Helen Mirren
HelenMirren 001.jpg
Helen Mirren
Chiswick, Middlesex, England, UK
Birth date
July 26, 1945

Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironoff, better known as Dame Helen Mirren, is an English actor. She has won an Academy Award for Best Actress, four SAG Awards, four BAFTAs, three Golden Globes, four Emmy Awards, and two Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Awards.

Early Life[edit | edit source]

Mirren was born in Queen Charlotte's Hospital, Chiswick, West London. Her father, Vasiliy Petrovich Mironov (1913–1980), was of Russian origin, originally from Smolensk Oblast and her mother, Kitty (1909–1996), was English. Mirren's paternal grandfather, Colonel Pyotr Vasilievich Mironov, was in the Tsarist Army and fought in the 1904 Russo-Japanese War. He later became a diplomat, and was negotiating an arms deal in Britain, when he and his family were stranded during the Russian Revolution. The former diplomat became a London cab driver to support his family.

His son, Helen Mirren's father, changed the family name to the Scottish-sounding Mirren in the 1950s and became known as Basil Mirren. 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, East London, and was the 13th of 14 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 Mirren 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"; born 1942). She later lived in Leigh-on-Sea.

Mirren attended 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 the time she was 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.

Career[edit | edit source]

Mirren has also appeared in a large number of films throughout her career. Some of her earlier film roles include Age of Consent, O Lucky Man!, Caligula, Excalibur, 2010, The Long Good Friday, White Nights, When the Whales Came and The Mosquito Coast. She appeared in Some Mother's Son, 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 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, for which she was nominated for an Oscar.

In preparation for her role as a retired Israeli Mossad agent in the film The Debt, Mirren reportedly immersed herself in studies of Hebrew language, Jewish history, and Holocaust writing, including the life of Simon Wiesenthal, while in Israel in 2009 for the filming of some of the movie's scenes. The film is a remake of a 2007 Israeli film of the same name (Hebrew: Ha-khov).

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • Her grandfather Piotr Vasilievich Mironoff was a Tsarist (White Russian) aristocrat who was in London negotiating an arms deal during World War I when the 1917 Russian Revolution stranded him there. His wife and son (Helen's father) joined him in London.
  • Before marrying director Taylor Hackford in 1997, she had lived with him in Los Angeles since 1986.
  • Used to work in Southend on Sea; Essex; UK at an amusement park "The Kursaal" as a "blagger" to attract customers on to rides.
  • She was awarded the Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2003 Queen's Birthday Honours List for her services to drama.
  • John Boorman said he cast her opposite Nicol Williamson in Excalibur (1981), against both of their protests, because he felt their dislike of each other made them perfect as rivals Morgana and Merlin.
  • She allegedly refused the C.B.E. (Commander of Order of the British Empire) in 1996.
  • Despite her Russian birth name and ancestry, she does not speak Russian, but is fluent in French.
  • Her great-great-great-great-grandfather was field-marshal Kamensky, one of the Russian heroes of the Napoleonic wars.
  • She is the only actress to play both Queen Elizabeth I (in "Elizabeth I" (2005)) and Queen Elizabeth II (The Queen (2006)).
  • At the premiere of The Queen (2006) at the Venice Film Festival, her performance received a 5 minute standing ovation.
  • Played a Queen a total of six times: The Queen (2006), "Elizabeth I" (2005), The Prince of Egypt (1998), The Snow Queen (1995), The Madness of King George (1994), and Caligula (1979).
  • Became the third person, after Sigourney Weaver and Joan Plowright, to win two Golden Globes for acting in the same year. The characters she played were both Queens of England, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II.
  • She dedicated her BAFTA win for The Queen (2006) (for Best Actress in a Leading Role) to Ian Richardson for playing a huge part in her success story. She said (in her acceptance speech) that Richardson was very supportive towards her when she started out acting, and without him she may not have been so successful. She dedicated this award two days after Richardson died.
  • Has a tattoo of a star on her left hand, acquired at a Native American reservation in Minnesota.
  • Met husband-to-be Taylor Hackford when he directed her in White Nights (1985). When the couple married in the Scottish Highlands, Hackford was dressed in a traditional Scottish tartan kilt.
  • According to an article in People Weekly (November 3, 1980) her tattoo is an American Indian symbol meaning "equal but opposite".
  • Placed her hand and footprint in cement in front of Graumann Chinese theatre on March 28, 2011.
  • Dated Liam Neeson in 1980 whom she met on the set of Excalibur (1981).

