Date of Birth
July 26, 1945
Place of Birth
Hammersmith, London, England, UK
Helen Lydia Mironoff
5′ 4″ (1,63 m)
Taylor Hackford (31 December 1997 – present)
Tattoo of a star on left hand (meaning “equal but opposite”)
done at a Native American reservation in Minnesota
Dame Helen Mirren was born in Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in West London. Her mother, Kathleen Alexandrina Eva Matilda (Rogers), was from a working-class English family, and her father, Vasiliy Petrovich Mironov, was a Russian-born civil servant, from Kuryanovo, whose own father was a diplomat. Sometimes in 1951 Mirren’s father first anglicised his name to Basil and then changedchanged the family name to Mirren by deed poll.
The second of three children (she has an older sister, Katherine, and a younger brother, Peter Basil, who passed away in 2002), Mirren was brought up in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
She attended Hamlet Court primary school in Westcliff-on-Sea, where she had the lead role in a school production of Hansel and Gretel, and St Bernard’s High School for Girls in Southend-on-Sea, where she also acted in school productions. Mirren then attended a teaching college, the New College of Speech and Drama in London, “housed within Anna Pavlova’s old home, Ivy House” on North End Road – which runs from Hampstead to Golders Green.
Aged 18, she auditioned for the National Youth Theatre (NYT) and was accepted. Aged 20, she played Cleopatra in the NYT production of Antony and Cleopatra at the Old Vic, which led to her signing with the agent Al Parker.
♥ [about herself] Being famous for being cool about not being gorgeous.
♥ The trick in life is learning how to deal with it.
♥ Actors are rogues and vagabonds. Or they ought to be. I can’t stand it when they behave like solicitors from Penge. I’m a would-be rebel. The good girl who’d like to be a bad one.
♥ All you have to do is to look like crap on film and everyone thinks you’re a brilliant actress. Actually, all you’ve done is look like crap.
♥ Flesh sells. People don’t want to see pictures of churches. They want to see naked bodies.
♥ [on becoming Dame Helen Mirren in 2003] In England, it’s a big deal. I do feel it’s a great honor. But I had to think about it quite seriously for a couple of weeks. It does sort of squash you into the establishment thing. In the end, my baser feelings got the better of me. I succumbed to pride.
♥ [In 2006] Being me right now is sort of amazing.
♥ [Part of her BAFTA acceptance speech, BAFTA Film Awards, 2007] This is great. What an honor, especially to be nominated – just to be nominated – amongst those incredible powerhouse performances this year from women. – I applaud them. I think they were absolutely fantastic. Write more roles for us like that please.
♥ [on Ian Richardson, BAFTA Film Awards, 2007] Many years ago, when I started off as an actress, I had the immense good fortune to work with an actor that was so generous at sharing his craft – He became a mentor to me, he helped me believe in myself. Ian Richardson, I’m not too sure I would be here today if it wasn’t for you.
♥ [on her role in National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)] I get half-drowned, jump across an abyss and fly. I loved every minute of it. Getting attached to wires and flying was the most glorious feeling. It’s a lot easier than acting!
♥ [on not having children] No. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I am so happy that I didn’t have children. Well, you know, because I’ve had freedom.
♥ [on the participation of celebrities in social movements] I’ve been involved with Oxfam on the proliferation of the illegal sale of small arms throughout the world, which is causing such, such devastation. The only way you can sometimes garner attention is by sending someone like me as a front person.
♥ There’s nothing sexy about doing a nude scene. It’s rather uncomfortable. I like dressing up rather than dressing down.
♥ [on filming Love Ranch (2010) with husband Taylor Hackford] Funnily enough, the older prostitutes are the most popular, because the guys think they’re user-friendly. They’re comfortable with them, so they don’t feel intimidated. And guys who go to brothels are not the most successful guys in the world sexually, so that’s what they need. It’s all about not being intimidated.
♥ [About working with husband Taylor Hackford] Working with him, I have to say, wasn’t easy. My husband in work mode is not the easiest of people, although a lot of people adore working with him. But because I have the emotional connection with him, I would get upset if he was shouting – not at me, but at someone else, demanding something. I would be seeing it from their point of view. I would find myself rushing around trying to mop up after him. But I love the fact that he got the film together and he created a wonderful role for me. But husbands and wives don’t need to work together. We are professional people in our own worlds. There’s nothing I love more than going to my husband’s set and being his wife. But this, it mixes the roles up. It either gets too cozy, which is not a good thing, because it’s not very creative. Or it gets the opposite . . . He didn’t make me cry, but he made me very cross.
♥ I was never going to be anyone’s mum or grandmother. But I can dig that beautiful earth-mother thing, feeding the masses. I’m thinking of Nigella Lawson. Does she have children? She does. Do you know what I mean? She’s sort of gorgeously fertile. That’s sexy.
♥ I actually won my first Golden Globe for something called Losing Chase (1996). Kyra Sedgwick and me fell in love with each other, and it was a lovely piece about women loving women. In my heart of hearts I love women more than I love men. I mean sexuality aside – I’m heterosexual. I guess I’m heterosexual. I loved my friend I had at college because there was a sense of camaraderie and physical closeness that doesn’t have to be sexual.
