Date and Place of Birth
July 26, 1945
Hammersmith, London, England, UK
Birth Name & Nickname
001. Biography (below)
003. Personal Quotes
005. Awards List
006. Official Site
007. Official Instagram
Ilynea “Helen” Lydia Mirnoff was born on July 26, 1945 in Hammersmith, London, England to Kathleen “Kitty” Alexandrina Eva Matilda Rogers and Vasily Petrovich Mirnoff. Her mother was a working-class Englishwoman, granddaughter to Queen Victoria’s butcher, and her father was a Russian immigrant, settling down in England as a cab driver and playing the viola with the London Philharmonic Orchestra before World War II.
After Helen’s birth, in 1951, her father anglicized his name to Basil and changed the family name to Mirren. Helen is the second of three children; she has an older sister Katherine “Kate” and a younger brother, Peter Basil. At the age of 13, she was attracted to theatre attending a production of Hamlet and took part in several productions even when attending St. Bernard’s High School, a Catholic convent. Helen began her career with the National Youth Theatre, for which she performed in plays like Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Antony and Cleopatra; later appearing in rep in Manchester, where she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. While performing with the National Youth Theatre, Helen began attending the New College of Speech and Drama, with urging from her mother.
At the beginning of 1967, Helen would play Kitty Verdun in the production of Charley’s Aunt, followed by Little Malcom and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs. She also performed in various productions such as The Merchant of Venice, The Silver Tassle, Coriolanus, Romeo and Juliet, and All’s Well That Ends Well. Helen landed onto the screen playing an Advert Woman in the drama Herostratus, starring Michael Gothard, that same year. She would also appear in the fantasy television movie The Extravaganza of Golgotha Smuts, which follows the sexual fantasies of a young man; the next year, she linked her passion for theatre and Shakespeare with her screen career by portraying Hermia in the film adaption of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while also keeping playing on stage in As You Like It, Trolius and Cressida and Much Ado About Nothing. In the following years, Helen would balance her career on stage and on screen by taking part to the biographical drama Age of Consent, also starring James Mason, in 1969, playing Castiza in The Revenger’s Tragedy and Mrs. Littlewit in Bartholomew’s Fair and acting in the thriller Red Hot Shot and theatre stages for Richard III, Hamlet and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, all in 1970. Director/Producer John Goldschmidt would film a documentary called Doing Her Own about Helen’s time with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The next year, Helen appeared on ITV’s Sunday Night Theatre starring as Rachel, followed by her first recurring television role as Valerie on the mini-series Cousin Bette, while on stage, she would perform in Enemies, Miss Julie and The Balcony.
In 1972, Helen portrayed Gosh Boyle for the biographical drama Savage Messiah, based on the life of the French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, followed by the comedic drama O Lucky Man! as Patricia Burgess, in 1973. The next year, she would appear in an episode of the television show Thriller as Stella McKenzie, before playing the title role in the television movie Bellamira. The play Miss Julie would also be televised that year, from when Helen played the title role the prior year for the Royal Shakespeare Company. She played a part on the television series BBC Play of the Month for the episode titled “The Changeling” and returning for three additional episodes through 1977. Helen would also wore the clothes of Lady Macbeth in the play Macbeth, followed by The Seagull and The Bed Before Yesterday the next year. 1975 continued to bring her back to television with an appearance on the series Private Affairs as Claretta Petacci for an episode titled “Caesar and Claretta.”
Later in 1975, Helen appeared in the television movie The Philanthropist as Celia, a film about a philologist at a British university finding his small reality falling apart just as the rest of the world is facing catastrophic times. Next, she appeared on the television show Great Performances as Stella before the release of the film adaption of Hamlet, in which Helen was both Ophelia and Gertrude. In 1977, she returned to the stage to play the part of Queen Margaret in Henry VI at the Aldwich Theatre; the cast included Alan Howard and John Rhys-Davies. Her next project came with the television movie As You Like It, where she played Rosalind, based on the play by William Shakespeare. In 1979, Helen was on stage as Isabella for the play Measure for Measure, while she appeared on the television series ITV Playhouse and Oresteia, and the films Caligula and S.O.S. Titanic. She made her first of two guest appearances on the series Play for Today as Celia.
