested that we’re all “shades of gray.”

Then again, given that her character is such a lonely, love-starved person, a message might be: “Don’t ask people who are extremely lonely around to tea.”

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