♥ [on asking to be interviewed by male rather than female journalists]: …I prefer male journalists because there’s a streak of female journalism – the bitches – who are mean-spirited and nasty because you are another woman and want to make you feel crap. It’s very upsetting. I’m more careful when I’m being interviewed by a woman because, from experience as well as reading articles about other women, I know there is a little stiletto knife hidden behind the back.
♥ No, I am not confrontational at all. I met a great guy, then another great guy, and had a series of fantastic relationships with nice men. [And that healed me.] Until that point I was thinking men were horrible; they were boring, boorish, vulgar, selfish and arrogant. Then I met a guy who was funny and lovely to me and I loved him. That was Ken, my first boyfriend. I learnt from wonderful men, wonderful relationships. They gave me support, made me feel good and made me laugh. Now I think men are absolutely great.
♥ As you get older, naked stuff gets easier. It’s more to do with the role than what men in the audience think. There’s a liberation about it.
♥ [on playing Sofya Tolstoy in The Last Station (2009)] The most telling line that Sofya has is when she says, “Why should it be easy? You are the work of my life and I am the work of yours. That’s what love is”. I think that’s a brilliant description. Because it is work. And you go through all different mountains and valleys in a marriage.
♥ My poshed-over voice was learnt and assimilated. I was an Essex girl.
♥ You can’t ask people: “Did you cast me in this because I won an Oscar?” They’d always deny it: “No! No! We would’ve had you anyway!” Liars!
♥ I didn’t cry when I got my Oscar [for The Queen (2006)], but I cried then [when applauded by baggage handlers at Heathrow Airport]. I had my Oscar in my bag, so I got it out. I was shameless, but they loved it.
♥ [on going to the Oscars] Oh, it’s such a palaver! It’s like a day’s work. You have to decide what you’re going to wear. You put on your costume. You do your performance. It’s exhausting. And if you win, everyone wants a piece of you. Of course, it’s the mother ship of all ceremonies. And it’s a fantastic, wonderful, carnival that you just can’t resist. You jump aboard the roundabout, get whizzed round until you’re vaguely nauseous and stagger off happily at the end, back to reality.
♥ I don’t mind being sexy, but on my terms. To this day, I love sexuality. I love the art of sexuality. I love Lady Gaga and the performance of sexuality. The mysterious, the artistic and the slightly perverse. I’m interested in all that.
♥ [on a 1970s interview with Michael Parkinson] Your jaw is on the floor watching it. He has always denied that it was sexist, but it was.
♥ [on her sexy image in the ’70s] In my mind I was a serious actress. But the men in that era got away with such sexist crap. It was constant. They were pushing me into being Barbara Windsor, that sort of “Carry On” type. And it wasn’t because of my beauty. I was never beautiful. It was because of these [breasts]! I remember doing a photo shoot for the play “Teeth and Smiles” . And this arsehole photographer was saying, “Cross your legs and lean down, dear! Because he wanted these [pointing to her breasts.]
♥ I was with my husband for years before we got married. It’s nice to be married. I love it. And that took me by surprise. But there’s really no essential difference to not being married.
♥ This is no bullshit: the reason I’m still with Taylor (Hackford) after all these years is because he supports me in my work, he’s proud of my successes and he’s sympathetic if things aren’t successful. If they aren’t, he’ll say, ‘F*** ’em darling! You were great.’ And I do likewise.
♥ [on filming RED (2010)] I should be going to the gym now but I just don’t want to do it. I don’t do anything like that regularly at all. But because I’m filming, I should.
♥ [on seeing an amateur production of “Hamlet” at age 13] I was blown away by all this over-the-top drama. We grew up without TV and never went to the cinema, so after “Hamlet” all I wanted to do was get back into that world where all those fabulous things were possible.
♥ It’s nice to look back and remember, and to think, “Wow! I’ve had a fantastic life, it’s been brilliant!” Or else you think, “Oh, thank God that’s all over!”
♥ I try not to think of my own mortality, but that as I gets older it gets darker, there is no question about that. You just say: ‘It’s going to happen and it’s going to happen to everybody’.
♥ [on Lady Gaga] I love the way she’s elevated pop to performance art, or dragged performance art down to pop, or maybe made a wonderful amalgam of the two.
♥ [on performing in television versus onstage] Theatre is more tiring, demanding, more frightening, everything. Film, you have to get up early in the morning, and I hate that. Both are powerful mediums. But the great thing about theatre is you do material you don’t normally do on film. And you’re the editor of your performance onstage.
♥ We’re all idiots when we’re young. We don’t think we are, but we are. So we should be.
♥ If you wanted to teach someone who knew absolutely nothing about the British people, it would be very good to guide them to Shakespeare. You could see the foolishness, the humour, the brutality – it’s all in almost every play.
♥ [on her perceived surge in popularity] Well, that’s how it looks from the outside. My success grew slowly but constantly. I’ve been working every year since I started acting and I got many awards before I won the Oscar for The Queen (2006). Maybe it’s because I’ve never been interested in big Hollywood flicks and I’ve only been in a few recently. ♥ I’ve always sensed a misogynist and sexist attitude, even in the ’60s and ’70s. Can I say that Five Easy Pieces (1970) sucks? …You need to be a feminist. It’s about equality and rights.
