Mirren, Helen 1945(?)–
MIRREN, Helen 1945(?)–
(Dame Helen Mirren)
Original name, Ilynea Lydia Mironoff; born July 25, 1945 (some sources say 1946), in London, England; daughter of Basil Mirren (a viola player and cab driver); married Taylor Hackford (a film director), December 31, 1997; stepchildren: Rio, Alexander. Education: Attended convent school and teacher–training college; studied acting at National Youth Theatre, London, 1963–64, and International Centre for Theatre Research, Paris, France.
Addresses: Agent—Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Publicist—PMK/HBH, 700 San Vicente Blvd., Suite G910, West Hollywood, CA 90069.
Career: Actress, director, and producer. Performed at National Youth Theatre, 1963–64, Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company, 1967–?, and Peter Brook's International Center for Theater Research, United States and Africa, 1972–73; previously worked at an amusement park.
Awards, Honors: Plays and Players London Theatre Critics Award, best actress, 1975, for Teeth 'n' Smiles and The Seagull; Saturn Award nomination, best supporting actress, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, 1982, for Excalibur; Cannes International Film Festival Award, best actress, 1984, Evening Standard British Film Award, best actress, Film Award nomination, best actress, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1985, all for Cal; TV Award, best actress in a television program, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1991, Royal Television Society Award, best actor—female, Broadcasting Press Guild Award, best actress, 1992, all for "Prime Suspect," Mystery!; TV Award, best actress in a television program, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1992, Emmy Award nomination, best actress in a miniseries or special, 1993, both for "Prime Suspect II," Mystery!; TV Award, best actress in a television program, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Emmy Award, best lead actress in a miniseries, 1994, both for "Prime Suspect III," Mystery!; Emmy Award, best lead actress in a miniseries, 1995, for Prime Suspect: Scent of Darkness; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best actress in a play, Outer Critics Circle Award, best debut of an actress, Theatre World Award, outstanding new performer, 1995, all for A Month in the Country; Cannes International Film Festival Award, best actress, Academy Award nomination, best supporting actress, 1995, Film Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a leading role, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, ALFS Award nomination, British actress of the year, London Critics Circle Film Awards, 1996, all for The Madness of King George; Golden Globe Award, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for TV, CableACE Award nomination, actress in a miniseries or movie, 1997, both for Losing Chase; Emmy Award nomination, best lead actress in a miniseries, Golden Satellite Award, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, TV Award nomination, best actress, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1997, all for "Prime Suspect 5: Errors of Judgement," Mystery!; Emmy Award, outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or a movie, 2003, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or miniseries, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for TV, 2000, all for The Passion of Ayn Rand; National Board of Review Award (with others), best ensemble performance, 2001, for Last Orders; Laurence Olivier Theatre Award, best actress, 2001, for Orpheus Descending; New York Film Critics Circle Award, best supporting actress, 2001, Academy Award nomination, best actress in a supporting role, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a motion picture, Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination, best supporting actress, Screen Actors Guild Awards, outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role and outstanding performance by the cast of a theatrical motion picture (with others), Online Film Critics Association Award nomination, best supporting actress, National Society of Film Critics Award, best supporting actress, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, Film Award nomination, performance by an actress in a supporting role, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 2002, Empire Award nomination, best British actress, 2003, all for Gosford Park; ALFS Award, British supporting actress of the year, London Critics Circle Awards, 2002, for Last Orders and Gosford Park; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a leading role, 2002, for Dance of Death; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a miniseries or movie, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or a motion picture made for television, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or miniseries, Golden Satellite Award, best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, 2003, all for Door to Door; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or movie, 2003, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or miniseries, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, 2004, all for The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone; Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 2003; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or a movie, TV Award nomination, best actress, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 2004, both for Prime Suspect 6; European Film Award nomination, best actress, 2003, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a motion picture—musical or comedy, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a motion picture, comedy or musical, Empire Award nomination, best British actress, 2004, all for Calendar Girls; Laurence Olivier Theatre Award, best actress, 2004, for Mourning Becomes Electra.
Cleopatra, Anthony and Cleopatra, Old Vic Theatre, London, 1965.
Kitty, Charley's Aunt, Manchester Theatre, Manchester, England, 1967.
Nerissa, The Merchant of Venice, Manchester Theatre, 1967.
Castiza, The Revenger's Tragedy, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford–upon–Avon, England, 1967.
Diana, All's Well That Ends Well, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford–upon–Avon, 1967.
Cressida, Troilus and Cressida, Royal Shakespeare Company, Aldwych Theatre, London, 1968.
Hero, Much Ado about Nothing, Aldwych Theatre, 1968–1969.
Win–the–Fight Littlewit, Bartholomew Fair, Aldwych Theatre, 1969.
Lady Anne, Richard III, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford–upon–Avon, 1970.
Ophelia, Hamlet, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford–upon–Avon, 1970.
Julia, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford–upon–Avon, 1970.
Tatyana, Enemies, Royal Shakespeare Company, Aldwych Theatre, 1971.
Harriet, The Man of Mode, Royal Shakespeare Company, Aldwych Theatre, 1971.
Title role, Miss Julie, Royal Shakespeare Company, Aldwych Theatre, 1971.
Elayne, The Balcony, Royal Shakespeare Company, Aldwych Theatre, 1971.
Isabella, Measure for Measure, Riverside Studios Theatre, London, 1974.
Lady Macbeth, Macbeth, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford–upon–Avon, 1974, then Aldwych Theatre, 1975.
Maggie, Teeth 'n' Smiles, Royal Court Theatre, London, 1975, then Wyndham's Theatre, London, 1976.
Nina, The Seagull, Lyric Theatre, London, 1975.
Ella, The Bed before Yesterday, Lyric Theatre, 1975.
Queen Margaret, Henry VI, Parts I, II and III, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford–upon–Avon, 1977, then Aldwych Theatre, 1978.
Title role, The Duchess of Malfi, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, England, 1980, then Mound House Theatre, London, 1981.
Grace, Faith Healer, Royal Court Theatre, 1981.
