Jul 26
2020

Helen Mirren turns 75 today (congratulations :-)) and The Guardian‘s Michael Billington has written a fantastic and most in-depth article to celebrate not only her birthday but her legacy: Who is Helen Mirren? Looking back over her career, as she hits 75, it is tempting to see her as two separate people. First, there was the outspoken young classical actor who fiercely resisted objectification, whether from newspapers (“Stratford’s very own sex queen” was a notorious Sunday Times headline) or TV chatshow hosts. Then came the mature Mirren with a gift for playing monarchs (Elizabeth I on TV, Elizabeth II on screen and stage), for picking up every award going, and for being a great dame associated with excellent causes. Among many, she is an ambassador for Women International. Yet I see no great gulf between the two Mirrens. Having followed her career for 50 years, several things strike me. One is that she has always been a dedicated, highly skilled actor. Another is that she is a perennial mix of the nomadic and the majestic: you don’t get to play Cleopatra, as she did for the National Youth Theatre when she was 20, without some inbuilt imperiousness. Indeed, one of my few brief encounters with her took place around that time, when I went to a party hosted by one of her Youth Theatre contemporaries. My abiding memory is of a self-possessed young woman who made many of the men at the party feel like boys (and I, for one, was five years older). Where does that confidence come from? You could argue that it is partly genetic. It is well-known that she was born Helen Mironoff and that her paternal grandfather was a Russian aristocrat who fought in the tsar’s army and who was negotiating an arms deal in Britain when he and his family were stranded by the 1917 revolution. The complete article can be read here.