Mirren at the Orange British Academy Film Awards in February 2007
|Born||Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov
26 July 1945
Mirren was born Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov in a corridor of the maternity wing of Queen Charlotte's Hospital, Chiswick in West London. Her father, Vasiliy Petrovich Mironov (1913-1980), was of Russian origin, and her mother, Kathleen Alexandrina Eva Matilda (née Rogers; 1909-1996), was English. Mirren's paternal grandfather, Pyotr Vassilievich Mironov, a Russian nobleman, tsarist colonel and diplomat, was negotiating an arms deal in Britain and was stranded there, along with his family, during the Russian Revolution.
Her father called himself Basil and changed the family name to Mirren in the 1950s. He played the viola with the London Philharmonic before World War II and later drove a cab and was a driving-test examiner, before becoming a civil servant with the Ministry of Transport. Mirren's mother was from West Ham, London and was the thirteenth of fourteen children born to a butcher whose father had been the butcher to Queen Victoria. Mirren considers her upbringing to have been "very anti-monarchist".
The first house she remembers living in was in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, when she was two or three years old, after the birth of her younger brother, who was named Peter Basil after his grandfather and great-great-grandfather. Mirren was the second of three children, born two years after her older sister Katherine ("Kate").
Mirren attended a Catholic girls' school, St Bernard's High School for Girls, in Southend-on-Sea, where she acted in school productions, and subsequently a teaching college, the New College of Speech and Drama in London "housed within Anna Pavlova's old home, Ivy House" on the North End Road, which leads from Golders Green to Hampstead, N. London. At age eighteen, she auditioned for the National Youth Theatre and was accepted. By age 20, she was Cleopatra in the NYT production of Antony and Cleopatra at the Old Vic, which led to her signing with the agent Al Parker.
Her work for the NYT led to Mirren joining the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), playing Castiza in Trevor Nunn's 1966 staging of The Revenger's Tragedy, Diana in All's Well That Ends Well in 1967, Cressida in Troilus and Cressida and Phebe in As You Like It in 1968, Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona in 1970, and Tatiana in Gorky's Enemies at the Aldwych and the title role in Miss Julie at The Other Place in 1971.
In 1972-73, Mirren worked with Peter Brook's International Centre for Theatre Research, and joined the group's tour in North Africa and the US which created The Conference of the Birds. Returning to the RSC she played Lady Macbeth at Stratford in 1974 and at the Aldwych Theatre in 1975.
As reported by Sally Beauman in her 1982 history of the RSC, Mirren, while appearing in Nunn's Macbeth (1974) and in a highly publicised letter to The Guardian newspaper, attacked both the National Theatre and the RSC for their lavish production expenditure, declaring it "unnecessary and destructive to the art of the Theatre," and adding, "The realms of truth, emotion and imagination reached for in acting a great play have become more and more remote, often totally unreachable across an abyss of costume and technicalities..." There were no discernible repercussions for this rebuke of the RSC.
At the Royal Court in September 1975 she notably played rock star Maggie in Teeth 'n' Smiles, a musical play by David Hare, which was revived at Wyndham's Theatre in May 1976 winning her the Plays & Players Best Actress award, voted by the London critics.
From November 1975 Mirren played in West End repertory with the Lyric Theatre Company as Nina in The Seagull and Ella in Ben Travers' new farce The Bed Before Yesterday ("Mirren is stirringly voluptuous as the Harlowesque good-time girl": Michael Billington, The Guardian, 10 December 1975). At the RSC in Stratford in 1977, and at the Aldwych the following year, she played a steely Queen Margaret in Terry Hands' production of the three parts of Henry VI, while 1979 saw her 'bursting with grace' with an acclaimed performance as Isabella in Peter Gill's otherwise unexceptional production of Measure for Measure at Riverside Studios.
In 1981 she returned to the Royal Court for the London premiere of Brian Friel's Faith Healer. In the same year she also received acclaim for her performance in the title role of John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, a production of Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre which transferred to the The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London. Reviewing her portrayal for The Sunday Telegraph, Francis King wrote: "Miss Mirren never leaves it in doubt that even in her absences, this ardent, beautiful woman is the most important character of the story."
Her performance as Moll Cutpurse in The Roaring Girl at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in January 1983, and at the Barbican Theatre April 1983), "swaggered through the action with radiant singularity of purpose, filling in areas of light and shade that even Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker omitted." - Michael Coveney, Financial Times, April 1983.