Cleopatra, Antony and Cleopatra, Pit Theatre, London, 1983.
Moll Cutpurse, The Roaring Girl, Barbican Theatre, London, 1983.
Marjorie, Extremities, Duchess Theatre, London, 1984.
Madame Bovary, 1987.
Angela, "Some Kind of Love Story," and dying woman, "Elegy for a Lady," in Two–Way Mirror (double–bill), Young Vic Theatre, London, 1989.
Sex Please We're Italian, 1991.
Natalya Petrovna, A Month in the Country, London, 1994, then Criterion Theatre, New York City, 1995.
Antony and Cleopatra, Royal National Theatre, London, 1998.
Collected Stories, London, 1999.
Lady Torrance, Orpheus Descending, Donmar Warehouse, London, 2000.
Alice, Dance of Death, Broadhurst Theatre, New York City, 2001–2002.
Mourning Becomes Electra, Lyttelton Stage, Royal National Theatre, 2003.
Also appeared as Susie Monmican, The Silver Lassie; in Woman in Mind, Los Angeles.
Herostradus, BBC, 1967.
Hermia, A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1969.
Cora Ryan, Age of Consent, Columbia, 1969.
Colpo rovente, 1969.
Gosh Smith–Boyle, Savage Messiah, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 1972.
Title role, Miss Julie, 1972.
Patricia Burgess, O Lucky Man!, Warner Bros., 1973.
Gertrude and Ophelia, Hamlet, Royal College of Art, 1976.
Caesonia, Caligula (also known as Caligula, My Son and Io, Caligola), Penthouse Films, 1979.
Victoria, The Long Good Friday, Embassy, 1979.
Beaty Simons, Hussy, 1979.
Joanne, The Quiz Kid, 1979.
Alice Rage, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Orion, 1980.
Morgana, Excalibur, Warner Bros., 1981.
Herself, A Documentary on the Making of "Gore Vidal's Caligula" (documentary), 1981.
Marcella Morton, Cal, Warner Bros., 1984.
Tanya Kirbuk, 2010 (also known as 2010: The Year We Make Contact), United Artists, 1984.
(Uncredited) Herself, 2010: The Odyssey Continues, 1984.
Galina Ivanova, White Nights, Columbia, 1985.
Freida von Richtofen Weekley, Coming Through, 1985.
Mother Fox, The Mosquito Coast, Warner Bros., 1986.
Ruth Chancellor, The Gospel According to Vic (also known as Heavenly Pursuits), Skouras, 1986.
Narrator, People of the Forest: The Chimps of Gombe (documentary), National Geographic Society, 1988.
Lydia Neuman, Pascali's Island (also known as L'isola di Pascali), Avenue, 1988.
Clemmie Jenkins, When the Whales Came, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1989.
Frances Penny Bethune, Bethune: The Making of a Hero (also known as The Making of a Hero: The Story of Dr. Norman Bethune and Dr. Bethune), Filmstar, 1990.
Georgina Spica, the wife, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (also known as The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Le cuisinier, le voleur, sa femme et son amant), Miramax, 1990.
Caroline, The Comfort of Strangers (also known as Cortesie per gli ospiti), Skouras, 1990.
Lilia Herriton, Where Angels Fear to Tread, Fine Line, 1991.
The Gift, 1991.
Annie Marsh, The Hawk, Castle Hill, 1993.
Queen Geruth, The Prince of Jutland (also known as Amled: Prince of Jutland, Amled, Prinsen af Jylland, and Prince of Denmark), Miramax, 1994.
Kathleen Quigley, Some Mother's Son (also known as Sons and Warriors and Somebody's Son), Castle Rock, 1996.
Stella, Critical Care, Live Entertainment, 1997.
Voice of the Queen, Prince of Egypt (animated), Dream-Works, 1998.
Herself, Sidoglio Smithee, 1998.
Title role, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Dimension Films/Miramax, 1999.
Georgina Woodhouse, Greenfingers (also known as Jailbuds), Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2000.
Doctor, The Pledge, Warner Bros., 2001.
The boss, No Such Thing, United Artists, 2001.
Amy Dodds, Last Orders (also known as Letzte Runde), Sony Pictures Classics, 2001.
Jane Wilson, Gosford Park, USA Films, 2001.
Chris, Calendar Girls, Buena Vista, 2003.
Eileen Hayes, The Clearing, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2004.
Dominique, Raising Helen, Buena Vista, 2004.
Rose, Shadowboxer, 2005.
Associate producer, Some Mother's Son (also known as Sons and Warriors and Somebody's Son), Castle Rock, 1996.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Valerie, Cousin Bette, PBS, 1971.
Cassandra, Oresteia (also known as The Serpent Son), 1979.
Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, "Prime Suspect I," Mystery!, PBS, 1992.
Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, "Prime Suspect II," Mystery!, PBS, 1993.
Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, "Prime Suspect III," Mystery!, PBS, 1993.
Herself, Hollywood Women (documentary), 1994.
Voice of Margaret Rhonnda/Princess Evelyn Blucher, The Great War and the Shaping of the Twentieth Century (documentary), PBS, 1996.
Superintendent Jane Tennison, Prime Suspect V: Errors of Judgment (also known as Mobil Masterpiece Theatre), PBS, 1997.
Maggie Sheridan, Painted Lady, PBS, 1997.
Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison, Prime Suspect 6 (also known as Prime Suspect the Last Witness and ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre: Prime Suspect 6), PBS, 2003.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Stella MacKenzie, Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill (also known as A Coffin for the Bride and Thriller: Coffin for the Bride), ABC, 1974.
Claretta Petacci, Caesar and Claretta (also known as Private Affairs: Caesar and Claretta), 1975.
The Philanthropist, 1975.
Stella, The Collection (also known as Laurence Olivier Presents: The Collection), 1976.
Behind the Scene, 1978.
Rosalind, As You Like It (also known as The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: As You Like It), 1978.
Stewardess May Sloan, S.O.S. Titanic, ABC, 1979.
Titania, A Midsummer Night's Dream (also known as The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream), 1981.
Title role, Mrs. Reinhardt, 1981.
