British star Steve Coogan had to read the entire first draft of the screenplay for his new movie Philomena to Dame Judi Dench - because the actress was battling eyesight issues at the time.

The comedian was desperate to land the actress as his leading lady in the film, which is based on a real-life Irish woman's search for the son she was forced to give up for adoption as a baby, and agreed to read to her in a bid to convince Dench to sign on.

The Skyfall star revealed last year (12) that she had been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, explaining that script reading had become problematic, but Coogan didn't mind reading to her and the two Brits enjoyed sessions in her garden.

The idea worked - Dench tells Entertainment Weekly magazine, "By the end of it there was no question in my mind that I wanted to do it."

But Coogan had a few reservations because he feared the actress would be too frail for his work schedule.

He adds, "It was a big ask. Judi would have to be there (on set) at 6.30am every day for a long time. But I knew she was feisty."

The two stars' gamble paid off and now the film is winning acclaim among critics around the world.

And Dench hopes her work on the project will put paid to reports suggesting her eyesight issues will end her career: "That was ridiculous! I'm not going blind. Hundreds of thousands of people have got the same thing (condition), and you just get on with it."