After a relatively barren sojourn in the Hollywood Hills, she returned to England at the beginning of 1989 to co-star with Bob Peck at the Young Vic in the London premiere of the Arthur Miller double-bill, Two Way Mirror, performances which prompted Miller to remark: "What is so good about English actors is that they are not afraid of the open expression of large emotions" (interview by Sheridan Morley: The Times 11 January 1989). In Elegy for a Lady she played the svelte proprietress of a classy boutique, while as the blonde hooker in Some Kind of Love Story she was "clad in a Freudian slip and shifting easily from waif-like vulnerability to sexual aggression, giving the role a breathy Monroesque quality" (Michael Billington, The Guardian).
A stage career breakthrough came in 1994, in an Yvonne Arnaud Theatre production bound for the West End, when Bill Bryden cast her as Natalya Petrovna in Ivan Turgenev's A Month in the Country. Her co-stars were John Hurt as her aimless lover Rakitin and Joseph Fiennes in only his second professional stage appearance as the cocksure young tutor Belyaev. "Instead of a bored Natalya fretting the summer away in dull frocks, Mirren, dazzlingly gowned, is a woman almost wilfully allowing her heart's desire for her son's young tutor to rule her head and wreak domestic havoc....Creamy shoulders bared, she feels free to launch into a gloriously enchanted, dreamily comic self-confession of love." (John Thaxter, Richmond & Twickenham Times, 4 March 1994).
Mirren was twice nominated for Broadway's Tony Award as Best Actress (Play): in 1995 for A Month in the Country, now directed by Scott Ellis ("Miss Mirren's performance is bigger and more animated than the one she gave last year in an entirely different London production", Vincent Canby in the NY Times, 26 April 1995). Then again in 2002 for August Strindberg's Dance of Death, co-starring with Sir Ian McKellen, their fraught rehearsal period coinciding with the terrorist attacks on New York on September 11, 2001 (as recorded in her In the Frame autobiography, September 2007).
Mirren had an unhappy experience at the National Theatre in 1998 when she played Cleopatra to Alan Rickman's Antony. In 2000 Nicholas Hytner, who had worked with Mirren on the film version of The Madness of King George, cast her as Lady Torrance in his revival of Tennessee Williams' Orpheus Descending at the Donmar Warehouse in London. Michael Billington, reviewing for The Guardian, described her performance as "an exemplary study of an immigrant woman who has acquired a patina of resilient toughness but who slowly acknowledges her sensuality."
At the National Theatre in November 2003 she again won praise playing Christine Mannon ("defiantly cool, camp and skittish", Evening Standard; "glows with mature sexual allure", Daily Telegraph) in a revival of Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra directed by Howard Davies.
“This production was one of the best experiences of my professional life, The play was four and a half hours long, and I have never known that kind of response from an audience...It was the serendipity of a beautifully cast play, with great design and direction, It will be hard to be in anything better.” (In the Frame, September 2007).
She played the tragic title role in Jean Racine's Phèdre at the National in 2009, in a production directed by Nicholas Hytner. The production was also staged at the amphitheater of Epidaurus on July 11 and 12, 2009.
Mirren has also appeared in a large number of films throughout her career. Some of her earlier film roles include O Lucky Man!, Caligula, Excalibur, 2010, The Long Good Friday, White Nights and The Mosquito Coast. After those appearances she received roles in Belfast-born director Terry George's film Some Mother's Son, which was about the 1981 Hunger Strikes in Northern Ireland, opposite Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan, Painted Lady, The Prince of Egypt and The Madness of King George. One of her other film roles was in Peter Greenaway's The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, as the eponymous thief's wife, opposite Michael Gambon. Her favourite film is Teaching Mrs. Tingle, in which she plays sadistic History teacher, Mrs Eve Tingle.
Mirren continued her successful film career when she starred more recently in Gosford Park with Maggie Smith and Calendar Girls where she starred with Julie Walters. Other more recent appearances include The Clearing, Pride, Raising Helen, and Shadowboxer. Mirren also provided the voice for the supercomputer "Deep Thought" in the film adaptation of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. During her career, she has portrayed three British queens in different films and television series: Elizabeth I in the television series Elizabeth I (2005), Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006), and Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III, in The Madness of King George (1994). She is the only actress ever to have portrayed both Queens Elizabeth on the screen.
Mirren's title role of The Queen earned her numerous acting awards including a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award, among many others. During her acceptance speech at the Academy Award ceremony, she praised and thanked Elizabeth II and stated that she had maintained her dignity and weathered many storms during her reign as Queen. Mirren later appeared in supporting roles in the films National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, Inkheart, State of Play, and The Last Station.
Mirren has frequently appeared nude on film as far back as her debut film Age of Consent, and was over 50 when she appeared nude in the film Calendar Girls and on the cover of the Radio Times 5-11 October issue in 1996.