Imogen, Cymbeline (also known as The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: Cymbeline), 1982.
Anna, Red King, White Night, HBO, 1989.
Superintendent Jane Tennison, Prime Suspect: The Lost Child (also known as Prime Suspect IV and Mobil Masterpiece Theatre), PBS, 1995.
Superintendent Jane Tennison, Prime Suspect: Inner Circles (also known as Prime Suspect IV and Mobil Masterpiece Theatre), PBS, 1995.
Superintendent Jane Tennison, Prime Suspect: The Scent of Darkness (also known as Prime Suspect IV and Mobil Masterpiece Theatre), PBS, 1995.
Chase Phillips (title role), Losing Chase, Showtime, 1996.
Title role, The Passion of Ayn Rand, Showtime, 1999.
Distinguished woman, "Happy Birthday," On the Edge, Showtime, 2001.
Mrs. Porter, Door to Door, TNT, 2002.
Karen Stone, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (also known as Tennessee Williams' The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone), Showtime, 2003.
Voice of Macheeba, Pride, Arts and Entertainment, 2004.
Also appeared in After the Party; The Serpent Son; Jackanory.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Annabelle Garrison, Georgetown, CBS, 2002.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Herself, An Audience with Mel Brooks (documentary), 1983.
The Siskel and Ebert Special, CBS, 1990.
D–Day Remembered: A Musical Tribute from the QE2, PBS, 1994.
Inside the Academy Awards, TNT, 1995.
Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond, UPN, 1996.
The 19th Annual CableACE Awards, 1997.
The 49th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, 1997.
(In archive footage) Jane Tennison, The 100 Greatest TV Characters, Channel 4, 2001.
Herself, The Making of "Gosford Park" (documentary), BBC, 2001.
Martha Stewart's Home for the Holidays, CBS, 2001.
The 55th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Fox, 2003.
(In archive footage) Celebrity Naked Ambition (documentary), Channel 5, 2003.
(In archive footage) Detective Chief Inspector Jan Tennison, Total Cops, 2003.
Narrator, Cary Grant: A Class Apart (documentary), TCM, 2004.
Presenter, The 58th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 2004.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Beatrice–Joanna, "The Changeling," Play of the Month, 1974.
Orinthia, "The Applecart," Play of the Month, 1975.
Babbie, "The Little Minister," Play of the Month, 1975.
Mrs. Pinchwife, "The Country Wife," Play of the Month, 1977.
Angela, "Blue Remembered Hills," Play for Today, 1979.
Celia, "Soft Targets," Play for Today, 1982.
Betty, "Dead Woman's Shoes," The Twilight Zone, 1985.
Princess Emilia, "The Little Mermaid," Faerie Tale Theatre, Showtime, 1987.
Alma Rattenbury, "Cause Celebre," Mystery!, PBS, 1988.
"Love Crimes," The Hidden Room, 1993.
Herself, Clive Anderson Talks Back, 1993.
Voice of herself, "How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World," Reading Rainbow, 1995.
Herself, "Baywatch," French and Saunders, 1996.
TFI Friday, 1996.
Professor Horen, "Culture," Tracey Takes On …, 1998.
"Witless Silence," French and Saunders, BBC, 1999.
Late Show with David Letterman, CBS, 1999.
Herself, "Robert Altman in England," Omnibus, BBC, 2002.
The View, ABC, 2002, 2003, 2004.
Herself, Parkinson, BBC, 2003.
Herself, The Frank Skinner Show, ITV, 2003.
Herself, Go' morgen Danmark, 2004.
Voice of Babette the caller, "Coots and Ladders," Frasier, NBC, 2004.
Television Associate Producer; Miniseries:
Painted Lady, 1997.
Television Director; Movies:
"Happy Birthday," On the Edge, Showtime, 2001.
International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses, 4th edition, St. James Press, 2000.
Rennert, Amy, ed., Helen Mirren: Prime Suspect—A Celebration, 1995.
Entertainment Weekly, April 23, 2004, p. 70.
Harper's Bazaar, February, 1993, p. 66.
Maclean's, January 20, 1997, p. 70.
New Orleans Magazine, April, 1994, p. 83.
People Weekly, November 3, 1980, p. 99; February 15, 1993, p. 14; November 3, 1997, p. 153; January 19, 1998, p. 102.
US, May, 1996, p. 76.
U.S. News & World Report, April 19, 2004, p. 18.
Variety, August 29, 1984, p. 6.
Born Ilyena Lydia Mironoff, July 26, 1945, in Hammersmith, London, England; married Taylor Hackford (a film producer and director), December 31, 1997.
Addresses: Agent—c/o Toni Howard, International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211.
Actress on stage, including: National Youth Theatre, c. 1960; joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, c. 1964; appeared in London stage productions with the Lyric Theatre Company, 1970s; Dance of Death, 2001. Film appearances include: Herostratus, 1967; A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1968; Age of Consent, 1969; Savage Messiah, 1972; Miss Julie, 1972; O Lucky Man!, 1973; Hamlet, 1976; Caligula, 1979; The Quiz Kid, 1979; Hussy, 1980; The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, 1980; The Long Good Friday, 1980; Excalibur, 1981; Cal, 1984; 2010, 1984; White Nights, 1985; Heavenly Pursuits, 1985; Coming Through, 1985; The Mosquito Coast, 1986; Pascali's Island, 1988; When the Whales Came, 1989; The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, 1989; The Comfort of Strangers, 1990; Bethune: The Making of a Hero, 1990; The Hawk, 1993; Prince of Jutland, 1994; The Madness of King George, 1994; Some Mother's Son, 1996; Critical Care, 1997; The Prince of Egypt (voice), 1998; Teaching Mrs. Tingle, 1999; Greenfingers, 2000; Happy Birthday, 2000; The Pledge, 2001; No Such Thing, 2001; Last Orders, 2001; Gosford Park, 2001; Calendar Girls, 2003; The Clearing, 2004; Raising Helen, 2004. Television appearances include: Cousin Bette(miniseries), 1971; The Changeling (movie), 1974; Coffin for the Bride (movie), 1974; The Applecart (movie), 1975; Caesar and Claretta (movie), 1975; The Philanthropist (movie), 1975; The Little Minister (movie), 1975; The Collection (movie), 1976; The Country Wife (movie), 1977; As You Like It, (movie), 1978; Blue Remembered Hills (movie), 1979; Oresteia (miniseries), 1979; S.O.S. Titanic (movie), 1979; Mrs. Reinhardt (movie), 1981; Soft Targets (movie), 1982; Cymbeline (movie), 1982; Cause célèbre (movie), 1987; Red King, White Knight (movie), 1989; Prime Suspect, 1992-96, 2004; Losing Chase (movie), 1996; Painted Lady (miniseries), 1997; The Passion of Ayn Rand (movie), 1999; Door to Door (movie), 2002; Georgetown, 2002; The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (movie), 2003; Pride (movie; voice), 2004.
