– I have been in this job long enough to be able to feel experienced, because I have been through everything that can be encountered in my acting career. However, I can’t understand how it is possible that after so much time, I still have a terrible nervousness before the performance, especially in the theater?
At the beginning of my career, I thought that the nervousness would disappear after a few years, and I, just like when I started, struggle with insomnia, and even nausea, every time I go out in front of an audience or stand in front of cameras – admitted the Oscar winner. “Golden Globe”, “Amy”, “Bafta”, “Tony”, which one Meryl Streep says is an “acting god”.
This is the life story of Helen Mirren.
Helen Mirren was born on July 26, 1945, in London as Helena Lidia Mironova. Her father, Vasily Petrovich Mironov, was Russian, and her mother, Kathleen, was Alexandrina Rogers, an Englishwoman from a working-class family. His paternal grandfather, Pyotr Vasilyevich Mironov, was a colonel in the Imperial Army and fought in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904, after which he became a diplomat and worked at the Russian Embassy in London. After the October Revolution of 1917, he lost his job and all his property in Russia, and as he could not return home, he stayed with his family in the British capital. His son Vasiliy thus had the opportunity to acquire a solid education, and already as a young man, he earned his living by playing the viola and driving a taxi, until in 1950 he got a job as a clerk in the Ministry of Transport. At that time, he was already married and, in addition to Helen, he also had an older daughter and a younger son. And in 1954, he changed his name and became Basil Mirren.
The family lived modestly and strictly respecting the values that the father took from his parents: education, order and responsibility.
The mother, whose grandfather was the royal butcher, accepted this without objection and raised her daughters Kathleen and Helen and son Peter in military discipline. So, for example, children were not allowed to listen to the Beatles because it was a shame for their parents, not music. However, the rigid Russian-Victorian upbringing was somewhat milder when it came to theater.
Namely, in a country with a long and strong theatrical tradition, plays begin to be seen at an early age, so the passion for the
boards that mean life develops quite early.
Helen Mirren was thus banned from television, but that is why she went to the theater. The strongest impression on her was left by “Hamlet”, which she watched for the first time in 1958.
– I remember it like it was yesterday! I was fascinated by the show. For days, I dreamed of every detail and dreamed of becoming a part of the theater world. Today’s generations probably can’t even understand what I’m talking about, but for me then entering the theater meant the same thing as entering paradise.
That fascination with theater was recognized by her English teacher, who introduced her to the school drama group. After her parents agreed with her choice, Helen enrolled in the London “New College of Speech and Drama” and at the age of eighteen, she went to audition at the “National Youth Theater”, where she was immediately accepted.
Undoubted talent and dedicated work, brought her to one of the most prestigious British theaters, “Old Vic”, in 1965, where she played Cleopatra.
– Although I studied acting, I am not a supporter of the educational system as it exists today – she explained in an interview.
– The school has good sides, but many more bad ones, and in principle it shapes students according to the mold, unimaginatively and without creativity.
That her first acting engagements were not just a beginner’s fortune was shown in the years that followed: Helen Mirren became a member of one of the most prestigious theaters in Great Britain, “The Royal Shakespeare Company”, in 1966.
Until 1970, she played in about twenty plays, mostly classical works. Although without much experience, she showed very early on that a lot can be expected from her. This was realized by the director and producer John Goldsmith, who made the documentary “Doing Her Own Thing” about Helen in 1970.
Her first major film success came in 1969, with a role in “Age of Consent,” in which she starred with then-big star James Mason. She was soon able to afford and refuse very tempting offers. Her original love – theater – occupied her to such an extent that she had almost no time for private life.
In 1974, the actress published an open letter in the London “Guardian” addressed to London theaters, in which she sharply criticized their lavish “and even ostentatious” productions, which she claimed were “unnecessary and destructive for art”. The letter brought her several enemies, but many more positive reactions from the theater public, so her reputation after that grew even more in professional circles – which could be seen by the fact that she got more and more good roles.
In addition to performances in the home theater, she was increasingly a guest in other prestigious British theaters, and invitations from the USA began to arrive.
However, Helen did not long for film fame and for some time she resisted the call of Hollywood and Broadway. She had good reasons for that: offers were pouring in from all sides, and the producers of the BBC television, for which she made “How Good You Are” in 1978, the first in a series of successful television films, were very persistent in their efforts to get it.
Everything is easy when you are young
It was an extremely fruitful period for the young actress. Critics made her a star for her role in Claude Waitham’s “Caesar and Claret” (1975), in which she brilliantly embodied the mistress of fascist leader Benito Mussolini, Claret Petacci, and she also picked up laurels for roles in “Caligula” (1979). , “Black Friday for Gangsters” (1980) and “Excalibur” (1981).
At that time, Helen loved to have fun, so she herself admits that she did a lot of things that she would not do again today.
