Veteran British actress Dame Judi Dench sponsored a young boy to help him pursue an acting career after receiving a letter from him in the post.

The Philomena star regularly receives pleas from young actors asking her for financial help, and she accepted the request of one unnamed boy, whose career she is monitoring carefully.

She tells Radio Times, "I don't know how many letters I get each week, saying, 'Can you sponsor me through drama school?'... There was a wonderful boy who wrote to me, who has a glorious singing voice, and I sent him money. I got this wonderful letter back, and I just want to watch him - carefully - to see how he develops... You can't send money to everyone. You have to go instinctively. A lot of them say, 'I'm working to raise funds', and I always think that's a very good sign, if they're working and not just sitting back and waiting for work to fall in their laps."

Dench, who turns 80 on Tuesday (09Dec14), adds there is little encouragement for young actors nowadays, blaming the lack of repertory theatres and audition feedback for giving budding actors no opportunity to learn.