Awards: Best actress award, Cannes Film Festival, for Cal, 1984; BAFTA Award, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1992, 1993, and 1994, all for Prime Suspect; Emmy Award for outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or a movie, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, for The Passion of Ayn Rand, 1999; created Dame of the British Empire, 2003.
British actress Helen Mirren delighted fans when she returned to the role of London police detective Jane Tennison in the cult-favorite Prime Suspect miniseries in 2003 after a seven-year hiatus. The original episodes ran from 1992 to 1996, and Mirren decided to take a break from the grisly plots and dour characters for a while. Notoriously tough and whip-smart, Mirren's Tennison is one of the most compelling crime-solvers in small screen history. "Scrappy, irritable, acerbic, and impassioned—a workaholic woman fighting for respect in a male domain," noted Maclean's writer Brian D. Johnson, "Tennison is one of the most brilliantly nuanced heroines ever created for television."
Mirren was born in 1945 in London. Her mother came from a long line of butchers in the city, but her given name, Ilyena Lydia Mironoff, betrays her half-Russian heritage from a line of landed gentry and military officials. Her father's father had come to England to negotiate an arms deal during the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, and there had even been a mention of an ancestor in Leo Tolstoy's 1865-69 classic War and Peace. In their adopted land, however, Mirren's family was anything but noble. Her father had played viola with the London Philharmonic Orchestra before working as a cabdriver and later a driver's-license examiner. Her parents, who Anglicized their "Mironoff" surname to Mirren, settled in Ilford, Essex, where a teenage Mirren worked summers at an amusement park.
Mirren was educated at a convent school, where she discovered the plays of William Shakespeare and became engrossed in their intricate plots and well-drawn characters during her teen years. When the school received notice that the National Youth Theatre was holding tryouts, Mirren decided to audition, and won a spot in the esteemed governmentfunded drama program whose alumni include some of the best-known names in British theater and film.
Mirren's parents initially discouraged her ambitions, thinking it wiser that she choose a career in teaching instead, but she was determined to become an actress. At the age of 19, she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, and became one of its newest stars, thanks in part to some daring new productions of classics like Antony and Cleopatra. Early on, Mirren won press attention for low-cut costumes that highlighted her buxom figure, but critics also commended her solid, somewhat smoldering performances.
In the mid-1970s, Mirren left England for a time. She joined an experimental theater troupe run by Peter Brook, a renowned stage director, and visited parts of Africa and even a Native American reservation with it. Because she had never taken a formal drama course, she hoped to expand her horizons through the experience. "It wasn't something that you walk away from with a few quick, easy tricks that you've learned," she said of her time with the Brook group in an interview with Back Stage West's Rob Kendt. "It was much more to do with understanding yourself as a person, and, it seemed at the time, constantly confronting your failures as an actor and as a person." A legacy of that time in her life is visible between her thumb and forefinger in the form of a small tattoo, which she had done on the Minnesota reservation. The design translates as "love thy neighbor."
Mirren began her career in film with a forgotten 1967 black comedy called Herostratus, about a man who sells the rights to his suicide jump to an advertising agency in exchange for a bout of luxury living. During the 1970s, she appeared in a number of feature films and television productions, but emerged as a leading actress to watch in the controversial 1979 film Caligula. It was produced by Bob Guccione, Sr., the publisher of Penthouse magazine, and retold the story of one of the Roman Empire's most debauched leaders, Emperor Gaius Germanicus Caesar, also known as Caligula. Mirren was cast in one of the female leads alongside Malcolm McDowell and Peter O'Toole in the near-pornographic epic. On her first day on the set, Mirren arrived in Rome and was scheduled to meet with O'Toole. "So I'm taken to Peter's trailer to be introduced," she recalled in interview with New York Times writer Ted Loos. "But he's wrapped in his costume—bandages that were oozing with fake sores, pus and blood. I went outside and I threw up in a field."
Caligula was a legendary debacle, and a film that interviewers still asked Mirren about years later. It was reportedly the first film to charge an admission price of $7.50, and there were rumors that its gory scenes even caused audience members to throw up. Critics were scathing in their indictments, but Mirren was pragmatic about the experience. "I was pretty young when I made that—not physically young as much as inexperienced in film," she told Loos. "And you know what? It was a great experience. It was like being sent down to Dante's Inferno in many ways."
Mirren took a more solid role as a gangster's moll opposite Bob Hoskins in the acclaimed drama The Long Good Friday in 1980, and began to win impressive leading roles afterward. She was cast as Morgana in the 1981 King Arthur epic Excalibur, and won a best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her part in the contemporary Irish drama Cal, as the widow of a slain police officer. Her first true Hollywood job came in White Nights in 1985, the Mikhail Baryshnikov ballet drama, as an aging Russian ballerina named Galina Ivanova.