♥ I can’t say no to an interesting role. I always tell my husband, ‘That’s it, I quit, I’ve done all I wanted’, and he’s just like, ‘Yeah, yeah. Sure’.
♥ People get together for reasons other than sex and, although it’s important for most couples, it’s not what makes marriages last. I think the power of partnership in marriage is under-recognized in our society. That’s what makes marriages work, not sex.
♥ I’m not going to be the first female Doctor Who (2005). Absolutely not. I absolutely wouldn’t contemplate that. But I do think it’s well overtime to have a female Doctor. I think a gay, black, female Doctor would be the best of all.
♥ [on winning an Oscar] Part of you is terrified they will call your name because the fear of making a fool of yourself is paramount. But then it’s an incredible pleasure, to sort of feel like you haven’t been found out – because as actors we always think we’re going to be discovered as frauds.
♥ All any of us can do is make the best of what we have and live with generosity and kindness. Now that is beautiful.
♥ I’m an eternal optimist. I know that when I put my moisture on it probably does fuck all, but it just makes me feel better.
♥ [on streaming] It’s devastating for people like my husband, film directors, because they want their movies to be watched in a cinema with a group of people. An audience, a movie, and you’re all in it together. You’re frightened, you laugh, you cry all together. So it’s a communal thing. And that’s beginning to disappear.
♥ [as a teen] I read Rimbaud and Verlaine, whom I found extremely romantic. I smoked Gitanes to appear cool, and I dreamed of being French. But not just any French woman – I wanted to be an elegant bourgeoisie or an artist just like Juliette Greco. From the age of 15, I desperately wanted to be Brigitte Bardot and to go and live in St Tropez. But I was just a small and plump English girl with spots. Then I had a French boyfriend called Jean-Louis with whom I’m still  friends.
♦ Her paternal grandparents were Russian. Her grandfather, Piotr Vasilievich Mironoff, was a Tsarist 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. On her mother’s side, she is of English descent.
♦ 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 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.
♦ Became an Associate Member of RADA.
♦ 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 (in The Queen – 2006).
♦ At the premiere of The Queen (2006) at the Venice Film Festival, her performance received a 5 minute standing ovation.
♦ Member of the jury at the Venice Film Festival in 2004.
♦ 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) 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. 
♦ Nominated for Best Actress, Tony Award for “A Month in the Country” by Ivan Turgenev. 
♦ Placed her hand and footprint in cement in front of Graumann Chinese theatre on March 28, 2011.
♦ Lived with Liam Neeson for 4 years after meeting on the set of Excalibur (1981).
♦ Was presented the 2,488th Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame accompanied by her husband Taylor Hackford, two stepsons and Phil Spector (2013) director David Mamet (January 3, 2013).
♦ She named Anna Magnani as her acting idol.
♦ Release of her book “In the Frame: My Life in Words and Pictures” on March 2008.
♦ Her first cousin is Tania Mallet who was a James Bond girl in Goldfinger (1964). Her father and Tania’s mother are brother and sister. Helen and Tania have enjoyed a warm relationship since childhood. Tania died in 2019, and a grieving Helen provided a loving and public tribute to “People” magazine about how her cousin was “kind and generous” and that she and her sister Kate will “miss her very much”.
♦ Friends with Russell Brand.
♦ She has a curious fascination with facial scars, particularly on men, finding them quite sexy and mysterious, perhaps indicative of an intriguing chapter in a man’s life. She actually sported a facial scar for her role in The Debt (2010).
♦ Is mentioned by name in the hard-core rap song “Grippin’ On Wood” by Pimp C Chad Butler.
♦ In 2012, Mirren was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life that he most admires.
♦ On 11 May 2010, Mirren attended the unveiling of her waxwork at Madame Tussauds London. The figure reportedly cost £150,000 to make and took four months to complete.
♦ In 1990, Mirren stated in an interview that she is an atheist. In the August 2011 issue of Esquire magazine, Mirren said, “I am quite spiritual. I believed in fairies when I was a child. I still do sort of believe in the fairies. And the leprechauns. But I don’t believe in God.
♦ She is quoted as being a naturist, telling the Radio Times “I’m a naturist at heart. I love being on beaches where everyone is naked. Ugly people, beautiful people, old people, whatever. It’s so unisexual and so liberating.” In 2004, she was named “Naturist of the Year” by British Naturism. She said: “Many thanks to British Naturism for this great honour. I do believe in naturism and am my happiest on a nude beach with people of all ages and races!”.
♦ She was initially hesitant to sign on to RED (2010) due to film’s graphic violence, but changed her mind upon learning of Bruce Willis’ involvement.
♦ In a GQ interview in 2008, Mirren stated she had been date raped as a student and had often taken cocaine at parties in her 20s, and until the 1980s. She stopped using the drug after reading the (since debunked) tabloid tale that Klaus Barbie made a living from cocaine dealing.
♦ In preparation for her role as a retired Israeli Mossad agent in The Debt (2010), she 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.