Dame Helen is well-known for her role as detective Jane Tennison in the widely-viewed Prime Suspect, a multiple award winning television drama that was noted for its high quality, higher popularity and its unique format, in that it ran for seven seasons in seven extended multi-act episodes rather than in a traditional seasonal schedule. The role of Tennison won her three consecutive BAFTA awards for Best Actress between 1992 to 1994.
Some of Dame Helen's other acclaimed television performances include Cousin Bette (1971), As You Like It (1979), Blue Remembered Hills (1979), Losing Chase (1996), The Passion of Ayn Rand (1999) where her performance won her both the Emmy and the Golden Globe, Door to Door (2002), and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (2003). In 1976 Mirren appeared with Laurence Olivier, Alan Bates and Malcolm McDowell in the production of Harold Pinter's The Collection as part of the Laurence Olivier Presents series. She also played Elizabeth I in 2005, in the television series Elizabeth I, for Channel 4 and HBO, where she received an Emmy for her performance. Mirren won another Emmy on 16 September 2007 for her role in Prime Suspect: The Final Act on PBS in the same category as in 2006.
In 1984, Mirren won Best Actress for her role in the film Cal at the Cannes Film Festival and the 1985 Evening Standard British Film Awards. In 1994 and 2001, she was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her roles in The Madness of King George and Gosford Park, respectively. In 1995, she had also been awarded for Best Actress once again in Cannes for playing Queen Charlotte in The Madness of King George. In 2002, she received the SAG Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for Gosford Park. Mirren is the first female actress to be nominated for three acting performances at the Golden Globe Awards in the same year. She won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Leading Role in the movie drama category for Stephen Frears' The Queen in 2006 (along with two nominations in the Actress in a Mini-series or TV Movie category for Elizabeth I, and Prime Suspect: Final Act). She won both Golden Globes for The Queen and Elizabeth I and also won two SAG awards the same year for the same roles. Mirren is the third actor to win two Golden Globes in the same year, and the first ever to win for both leading roles in TV and film in the same year. She is one of only three actresses (the first was Liza Minnelli in 1973 and then decades later Helen Hunt) to win a Golden Globe, an Oscar and an Emmy for performances given in the same year.
Along with the Golden Globe, Mirren's acclaimed performance in The Queen won her the 2007 Academy Award for Best Actress. She also received Best Actress awards from the Venice Film Festival, Broadcast Film Critics, National Board of Review, Satellite Awards, Screen Actors Guild and a BAFTA, as well as critics awards from all over the world. Entertainment Weekly recently ranked her Number 2 for Entertainer of the Year for 2006 and also won the award for best actress in film at the new Greatest Britons Awards for her role in The Queen. In 2007 Mirren became an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society at Trinity College Dublin.
Mirren won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Mini-series or TV Movie in 1997 for her role in Losing Chase. She received two nominations in the Actress in a Mini-series or TV Movie category for Elizabeth I, and Prime Suspect: The Final Act, where she only won the Golden Globe for her title role performance in Elizabeth I. In that same year she won an SAG award for that same role. Mirren also won an Emmy for her role in Elizabeth I in category Lead Actress in a Mini-Series or a Movie in 2006. She had previously won an Emmy twice before, in that same category, in 1996 for her role in Prime Suspect: Scent of Darkness and in 1999 for The Passion of Ayn Rand.
At the end of a triumphant year of awards for her acclaimed movie performance as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, Dame Helen also collected a 2007 Emmy Television award as Best Actress in a Mini-Series for her performance as Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect: The Final Act. She now has four Emmy awards. This seventh and apparently concluding instalment of the Prime Suspect saga portrayed Tennison as an alcoholic destined for retirement, and was screened in the US on the public service network PBS.
Awards won are indicated by bold lettering.
Each year since 1988 The Critics' Circle has presented an award for Distinguished Service to the Arts, voted for by all members of the Circle, embracing Dance, Drama, Film, Music, Visual Arts and Architecture. At a celebratory luncheon on 10 April 2007 in the National Theatre's Terrace Restaurant, the award for 2006 was presented to Dame Helen Mirren. As David Gritten, chairman of the Film section made clear, the decision to make the award was voted on in November 2006, well in advance of the awards hubbub that surrounded her performance in The Queen. Accepting the award, an engraved crystal rose bowl, Mirren described it as the most useful she has ever received, while reflecting poignantly that this now "might be the last award I will win in my life. It has been a most incredible year. You do the work and then....." Previous recipients include Peter Hall (1988), Judi Dench (1997) and Ian McKellen (2003).
On 5 December 2003, she was invested as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). When she received the honour, Mirren commented that Prince Charles was "very graceful" but forgot to give her half of the award; another person had to remind him to give Mirren the star. She also said that she felt wary about accepting the award and had to be persuaded by fellow comrades to accept the DBE. In 1996 she had declined appointment as a Commander of the order (CBE).