Mirren also had a memorable part in the 1989 Peter Greenaway film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. She played Georgina, the wife of a ruthless mob boss. The lavish, big-budget production took place almost exclusively inside a modernist, extremely expensive restaurant at which Georgina, her loathsome husband played by Michael Gambon, and his entourage dine nightly. She carries on a torrid affair behind the scenes with a lone, bookish diner, and the revenge that her husband extracts when he discovers her transgression is suitably gastronomic and brutal. The Greenaway film called for several scenes of full-frontal nudity, and Mirren gained a reputation as being rather fearless about such requirements in the roles she took. She admitted later, however, that the first time she had to disrobe it was tough. "I just wanted to die," she told New York Times writer Bernard Weinraub. "I wanted the earth to open and swallow me up. But then you get on with it and it becomes absolutely fine."
In 1992, Mirren took on the role that would earn her legions of new fans: that of Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect. The clever but gritty mystery miniseries was set in London, and captured fans on both sides of the Atlantic when it became a Masterpiece Theater staple on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States. Tennison regularly solved some of the toughest, most gruesome cases, while challenging her male colleagues' gender biases and overcoming troubles in her personal life. The fifth installment aired in 1996, and Mirren decided to leave it behind—though she refused to allow the writers to kill off her character.
Mirren returned to her film career during the late 1990s in earnest, appearing in a slew of works. She had already earned her first Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress as Queen Charlotte in 1994's The Madness of King George. In 1999, she won an Emmy award for her title part in The Passion of Ayn Rand, the story of the feted writer. She also took the occasional fun role, such as the title character in the movie Teaching Mrs. Tingle, a dark teen comedy that featured Katie Holmes as her young nemesis in a film that gave Mirren an entirely new generation of fans.
Mirren earned her second Oscar nomination for her part of the prim housekeeper in Robert Altman's Gosford Park in 2001. Her Mrs. Wilson was just one member of Altman's ensemble cast, who gather at an English country manor in 1932 for a hunting party. As Observer critic Ed Vulliamy noted, "Mirren's lines are few, but in a film of few sharp edges, the intensity of her taut control, giving way to an outpouring of grief at the end, gives her the commanding role."
Finally, Mirren decided to return to Prime Suspect as Jane Tennison. Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness began airing in the spring of 2004 with a story about a murdered Bosnian woman that Tennison begins investigating just as her bosses are pressuring her to retire. Mirren initially agreed to return to the role after believing that enough time had passed, but on her first day on the set, "there I am putting on what looks like exactly the same costume I wore seven years ago," she recalled in an interview with Times of London journalist Paul Hoggart. "My heart just dropped and I thought 'My God! What am I doing? I'm going backwards!'" After a few days, however, Mirren watched the footage that had been shot. "I thought: 'This is going to be great. You're an idiot.'"
Mirren still likes the stage, telling W's Peter Braunstein that "I've made a conscious decision to keep doing theater, to stay viable, because you lose your courage if you don't." She has worked regularly in London over the years, and has also appeared on Broadway, most notably in the August Strindberg revival of Dance of Death during the 2001 season. The play, a gripping, claustrophobic marital drama, featured fellow British stage veteran Ian McKellen as her spouse.
Regularly hailed on lists of Britain's most enticing actresses in fan polls, Mirren remained unhesitant about disrobing on-screen. She starred in Calendar Girls in 2003, based on a true story of a group of English women who decided to pose nude for a charity calendar for their local hospital. She has also been known to take on romantic lead roles opposite younger men, and was slated to appear in a British television production as Queen Elizabeth I in the tale of the regent's romance with the much-younger Earl of Essex. In an intriguing royal twist, Mirren—who was created a dame by Prince Charles in 2003—was also set to appear as the second Queen Elizabeth, the mother of the Prince, in another British telefilm fictionalizing the British royal family's reaction to events following the 1997 car-crash death of Diana, the Princess of Wales.
Mirren was once romantically linked with the actor Liam Neeson, but in 1997 wed her longtime boyfriend, American director Taylor Hackford, whom she had met on the set of White Nights. She has said that she would love to play America's most famous housewares doyenne on screen. "I don't understand the vilification of Martha Stewart," Mirren told Loos in the New York Times interview just after Stewart was found guilty of obstructing a federal investigation. "She doesn't deserve Lady Macbeth. In a way, she's more like Rosalind from As You Like It. She's mouthy, pushy and opinionated—kind of wonderful and kind of difficult."
Mirren spent some early years in her career wondering if she should have heeded her parents' warnings about her choice of vocation. She admitted there was a time in her life in her mid-twenties when she "was really depressed . I went to a hand-reader, this Indian guy in a funky neighbourhood," she told Vulliamy in the Observer article. "He said: 'The height of your success won't happen until you're in your late forties.'"
Back Stage West, February 21, 2002, p. 1.
Entertainment Weekly, January 22, 1993, p. 30; September 15, 1995, p. 116; January 9, 2004, p. 61; April 23, 2004, p. 70.
Independent (London, England), September 20, 2001, p. 7; November 5, 2003, p. 14.
Maclean's, January 20, 1997, p. 70.
Mirror (London, England), July 23, 2004, p. 11.
New Republic, April 23, 1990, p. 26.
New York Times, April 23, 1995, p. H5; April 11, 2004, p. AR8.
Observer (London, England), January 20, 2002, p. 3.
People, March 16, 1992, p. 16.
Sunday Times (London, England), November 7, 1999, p. 4.
Time, December 30, 1996, p. 148.
Times (London, England), October 23, 1975, p. 11; November 8, 2003, p. 10.
W, January 2002, p. 30.
British actor Helen Mirren (born 1945) has starred in roles ranging from racy to regal over her career of more than 40 years. Mirren is best known for earning Emmy and Academy awards as Queen Elizabeth I and II, respectively. “Indeed, there's something quite haughty about her that suits such parts,” Ryan Gilbey wrote in the British Guardian newspaper.
Mirren was born Ilyena Lydian Mironoff on July 26, 1945, in London's Chiswick section. Neither Mirren nor her older sister, Katherine, knew about their Russian blood until after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. Mirren is a descendant of field marshal Mikhail Kamensky, a hero of the Russo–Turkish war of the late 1700s.
