- Jul 26, 1945
- Ilford, Essex, England
Perhaps the ultimate thinking man's sex symbol, Helen Mirren is also one of the most respected actresses of British stage, screen, and television. With classical training, years of work on the London stage, an acclaimed television series, and dozens of films to her name, Mirren has proven herself an actress of talent, versatility, and unforgettable… More Bio:
Perhaps the ultimate thinking man's sex symbol, Helen Mirren is also one of the most respected actresses of British stage, screen, and television. With classical training, years of work on the London stage, an acclaimed television series, and dozens of films to her name, Mirren has proven herself an actress of talent, versatility, and unforgettable presence.
Born Ilynea Lydia Mironoff on July 26, 1945, in London, Mirren is a descendant of the White Russian nobility. Her father was a member of an aristocratic Russian military family who came to England during the Russian Revolution, but while Mirren was growing up, he worked in turn as a violinist with the London Philharmonic, a taxi driver, and a driving instructor. His daughter, on the other hand, knew her true calling by the age of six, when she realized she wanted to become an actress, in the "old-fashioned and traditional sense." After trying to please her parents with a stint at a teacher's college, Mirren joined the National Youth Theatre, where she first made her mark playing Cleopatra. The acclaim for her performance led the way to other work, and she was soon a member of the vaunted Royal Shakespeare Company, with whom she performed a wide range of classics.
Her stage career thriving, Mirren made her screen debut in 1968 in the somewhat forgettable Herostratus. The same year, she made a more auspicious appearance as Hermia in Peter Hall's lauded adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and her screen career soon took off. She worked steadily throughout the late '60s and '70s, starring in 1969's Age of Consent and working with such directors as Robert Altman on The Long Goodbye (1973) and Lindsay Anderson on O Lucky Man! (also 1973). In 1977, Mirren earned permanent notoriety for her work in Caligula, a mainstream porn offering from the powers at Penthouse that also starred such notables as Peter O'Toole, John Gielgud, and Malcolm McDowell.
During the subsequent decade, Mirren continued to work on the stage, and she also broadened her cinematic resumé and fan base with such films as Excalibur (1981) and Cal (1984). Her portrayal of an older woman in love with a younger man in the latter film earned her a Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival and further established her reputation as an actress willing to explore the kind of unconventional relationships often ignored on the screen. The actress' willingness go beyond safe conventionality was demonstrated with her work in such films as The Mosquito Coast (1986), Pascali's Island (1988), The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989), and The Comfort of Strangers (1991). She again took on the role of an older woman in love with a younger man in Where Angels Fear to Tread in 1991, proving that seven years after Cal, her powers of attraction had been in no way tempered by time.
At the beginning of the 1990s, Mirren began appearing on the television series Prime Suspect. Her character, Jane Tennison, a hard-boiled detective, proved immensely popular with viewers and critics alike, and she stayed with the series for its seven incarnations. Mirren also continued to do acclaimed work for the stage and screen, earning a Cannes Best Actress award and Oscar and BAFTA nominations for her work in The Madness of King George in 1994, and making her Broadway debut in Turgenev's A Month in the Country in 1995. The following year, she earned further acclaim for her work in Some Mother's Son, in which she played the mother of a Belfast prison hunger striker.
In 1997, Mirren found the time to marry producer/director Taylor Hackford before signing on to provide the voice of the Queen in the Disney animated film The Prince of Egypt (1998). In 1999, she played the titular teacher in Kevin Williamson's disappointing Teaching Mrs. Tingle, earning the only good reviews given the movie, and she again won over critics with her title role in the made-for-television Th
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