Traffic on the 101 freeway killed me last night, and so I gave up trying to attend last night’s Judi Dench tribute fundraiser at the Ritz Carlton Bacara. The event was organized by Santa Barbara Film Festival director Roger Durling. It turned out that in all of her 82 years Dench had never been to Santa Barbara before last night. Really. With all her activity and connections in Los Angeles for so many years.

Judi Dench, Santa Barbara Film festival director Roger Durling during red-carpet portion of last night’s Kirk Douglas Award festivities.

(l. to r.) Armie Hammer, Roger Durling, Jeff Bridges, Judi Dench, Ali Fazal.

The main focus was on Dench’s Oscar-hopeful performance as Queen Victoria in Victoria and Abdul, which may or may not be part of the 2017 Best Actress Derby. Dench was nominated 20 years ago, of course, for playing the same monarch in Mrs. Brown (’97). My three favorite Dench performances were in Mrs. Brown, Shakespeare in Love (in which she played Elizabeth I) and Notes On A Scandal, in which she more or less lusted after costar Cate Blanchett.

I never responded all that heartily to her performances as M in all those 007 films — they’re a blur.

Ali Fazal (who plays Abdul Karim in Victoria and Abdul), Santa Barbara mainstay Jeff Bridges and Call My By Your Name‘s Armie Hammer attended the Dench tribute.