Mirren was the middle child among three. Her father, Basil Mironoff, was a musician and former Russian nobleman who drove a cab in London. Her mother, Kitty Rogers, was a woman from a blue–collar family who claimed gypsy heritage, and whose grandfather was the butcher to Queen Victoria. Mirren's grandfather was Russian aristocrat Pyotr Vasielvich Mironov, who was stranded in London while negotiating a World War I arms deal in 1917, at the start of the Bolshevik revolution. Basil Mironoff strove to integrate the family into English society, anglicizing the surname to Mirren and refusing to teach any of his children Russian.
The young Mirren was educated in Westcliff–on–Sea, at St. Barnard's High School for Girls. Even early on, Shakespearean drama captivated her. At age 13, she played Caliban in a school production of The Tempest. When she left school, she worked briefly as a carnival barker of sorts at a local amusement park called The Kursaal, coaxing people onto rides.
When Mirren told her parents she wanted to pursue acting as a career they frowned on it, encouraging a more secure living. At age 18, she enrolled in a teacher's college in Hampstead, but soon left for the stage. The National Youth Theatre accepted her after an audition, and she made her acting debut in Antony and Cleopatra in 1965. “She was a sensation as Cleopatra and was deemed a revelation due to her sexual presence onstage,” the British Broadcasting Corporation wrote on its Web site.
Within two years, she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), its personnel having noticed her in a Youth Theatre play. She first appeared for RSC in Coriolanus. Later in her early acting years, she made connections with the likes of Patrick Stewart and Ben Kingsley. While in her 20s, Mirren left London in the early 1970s to perform worldwide with stage director Peter Brook's experimental troupe, the International Centre of Theatre Research, and performed in Africa and the United States. It was during this rather wild phase of her life when she got a tattoo. “I was visiting this native American reservation in Minnesota. I got very drunk on brandy and woke up with it the next day,” she told Gilbey. “I haven't had it removed because it's a reminder that I was sometimes a bad girl in the past.”
“Mirren's sexual presence, her passion for her roles and her willingness to show how an intelligent woman had the strength to use her sexuality all became her trademark in the business,” BBC wrote on its Web site. “However, Helen still had to run the gauntlet and ignore the smutty remarks and seedy attitudes of those she was trying to alter.”
Broke into Film
Mirren made her film debut in 1969 as Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and appeared in the satirical O Lucky Man! in 1973. During the 1970s, Mirren worked in both film and television, in several made–for–TV dramas. In 1979, she played a female lead in a borderline pornographic film Caligula, produced by Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione, Sr. The Guardian's Gilbey called the film “a blight on the [resumes] of all who appeared in it, including Peter O'Toole and John Gielgud.” Andrew Walker wrote for BBC News: “There have been turkeys … most notably the shambolic sub–pornography of Caligula, but Helen Mirren has always redeemed herself with spellbinding performances at just the right time.” In her early years, Gilbey added: “She seemed to be playing up to her off–screen image as a free spirit happy to hang out with the hippies, while her more serious work … was restricted to the stage.”
Mirren took on more serious roles in the 1980s. She co–starred with Bob Hoskins, playing the tough–as–nails moll to a gangland leader in The Long Good Friday and made a name for herself in Hollywood with her appearance beside Harrison Ford and River Phoenix in The Mosquito Coast. She was also a moll, working with Michael Gambon, in The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. In addition, Mirren played Morgana opposite Nicol Williamson's Merlin in Excalibur. There, director John Boorman effectively drew on the dislike Mirren and Williamson developed a few years back while working together on Macbeth.
While filming Excalibur, Mirren met another rising actor, Liam Neeson, and they had a brief relationship. In 1984, she met Taylor Hackford, who directed An Officer and a Gentleman. She moved in with him in 1986 and they married on New Year's Eve, 1999, at Ardesier Parish Church in Scotland. Hackford first met her when she appeared in his 1985 movie, White Knights; at the time, he said she emanated “cold disdain,” as reported in the Guardian.
From 1990 to 2006, she played detective inspector Jane Tennison in the Prime Suspect series. Tennison alternated between confused and ruthless, and frequently made waves with male police officers. The ratings success of Prime Suspect in the 1990s was an effective transition for a Mirren approaching her 50s. It ran from 1990 to 2006— ending with her retirement from the force—and earned her Emmy, Golden Globe, and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) nominations. “It allowed me finally to step forward to the next generation, to catch up with who I really was,” she told Gilbey. “It was a huge relief not to have to play even one year younger.”
Juggled On–Screen Personas
Though Mirren has best shone in her more sophisticated roles, she downplays that with a down–to–earth persona. “Sometimes, she will accomplish this by making very un–Hollywood, off–the–cuff statements such as: 'I've always been a bit of a wild thing and have the scars to prove it,” Gilbey wrote. She has freely discussed her relationships with Neeson and Williamson, both stormy at times.
She is also active politically, battling the sex–slave trade in Asia, working for Oxfam International against the buildup of arms, and pleading to the British government on behalf of Ugandan children ensnared in civil war. About aging, she told the Guardian: “There's a difficult period between 44 and 58 when you're no longer a mature, good–looking woman and not yet an old bird, but after that it's fine.”
Mirren continued to star in productions in the new millennium. She appeared on Broadway in Dance of Death in 2001 and played the title role in a remake of the Tennessee Williams classic, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, in 2003. She also starred in Pride (2004), a BBC One production, which featured computer animation.
Won Acclaim as Queen
Mirren's roles have also included Lady Macbeth, and as a contrast, a cruel teacher in Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999). She also played the mother of a hunger–striking Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner Some Mother's Son (1996). She “can switch with aplomb between classical drama, hard–boiled thrillers and breezy comedy,” Gilbey wrote. In the television miniseries Elizabeth I, produced by Tom Hooper and released in 2005, she played Britain's aging queen juggling her public and private personas. Mirren, who had turned 60 around the time, won three Golden Globe awards and an Emmy, among her many accolades. Pauline Kael, as quoted by Gilbey, wrote in the New Yorker: “Probably no other actress can let you know that she's playing a distinguished and important woman.”