Mirren married American director Taylor Hackford (her partner since 1986) whom she met on the set of White Nights, in the Scottish Highlands on 31 December 1997, his 53rd birthday, in Scotland at Ardersier Parish Church near Inverness, by the Rev. Alex Whiteford. It was her first marriage, and his third (he has two children from his previous marriage). Mirren has no children and says she has "no maternal instinct whatsoever." In 1990, Mirren stated in an interview that she is an atheist.
Mirren's autobiography, In the Frame: My Life in Words and Pictures, was published in the UK by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in September 2007. Reviewing for The Stage, John Thaxter wrote: "Sumptuously illustrated, at first sight it looks like another of those photo albums of the stars. But between the pictures there are almost 200 pages of densely printed text, an unusually frank story of her private and professional life, mainly in the theatre, the words clearly Mirren's own, delivered with forthright candour."
In a GQ interview in 2008, Mirren stated she had been date raped as a student and had often taken cocaine at parties during the 1980s. She was quoted by GQ saying, "I loved coke. I never did a lot, just a little bit at parties". She said she never touched the drug again after reading that Klaus Barbie, who was known as the Butcher of Lyon for his role in the deaths of 4,000 people during World War Two, made a living from cocaine dealing. Saying "And I read that in the paper, and all the cards fell into place and I saw how my little sniff of cocaine at a party had an absolute direct route to this fucking horrible man in South America. And from that day I never touched cocaine again. Until that moment I had never grasped the full horrifying structure of what brings coke to our parties in Britain."
|1968||A Midsummer Night's Dream||Hermia|
|1969||Red Hot Shot|
|Age of Consent||Cora Ryan|
|1972||Miss Julie||Miss Julie|
|Savage Messiah||Gosh Boyle|
|1973||O Lucky Man!||Patricia|
|1975||Caesar and Claretta||Claretta Petacci|
|1979||The Quiz Kid||Joanne|
|The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu||Alice Rage|
|The Long Good Friday||Victoria|
|2010: The Year We Make Contact||Tanya Kirbuk|
|Faerie Tale Theatre: "The Little Mermaid"||Princess Amelia|
|1985||Heavenly Pursuits||Ruth Chancellor|
|Coming Through||Frieda von Richtofen Weekley|
|White Nights||Galina Ivanova|
|1986||The Mosquito Coast||Mother Fox|
|1988||Pascali's Island||Lydia Neuman|
|1989||When the Whales Came||Clemmie Jenkins|
|The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover||Georgina Spica|
|1990||Bethune: The Making of a Hero||Frances Penny Bethune|
|The Comfort of Strangers||Caroline|
|1991||Where Angels Fear to Tread||Lilia Herriton|
|1993||The Hawk||Annie Marsh|
|1994||The Madness of King George||Queen Charlotte|
|1995||The Snow Queen||Snow Queen||(voice)|
|1996||Some Mother's Son||Kathleen Quigley|
|The Prince of Egypt||The Queen||(voice)|
|1999||The Passion of Ayn Rand||Ayn Rand|
|Teaching Mrs. Tingle||Mrs. Eve Tingle|
|No Such Thing||The Boss|
|Happy Birthday||Distinguished Woman|
|Gosford Park||Mrs. Wilson|
|2003||The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone||Karen Stone|
|Calendar Girls||Chris Harper|
|2004||The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy||Deep Thought||(voice)|
|The Clearing||Eileen Hayes|
|2005||Elizabeth I||Queen Elizabeth I|
|2006||The Queen||Queen Elizabeth II|
|2007||National Treasure: Book of Secrets||Emily Appleton|
|2009||State of Play||Cameron Lynne|
|The Last Station||Sofya Tolstoy|
|2010||Love Ranch||Grace Botempo||completed|
|The Debt||Rachel Singer||in post-production|
|The Tempest||Prospera||in post-production|
|Brighton Rock||Ida||in post-production|
Born Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov in London, England, to a Russian father and an English mother, she began her acting career in 1963 with the National Youth Theatre, later joining the Royal Shakespeare Company. She has since then appeared with several theatre companies in a wide variety of roles.
She began appearing in films while still very young but did not really attract attention until the late 1970s in films such as Caligila (1979), Excalibur (1981), Cal (1981), White Nights (1985), Pascali's Island (1988), The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989), The Madness of King George (1994), Gosford Park (2001), and The Queen in 2007, for which she won the Academy Award for best actress, and several other awards (Golden Globe, BAFTA, etc.).
Mirren has also appeared in several series on television, notably as Inspector Jane Tennisson in the immensely popular Prime Suspect serie, she was also acclaimed as Queen Elizabeth I in the serie Elizabeth I (2006).