Filmography[edit | edit source]

Film[edit | edit source]

Year Title Role Notes
1966 Press for Time Penelope Squires Uncredited
1967 Herostratus Advert woman
1968 Midsummer Night's Dream, AA Midsummer Night's Dream Hermia
1969 Age of Consent Cora Ryan
1970 Red Hot Shot
1972 Savage Messiah Gosh Boyle
Miss Julie Miss Julie
1973 O Lucky Man! Patricia
1976 Hamlet Ophelia/Gertrude
1979 Caligula Caesonia
1980 Hussy Beaty
Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, TheThe Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu Alice Rage
Long Good Friday, TheThe Long Good Friday Victoria
1981 Excalibur Morgana
Time Bandits Veronica
1982 Dark Crystal, TheThe Dark Crystal Emily
1984 Cal Marcella
2010 Tanya Kirbuk
1985 Heavenly Pursuits Ruth Chancellor
Coming Through Frieda von Richthofen Weekley
White Nights Galina Ivanova
1986 Mosquito Coast, TheThe Mosquito Coast Mother Fox
1988 Pascali's Island Lydia Neuman
1989 When the Whales Came Clemmie Jenkins
Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, TheThe Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover Georgina Spica
1990 Bethune: The Making of a Hero Frances Penny Bethune
Comfort of Strangers, TheThe Comfort of Strangers Caroline
1991 Where Angels Fear to Tread Lilia Herriton
1993 Hawk, TheThe Hawk Annie Marsh
Royal Deceit Geruth
1994 Madness of King George, TheThe Madness of King George Queen Charlotte
Children of God Narrator (voice)
1995 Snow Queen, TheThe Snow Queen Snow Queen (voice)
1996 Some Mother's Son Kathleen Quigley Also associate producer
1997 Critical Care Stella
1998 Sidoglio Smithee Herself
Prince of Egypt, TheThe Prince of Egypt The Queen (voice)
1999 Teaching Mrs. Tingle Mrs. Eve Tingle
2000 Greenfingers Georgina Woodhouse
2001 Pledge, TheThe Pledge Doctor
No Such Thing The Boss
Happy Birthday Distinguished woman Also director
Last Orders Amy
Gosford Park Mrs. Wilson
2003 Calendar Girls Chris Harper
2004 Clearing, TheThe Clearing Eileen Hayes
Raising Helen Dominique
2005 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, TheThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Deep Thought (voice)
Shadowboxer Rose
2006 Queen, TheThe Queen Queen Elizabeth II
2007 National Treasure: Book of Secrets Emily Appleton
2008 Inkheart Elinor Loredan
2009 State of Play Cameron Lynne
Last Station, TheThe Last Station Sofya Tolstoy
Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva Trixie English dub
2010 Love Ranch Grace Bontempo
Tempest, TheThe Tempest Prospera
Brighton Rock Ida
RED Victoria Winslow
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole Nyra (voice)
The Debt Rachel Singer
2011 Arthur Lillian Hobson
2012 The Door Emerenc
Hitchcock Alma Reville
2013 Monsters University Dean Hardscrabble (voice)
RED 2 Victoria Winslow
2014 The Hundred-Foot Journey Madame Mallory
2015 Woman in Gold Maria Altmann
Unity Narrator (voice)
Eye in the Sky Colonel Katherine Powell
Trumbo Hedda Hopper
2016 Collateral Beauty Brigitte
2017 Cries from Syria Narrator (voice)
The Fate of the Furious Magdalene Shaw Uncredited
The Leisure Seeker Ella Spencer
2018 Winchester Sarah Winchester
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Mother Ginger
2019 Berlin, I Love You Margaret
Anna Olga
Hobbs & Shaw Magdalene Shaw
The Good Liar Betty McLeish Post-production
2020 Fast & Furious 9 Magdalene Shaw Filming
The One and Only Ivan (voice) Post-production

Television[edit | edit source]

Year Title Role Notes
1975 Caesar and Claretta Claretta Petacci TV film
1977 The Country Wife Margery Pinchwife BBC Play of the Month
1978 As You Like It Rosalind BBC Television Shakespeare
1979 ITV Playhouse Joanne Episode: "The Quiz Kid"
S.O.S. Titanic Mary Sloan TV film
1982 Cymbeline Imogen BBC Television Shakespeare
1985 The Twilight Zone Maddie Duncan Episode: "Dead Woman's Shoes"
1987 Faerie Tale Theatre Princess Amelia Episode: "The Little Mermaid"
1989 Red King, White Knight Anna TV film
1991–2006 Prime Suspect Jane Tennison 15 episodes
1996 Losing Chase Chase Phillips TV film
1997 Painted Lady Maggie Sheridan Miniseries
1998 Tracey Takes On... Professor Horen Episode: "Culture"
1999 Passion of Ayn Rand, TheThe Passion of Ayn Rand Ayn Rand TV film
2002 Door to Door Mrs. Porter TV film
Georgetown Annabelle Garrison TV film
2003 Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, TheThe Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone Karen Stone TV film
2005 Third Watch Annie Foster Episode: "Revelations"
Elizabeth I Queen Elizabeth I Miniseries
2010 Saturday Night Live Herself Episode: "Bryan Cranston/Kanye West"
2011 Saturday Night Live Herself (host) Episode: "Helen Mirren/Foo Fighters"
2012 Glee Becky's Inner Voice Uncredited voice role; 2 episodes
2013 Phil Spector Linda Kenney Baden TV film
2015–present Documentary Now! Herself (host) 20 episodes
2017 World War One Remembered: Passchendaele Herself (host) Miniseries
2019 Catherine the Great Catherine the Great Miniseries

Related Links[edit | edit source]

Official website

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