She finally won an Academy Award in 2007, for best leading actress in The Queen. In that film, she portrayed Queen Elizabeth II as the royal family coped with aftermath of the death of Princess Diana in an automobile accident in Paris, France. Mirren had already won BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild awards for her performance. Her Oscar win surprised no one. Bookmaking company William Hill began paying out bets one week before the ceremony, and Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres quipped during the event, according to BBC News: “It's exciting because you don't know who's going to win—unless you're British, and then you know you've a pretty good shot.”
Mirren, who was named a Dame of the British Empire in 2003, said on BBC News: “I had to recognize the person that I was playing and everything that she means to us and to me and to the history of our country and all the rest of it.” She received a congratulatory phone call from the queen herself and an invitation for her, director Stephen Frears, and screenwriter Peter Morgan to join her for lunch at Buckingham Palace. “I think it's wonderful that I live in a country that allows us to make a film like this,” she said, also on BBC News.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair only added to the praise. “It takes a very special kind of actress to take on a role of this kind and to do so to universal acclaim. Helen Mirren is a very special kind of actress and her Oscar is well deserved,” Blair said in a statement published on BBC News. Michael Sheen played Blair's character in the movie.
Mirren also went on to give struggling British television network Independent Television, commonly known as ITV, an inadvertent shot in the arm. ITV partially underwrote Elizabeth II. The network also carried a two–part, four–hour sequel to Prime Suspect, with Mirren in her old role as Jane Tennison. ITV carried Elizabeth II in the fall of 2007. Prime Suspect: The Final Act also won an Emmy.
Breath of Fresh Air in Hollywood
Cashing in on her fame, later in 2007 Mirren published her autobiography, In the Frame, published by Orion/ McArthur. “It just flew off the page and it's not been changed,” she told the Web site of Canadian cable television network CTV. She was so prolific she threw her publishers into a tizzy. “They wanted 20,000 words but before I knew it I'd written 56,000 and they were screaming stop. We've got too many words. It'll be too big a book. Stop writing,” she told the CTV.ca Web site. Constance Droganes of CTV.ca praised the down–to–earth tone in Mirren's book, which includes Russian family roots, personal anecdotes, dumpy apartments, and life–learning experiences. “Mirren's story is rich, entertaining, and one that makes ‘life apprenticeship,’ not 15 minutes of fame, the real prize at the end of this page–turner,” Droganes wrote.
Mirren will not slow down. In National Treasure, Book of Secrets, released in 2007, she starred with Nicholas Cage in a film about missing information related to the 1865 assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. She also appears in Inkheart, scheduled for release in March of 2008 and set in medieval times. Future movie projects include State of Play, an adaptation of the British miniseries, and Love Ranch, directed by her husband, and involving Nevada's first legalized brothel.
Mirren and Hackford live in Los Angeles; she is the stepmother of Hackford's two sons, Rio and Alex. Being fluent in French, Mirren also owns houses in London and southern France. In recent years the couple sold their estate in New Orleans, Louisiana. “In a scandal–happy showbiz fueled by botox–junkie actresses, rehab–hotties, and jail– bound badsters, Mirren, 62, has done the impossible by today's Hollywood standards: not just last, but blast her career into a level of super stardom that's rarely ever seen,” Droganes wrote.
“Dame Helen Crowned Best Actress,” BBC News, February 26, 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/6396179.stm (December 23, 2007).
“Dame Helen Mirren—Actress,” BBC, May 1, 2007, http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A21388494 (December 6, 2007).
“Helen Mirren,” Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000545/ (December 6, 2007).
“Helen Mirren Dishes about Life ‘In the Frame,’ ” CTV, December 3, 2007, http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20071130/ENT_Mirren_071130/20071202?hub=Entertainment (December 6, 2007).
“Helen Mirren: In Her Prime,” BBC News, June 13, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/2988112.stm (December 6, 2007).
“Helen Mirren: The Queen of All She Portrays,” Guardian, August 13, 2006, http://film.guardian.co.uk/features/featurepages/0,,1844293,00.html (December 6, 2007).
Nationality: British. Born: Ilynea Lydia Mironoff in London, England, 26 July 1945. Education: Attended St. Bernard's Convent, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex; also attended teacher training college in North London. Family: Married producer-director Taylor Hackford, 1997. Career: 1963–64—member National Youth Theatre; 1967—member Manchester Repertory Theatre; 1967–71, 1974–75, 1977–78, 1982—member Royal Shakespeare Company; 1967—film debut in Herostratus; 1972—attended Peter Brook's International Centre of Theatre Research in Paris; in TV mini-series Cousin Bette; 1972–73—toured Africa and the United States with Peter Brook's company; 1991–96—starring role in "Prime Suspect" series of TV productions, including the mini-series Prime Suspect, 1991, Prime Suspect 2, 1992, and Prime Suspect 3, 1994, the TV movies Prime Suspect: The Lost Child, 1995, and Prime Suspect: Inner Circles, 1996; 1992—Los Angeles stage debut in Woman in Mind; 1995—Broadway debut in A Month in the Country. Awards: Best Actress Award, Cannes Film Festival, and Best Actress, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, for Cal, 1984; Best Actress Awards, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, for Prime Suspect, 1991, 1992, 1993; Best Actress Award, Cannes Film Festival, for The Madness of King George, 1995. Agent: Ken McReddie Ltd., 91 Regent Street, London W1R 7TB, England. Address: c/o ICM, 8942 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, U.S.A.