1980 began with the films Hussy, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, and The Long Good Friday, and ending the year on stage for The Duchess of Malfi as The Duchess. Helen returned to the stage in March 1981 for Faith Healer, following the life of faith healer Francis Hardy. Her next film, the fantasy drama Excalibur, in which she played Morgana, would be released in April, followed by an appearance as Mrs. Reinhardt on BBC2 Playhouse and the television movie adaption of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She would portray the role of Imogen in the television movie adaption of Cymbeline, based on the Shakespeare play. The next year, Helen reprised her role on stage as Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra, followed by The Roaring Girl, then Extremities in 1984. Later that year, she starred as Marcella in the romantic drama Cal, opposite John Lynch. Helen earned her first BAFTA Award nomination for her role in the Best Actress category and also won in the category at Cannes Film Festival and the Evening Standard British Film Awards. 2010 was Helen’s next film, a sci-fi mystery following a joint U.S.-Soviet expedition being sent to Jupiter to learn what happened to the Discovery and H.A.L. The film also starred Roy Scheider and John Lithgow. The next couple years would be dedicated to film and television, beginning with the drama White Nights, in which Helen played Galina Ivanova, a former Soviet ballerina; followed by an appearance as Maddie Duncan on the acclaimed series The Twilight Zone. In 1986, Helen starred as Ruth Chancellor, alongside Tom Conti, in the comedic drama The Gospel According to Vic, a film about Vic teaching a remedial class at a school in Scotland and getting involved in miraculous events surrounding the school. She next would be on a desert island with Harrison Ford and River Phoenix in the adventure The Mosquito Coast, playing Mother. 1987 began with playing Princess Emilia in an episode of the series Faerie Tale Theatre, followed by the crime drama television movie Cause Célèbre as Alma Rattenbury. Helen returned to the stage for Madame Bovary, playing the role of Emma Bovary.
In 1988, she played the role of Frieda von Richtofen Weekley for the television movie Coming Through opposite Kenneth Branagh, followed closely by the drama Pascali’s Island, starring Ben Kingsley. At the beginning of 1989, she starred in the play Two-Way Mirror with Bob Peck at The Young Vic in London before the release of her next film When the Whales Came, in which she played Clemmie Jenkins. Next came The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, playing Georgina. Her performance in the film earned her a 20/20 Award as Best Actress, while the film won Best Foreign Film at the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards. Helen’s final role in the 1980s came in the romantic thriller television movie Red King, White Knight. The film follows a retired C.I.A. agent going to Russia to investigate a K.G.B scheme to assassinate the Soviet General Secretary.
With the beginning of the 1990s, Helen joined Christopher Walken and Rupert Everett for the dramatic thriller The Comfort of Strangers in the role of Caroline, followed by the biographical drama Bethune: The Making of a Hero, also starring Donald Sutherland, as his wife Frances Penny Bethune. 1991 launched her career on tv as the protagonist of a two-part episode mini-series, Prime Suspect, in which she wore the badge of DCI Jane Tennison. Her next film came in the form of the romantic drama, starring Helena Bonham Carter, Where Angels Fear to Tread, based on the novel by E.M. Foster, in which Helen played Lilia Herriton. That summer, Helen returned to The Young Vic to star in the play Sex Please, We’re Italian, following the exposure of life in a small village near Naples, Italy. In 1992, she reprised her role of DCI Jane Tennison in the next chapter of Prime Suspect 2 before premiering the Los Angeles play Woman in Mind, in which Helen is Susan, a woman who finds herself entangled in a vicious web of existence devoured by reality and virtuality. The next year, Helen would, again, reprise her role of DCI Jane Tennison for Prime Suspect 3 as well as guest starring on the series The Hidden Room, as Sarah. She then starred in her next film The Hawk, which revolves around her character Annie Marsh suspecting her husband could be the serial killer named “The Hawk”. In 1994, Helen joined Gabriel Byrne and Christian Bale on the drama Royal Deceit, an Ancient Danish story inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where she portrayed the role of Geruth. Her next film The Madness of King George, playing Queen Charlotte, earned her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, as well as a BAFTA nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, while the Cannes Film Festival awarded her for Best Actress.
The same year, Helen performed the play A Month in the Country as Natalya Petrovna on the West End before her first debut on Broadway in 1995, which would bring to her a nomination for a Tony Award. While she was performing on Broadway, Helen would be seen on television for the movies Prime Suspect: The Lost Child, Prime Suspect: Inner Circles and Prime Suspect: The Scent of Darkness, which are all sequels to the Prime Suspect series, seeing DCI Jane Tennison as the protagonist. The BAFTA would nominate Helen for a TV award, while she won Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in Miniseries or Special for The Scent of Darkness. Helen would also voice the role of the Snow Queen for the homonymous animated film, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairytale.
In 1996, she returned to television for the mini-series Prime Suspect 5: Errors of Judgement, the mini-series documentary 1914-1918 playing Princess Evelyn Blucher and voicing Margaret Randa, as well as the television movie Losing Chase as Chase Phillips.