– I loved having fun. I was like a marathoner, I could be at a party all night and do everything normally the next day, but I guess that’s how it is when a man is young. I admit, I didn’t shy away from a single line of cocaine, but I quickly gave up on that vice. Today I only occasionally drink a glass of wine after lunch.
Her first serious partner was the seven-year-younger Irish actor Liam Neeson, whom she met in 1981 during the filming of “Excalibur”, but even then she did not think about marriage.
– I have nothing against marriage, nor do I resent people when they rush into a marital union, but I do not see any advantage of it in relation to informal partner life. It may be different when people think of children, but I am completely atypical in that. Namely, I do not have, nor have I ever had, a maternal instinct. I don’t want children, it would restrict my freedom in my value system.
Although such an attitude is not very common, Liam Neeson seemed to completely agree with his partner, so their relationship lasted for several years.
Mirrenova never explained the cause of the split in the mid-1980s, but many speculate that it was Cupid’s arrow that hit the actress in 1985, during the filming of “White Nights” by director and producer Taylor Huckford. As it usually happens, Huckford was extremely repulsive to her at first, “cold and uninteresting”, as she wrote in the book, and she did not particularly impress him either. However, by the end of filming, that had changed and the two of them became inseparable.
A year older, Taylor, had two failed marriages behind him and two sons, and, just like Helen, they did not find their first meeting memorable.
“She looked like an ice queen to me,” he admitted. However, the couple started living together as early as 1986, although this was not the usual way either. Huckford is an American and could not give up Los Angeles, and Helen Mirren only considers London her home, so they lived “in the air” for a while, as the actress explained, alluding to frequent trips, until they finally settled in Los Angeles.
And although none of them hid their satisfaction with the new relationship, they did not think about marriage. The actress often explained in interviews that she does not recognize marriage as an institution.
– The form that marks the relationship between two people be completely irrelevant. Neither sex, nor money, nor marriage as an institution determine the quality of the relationship between a man and a woman, but only the partnership. It takes a long time for a person to understand that, and until then he can make many mistakes.
Despite such strong views, Helen Mirren and Taylor Huckford exchanged vows in 1997, after eleven years of living together, in the fishing village of Ardersir in Scotland. The ceremony was held according to local customs, in a village church, although Helen Mirren is a declared atheist.
When asked how she decided to get married in her sixth decade, despite always claiming that she would never marry, the actress explained that the reasons were completely pragmatic and that her relationship with Taylor had not changed at all.
Even as a young actress, an Indian healer predicted Mirena’s great fame only after the age of forty. Indeed, it was not until the early 1990s that Helen became world-famous, not thanks to theater or film, but to television. The role of police inspector Jane Tennyson in the mini-series “Prime Suspect” brought her numerous awards, and the success with the audience, forced the producers to record as many as seven sequels. We should not forget her brilliant portrait of Elizabeth I in the two-part TV movie of the same name.
However, the crown of her work is unequivocally the role of another queen – Elizabeth II from 2006. After Stephen Frier’s’ film “The Queen” was screened at the 63rd Venice Film Festival, the audience gave a ten-minute standing ovation to the lead actress. And when, in 2007, despite her vast acting experience, she was very excited to receive the “Oscar” for the “role of life”, as the media commented, she did not fail to thank Queen Elizabeth II either.
– We British have a special relationship with the monarchy, and I am quite sure that the rest of the world will never be able to understand that. That is why for me, that role was much more than an acting challenge – she explained.
When she arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport after the award ceremony, the airport staff gathered next to the luggage belt and when Helen Mirren picked up her suitcase, a thunderous applause broke out. The actress opened her bag, proudly took out the statue and thanked for the welcome.
– Under normal circumstances, that would be ostentatious and I would never do that. But this time it was about the queen and the British understood my gesture.
Opponent of fashion
The actress has been praised for her fashion choices for years, at least when it comes to the red carpet, and in 2013, the London “Guardian” declared her one of the fifty best dressed women in the world. But Helen Mirren reacted in her own style.
– Clothes are overrated today. The T-shirt, which costs $200 in a boutique on Fifth Avenue, can be bought for five dollars in an infamous shop on the outskirts, and no one will notice the difference. If I didn’t have the opportunity to borrow dresses for special occasions, I would certainly never give thousands of dollars for one of those creations!
And when a photo of her in a red bikini, taken on a summer vacation in Hawaii, appeared in all British tabloids in 2008, there was no end to her admiration for her perfect line and firm body at the age of 63. The actress also commented on that in her style:
– Believe me, what I see in my bathroom in the morning is quite different from that photo. My body, as well as my face, cannot hide how old it is, nor do I burden myself with it. Sometimes, when I look more closely in the mirror, I think that the time has come for me to decide on a surgical intervention, and then I realize that the feeling of life satisfaction is much more important.
I still feel the best in my body, no matter how old it is.
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