Films as Actress:
Herostratus (Don Levy)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (Peter Hall) (as Hermia)
Age of Consent (Michael Powell) (as Cora Ryan)
Savage Messiah (Ken Russell) (as Gosh Smith-Boyle); Miss Julie (Phillips and Glenister) (title role)
O Lucky Man! (Lindsay Anderson) (as Patricia)
As You Like It (Basil Coleman—for TV) (as Rosalind); The Collection (for TV)
S.O.S. Titanic (William Hale—for TV) (as Stewardess May Sloan); Blue Remembered Hills (Brian Gibson—for TV)
Caligula (Brass—produced in 1977) (as Cesonia); Hussy (Chapman) (as Beaty Simons); The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (Haggard) (as Alice Rage); The Long Good Friday (Mackenzie) (as Victoria)
Excalibur (Boorman) (as Morgana); Priest of Love (Christopher Miles); A Midsummer Night's Dream (Moshinsky—for TV) (as Titania)
Cymbeline (Moshinsky—for TV) (as Imogen)
Cal (O'Connor) (as Marcella Morton); 2010 (Hyams) (as Tanya Kirbuk); The Little Mermaid (Iscove—for TV)
White Nights (Hackford) (as Galina Ivanova); The Gospel According to Vic (Heavenly Pursuits) (Gormley) (as Ruth Chancellor); Coming Through (Barber-Fleming—for TV) (as Frieda von Richtofer Weekly)
The Mosquito Coast (Weir) (as Mother)
Pascali's Island (Dearden) (as Lydia Neuman)
When the Whales Came (Rees) (as Clemmie Jenkins); The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (Greenaway) (as Georgina Spica, the Wife); Red Knight, White Knight (Geoff Murphy—for TV) (as Anna)
Bethune: The Making of a Hero (Dr. Bethune) (Borsos—released in U.S. in 1993) (as Frances Penny Bethune)
The Comfort of Strangers (Schrader) (as Caroline); Where Angels Fear to Tread (Sturridge) (as Lilia Herriton); People of the Forest: The Chimps of Gombe (TV doc) (as narrator)
The Hawk (Hayman) (as Annie Marsh)
Prince of Jutland (Axel) (as Queen Geruth); The Madness of King George (Hytner) (as Queen Charlotte)
Prime Suspect: The Lost Child (John Madden—for TV) (as Supt. Jane Tennison)
Prime Suspect: Inner Circles (Sarah Pia Anderson—for TV) (as Supt. Jane Tennison); Losing Chase (Kevin Bacon); Some Mother's Son (Terry George) (as Kathleen Quigley + assoc. pr); Prime Suspect 5: Errors of Judgment (Philip Davis—mini for TV) (as Supt. Jane Tennison)
Critical Care (Lumet) (as Stella); Painted Lady (Jarrold—mini for TV) (as Maggie Sheridan + assoc. pr)
Sidoglio Smithee (Molina) (as herself)
By MIRREN: articles—
Interview with James Saynor, in Interview (New York), January 1993.
Interview with Amy Rennert, in New Orleans Magazine, April 1994.
On MIRREN: book—
On MIRREN: articles—
Edwardes, Jane, "Mirren Image," in Time Out (London), 11 January 1989.
Sanderson, Mark, "Two-Way Mirren," in Time Out (London), 12 June 1991.
Taubin, Amy, "Misogyny, She Wrote," in Village Voice (New York), 28 January 1992.
Wolcott, James, "Columbo in Furs," in New Yorker, 25 January 1993.
"Mirren Image," in Harper's Bazaar (New York), February 1993.
Grimes, William, "Detective Tennison Returns to PBS, Still in Charge but Now in Command," in New York Times, 2 February 1993.
Fallon, James, "Helen's Prime Time," in W (New York), May 1994.
Hitchens, Christopher, "Mirren and Middlemarch," in Vanity Fair (New York), May 1994.
Ansen, David, "The Prime of Helen Mirren," in Newsweek (New York), 16 May 1994.
Current Biography 1995, New York, 1995.
Weinraub, Bernard, "Uninhibited, Opinionated, It Must Be Helen Mirren," in New York Times, 23 April 1995.
Wolcott, James, "Helen Mirren," in New Yorker, 24 April 1995.
Premier (Boulder), January 1997.
* * *
Helen Mirren's career has been a remarkable blend of prestige and trashy roles, befitting an actress who has enjoyed long-term membership in the Royal Shakespeare Company and highly publicized exposés of her Bohemian lifestyle and romantic involvements with, most notably, Liam Neeson and Taylor Hackford (with whom Mirren has lived in Los Angeles since the mid-1980s). In the 1970s, she was know as "the Sex Bomb of the RSC," once quoted as proudly proclaiming, "I like sex; I'm extremely sensual." In her first major screen role, in Michael Powell's Australian feature, Age of Consent, she snorkeled nude along the Great Barrier Reef. She was provocatively naked in Ken Russell's Savage Messiah, and on stage in the 1971 Royal Shakespeare Company production of Jean Genet's The Balcony. Mirren was at ease, and superb, in Shakespearian roles, including Hermia and Titania in 1968 (film) and 1982 (stage) productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Lady Macbeth on stage in 1974, and Rosalind in the BBC's As Your Like It. At the same time, she enjoyed shocking the critics and her fans by performing in Gore Vidal's Caligula, but not, as she points out, "in the naughty bits."
Splendid as she was as Queen Charlotte, opposite Nigel Hawthorne, in the film adaptation of Alan Bennett's play, The Madness of George III, it is in the medium of television in recent years that Helen Mirren has garnered most praise and an international following. She first attracted the attention of American audiences in 1987 in Anglia Television's adaptation of Terence Rattigan's Cause Celebre, playing the real-life Alma Rattenbury, who, in 1935, took her 18-year-old chauffeur as her lover and encouraged him to murder her husband. From that performance as a lonely and confused middle-aged woman, Mirren moved on to an entirely different role, that of Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison in Lynda La Plante's Prime Suspect. Here, Mirren is cast as the highest ranking policewoman in the United Kingdom, fighting both sexism and the intrusion of her private life. Mirren's characterization is of a strong woman, plagued by self doubts and one whose place in the system forces her to display an unpleasant edge. Thanks to Alma Rattenbury and Jane Tennison, Mirren has become, in the words of James Wolcott in the New Yorker, "the heiress to Glenda Jackson as the queen of the quality miniseries."
From a major British stage performer of the 1970s, Helen Mirren graduated to secondary film roles in the 1980s and starring television performances in the late 1980s and 1990s. In middle age, the actress gives little indication as to what the future holds. The prurient will note that her body, as well displayed as it was in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, shows no signs of aging, while her facial features have developed from a somewhat vacuous expression to those of a woman who has obviously enjoyed a very interesting life and whose few lines are suggestive of an intellectual interior rather than the aging process.