Prime Suspect 5 earned her Best Actress nominations at the Primetime Emmy Awards and BAFTA TV Awards, and a win for Best Actress at the Satellite Awards; while she won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television for Losing Chase. Her last performance of the year came in the historic drama Some Mother’s Son, following her character’s struggles during the 1981 hunger strike in an Irish prison. The next year, Helen joined James Spader and Kyra Sedgwick for the comedic drama Critical Care, as Stella. Her next film, Painted Lady, was made for television, following Maggie Sheridan, a countess and art dealer, around Ireland, London, and New York.
In 1998, she guest starred in an episode of Tracey Takes On… as Professor Horen before voicing the role of The Queen for the animated film The Prince of Egypt. At the end of the year, Helen reprised her role as Cleopatra on stage in Antony and Cleopatra, also starring Alan Rickman. 1999 brought The Passion of Ayn Rand, a television movie revolving around her character Ayn Rand, as she becomes involved with a younger, married man. Her performance in the film earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for Best Actress, as well as Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe Award nominations. Helen would also appear in an episode of French and Saunders before portraying Mrs. Tingle in the comedy thriller Teaching Mrs. Tingle. In November, Helen would premiere her next play Collected Stories at the Theatre Royal in Bath.
In June of 2000, Helen performed at the Donmar Warehouse in London in the play Orpheus Descending, playing Lady Torrance opposite Stuart Townsend. Her next film Greenfingers, in which she wears the shoes of Georgina Woodhouse, revolves around a prison inmate with a green thumb who ends up participating into a national gardening competition. She then joined the 2001 crime drama The Pledge, starring Jack Nicholson and Benicio Del Toro, playing the doctor. The film tells the story of a retiring police detective who pledges to catch the murderer of a young child. Next came the comedic drama No Such Thing, the sci-fi thriller Happy Birthday, the Michael Caine film Last Orders, and the Academy Award-winning film Gosford Park where she played Mrs. Wilson. Helen took home the award for Best Supporting Actress of the Year at the London Critics Circle Film Awards as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award fo Outstanding Performance by a Fenale Actor in a Supporting Role for her role in Gosford Park, while being nominated for a BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Academy Award. Towards the end of 2001, she hit the stage with Ian McKellen for Dance of Death and was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance.
Helen would next play Mrs. Porter in the television movie drama Door to Door, for which she would earn a Golden Globe and SAG Award nomination for her performance. Her next television movie Georgetown would be released next, in which she portrayed newspaper mogul Annabelle Garrison. 2003 began with the romantic drama television movie The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, based on the novel by Tennessee Williams where a failing star is faced with a lifestyle change when her rich husband suddenly dies on their way to Italy. Helen earned nominations at the Golden Globe Awards, Primetime Emmy Awards, SAG Awards, and Satellite Awards for her portrayal of Susan Stone. Her next feature film co-starred Julie Walters and Penelope Wilton for the comedic drama Calendar Girls, a film about a Women’s Institute chapter’s fundraising effort for a local hospital where they posed nude for a calendar, which became a social media sensation. She earned Golden Globe, AARP Movies for Grownups, Empire UK, and Satellite Award nominations for her portrayal as Chris, where she was also nominated for British Actress of the Year at the London Critics Circle Film Awards. Helen, once again, would reprise her role as Jane Tennison for Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness, earning her BAFTA TV Award and Primetime Emmy Award nominations. She also joined the National Theatre production of Mourning Becomes Electra at the end of 2003.
2004 brought Helen to the mystery drama The Clearing, playing Eileen Hayes opposite Robert Redford and Willem Dafoe, for which she and Robert Redford were nominated for an AARP Movies for Grownups Award for Best Grownup Love Story. Next, she appeared in Kate Hudson’s romantic comedy Raising Helen, a film about a young woman becoming the guardian of her late sister and brother-in-law’s three children, as Dominique. Helen also appeared in an episode of Frasier as Babette the Caller before voicing the character of Macheeba in the BBC television movie Pride.
In 2005, she appeared as Annie Foster in an episode of the series Third Watch before starring in a short film Trailer for a Renake of Gore Vidal’s Caligula as Tiberia. She would also voice Deep Thought in the sci-fi comedy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, based on the book by Douglas Adams. Helen’s final film of 2005 was the crime drama Shadowboxer, starring Cuba Gooding Jr., in which she played Rose before portraying Queen Elizabeth I in the mini-series Elizabeth I. She won a Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her portrayal. The next year, Helen would wear the crown of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, a biographical drama following the Queen’s reaction and struggles to a sequence of events after the death of Princess Diana. Her performance earned her a sweep at all the major awards, including a SAG, BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Academy Award for Best Actress. Helen starred in the final mini-series Prime Suspect 7: The Final Act later that year, where she would take home another Primetime Emmy Award for her performance as Jane Tennison.
Helen joined National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the sequel to Nicolas Cage’s 2004 film, as his mother Emily Appleton, in 2007. The next year, she would play Elinor in the fantasy adventure film Inkheart, starring Brendan Fraser. In 2009, Helen returned to the stage for Phédre. The play was filmed and premiered in theaters in June. She would join Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck for State of Play as Cameron Lynne before playing Sofya in the biographical drama The Last Station, for which Helen would earn Best Actress nominations at the SAG Awards, Golden Globes, and Academy Awards. Next, she bet her career on Love Ranch, centered around a married couple who opened the first legal brothel in Nevada, followed by The Debt, The Tempest, Brighton Rock, and voicing Nyra in Legend of the Guardians: The Owels of Ga’Hoole.
Rounding out Helen’s busy 2010 would be playing the role of Victoria in the action comedy RED, which also starred Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman. Making it the first, but certainly not last, of action movies in which Helen would be gracefully carrying a gun. The next year, she took on the roles of Sharon, in the When Harry Met Sally 2 video short with Billy Crystal, and Hobson in Russell Brand’s romantic comedy Arthur, following a drunken playboy about to lose his inheritance when he falls for a woman his family doesn’t like. She next voiced Becky’s Inner Voice for two episodes of the series Glee before returning to the big screen for The Door, in which she played Emerenc, and Alma Reville in Hitchcock. Helen found the role of Emerenc in The Door “difficult to play” and cited doing it as “one of the hardest things she has ever done.” Roger Ebert stated Hitchcock film was carried by her performance, stating she was “warm and effective.” Helen earned SAG, BAFTA, and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress. 2013 bought the television movie Phil Spector, voicing Dean Hardscrabble in Monster’s University, reprising her role as Victoria in RED 2, and playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience, which was performed at the Gielgud Theatre in London. Helen won a Screen Actors Guild Award for her role as Linda Kenney Baden in Phil Spector. The next year, she narrated the television movie documentary Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story for PBS.
Later, Helen portrayed the role of Madame Mallory for the comedic drama The Hundred-Foot Journey, following the Kadam family leaving India for France where they open a restaurant directly across from Madame Mallory’s Michelin-starred eatery. Helen earned positive reviews for her performance, a role she accepted as she was keen to play a French character, stating her “pathetic attempt at being a French actress.”
Helen began 2015 back on stage as Queen Elizabeth II on Broadway in The Audience, which earned her the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, and making her the actress to have played a Queen for the longest. She starred alongside Ryan Reynolds in the biographical drama Woman in Gold, playing the role of Maria Altmann, followed by playing Colonel Katherine Powell in High in the Sky. Her final film of the year was Trumbo, based around the life of the top Hollywood screenwriter in 1947, playing Hedda Hopper. Helen joined Will Smith’s 2016 romantic drama Collateral Beauty, playing the role of Brigitte. In 2017, she narrated Cries from Syria, a documentary about the Syrian Civil War.
She would make an uncredited appearance in The Fate of the Furious, playing Magdalene Shaw, the mother of former protagonists Owen and Deckard. Helen would also star alongside Donald Sutherland in The Leisure Seeker, a comedic drama about a runaway couple going on a journey in their faithful old RV. 2018 began with Helen’s portrayal of Sarah Winchester in the biographical drama Winchester, following the firearm heiress who believes she’s being haunted by the souls of people killed by the Winchester repeating rifle. She would later play Mother Ginger is the fantasy retelling of the short story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. In 2019, Helen portrayed the title role in the HBO television series Catherine the Great, as well as Margaret in Berlin, I Love You, Olga in Anna, Magdalene “Queenie” in Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw, and Betty McLeish in The Good Liar.
She voiced the character of Snickers for the 2020 Disney+ adventure film The One and Only Ivan, following a gorilla named Ivan who tries to piece together his past with the help of an elephant as they plan to escape from captivity. Later, Helen played Dorothy Bunton for The Duke, a biographical drama also starring Matthew Goode and would finally join the Netflix variety show special Sarah Cooper: Everything’s Fine as Lip-synch Billy Bush.
In 2021, Helen will reprise her role as Magdalene Shaw in the ninth installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise, F9. The film is awaiting a permanent release date after being pushed back from the Covid-19 pandemic.
She was appointed as a Dame during Queen Elizabeth II’s 2003 Birthday Honours, for her services to drama. In 2017, she became a United States citizen which allowed her to vote in her first election in 2020.
Helen is married to Academy Award-winning writer, director, and producer Taylor Hackford (December 31, 1997) and they both own a house in the United Kingdom and a few other properties in the United States and Europe.