By: Spencer Blohm
Dame Helen Mirren
The incredible Dame Helen Mirren was born Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironoff in Hammersmith (a western borough of London), England in 1945. Her father was a former professional viola player turned cab driver and her mother raised Helen and her two other siblings in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. Her childhood was that of a typical English youth, attending school and dabbling in school productions. Upon her graduation, she decided to attend London’s New College of Speech and Drama, which lead her to audition for the National Youth Theatre, where she got accepted. Within two years of her acceptance, she was starring as Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra, she was only 20 years old.
Her performance as Cleopatra immediately opened many doors for Mirren; she got an agent, and was invited to join the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company. With the RSC she starred in productions of All’s Well That Ends Well, As You Like It, Troilus and Cressida, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Revenger’s Tragedy to name a few. She spent the 1970’s and 80’s performing in plays in the West End, and venturing into movies through a series of roles in little known films.
The 1990’s saw Mirren make her Broadway debut in A Month in the Country, and lighting up the small screen on the popular British television mini-series Prime Suspect, which earned her an Emmy award in 1995. She spent the rest of the 90’s working primarily on television and in the theater. Her television mini-series and movies were broadcast in the U.S. by PBS, and she soon added a Golden Globe to her awards collection, all of which helped to raise her American profile.
Her breakout role in America is arguably in 2001’s Gosford Park, for which she earned a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, and BAFTA Award nominations, and which won her a SAG Award. She followed up that performance with a series of critically praised performances in television mini-series and movies like Door to Door, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, and her Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG Award-winning portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth I. Oh, and in the meantime she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty The Queen of England – but the best had yet to come for Mirren.
In September of 2006 her film The Queen made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. At the end of the film, Mirren’s performance received a staggering five-minute-long standing ovation, and word quickly spread about her powerful acting. Through the end of 2006 and into 2007 Helen continued to receive praise and adoration for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, and by the 2006-2007 awards season, Helen became an unstoppable force, collecting an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, a National Board of Review Award, and a Critics Choice Award.
She followed her performance in The Queen with a number of different roles that proved that she refused to be typecast. She took on the challenge of playing the owner of a brothel in Love Ranch, a retired Nazi-hunting secret agent in The Debt, a sorceress in Prospera, a retired assassin in RED, and even the Dean of a university for monsters in the kid-oriented hit Monsters University. Rather than stop there, she also found the time to play Alfred Hitchcock’s collaborator and wife in Hitchcock, and the defense attorney for the notorious Phil Spector in HBO’s Phil Spector.
Given the fact that she will be turning 68 on July 26th, many would understand if she decided to slowly fade from the acting scene – but that simply isn’t Helen’s style. Instead of retiring, she’s gaining the love of audiences worldwide for her brash, brazen, and clever attitude. She’s dyed her hair pink after seeing it on America’s Next Top Model, been photographed displaying a shockingly youthful and slim body in a bikini, and best of all, walked the red carpet in platform lucite heels she bought at a sex shop on Hollywood Boulevard.
When asked what the best advice she could have given her daughter (had she had one) would be, she said that she would tell her hypothetical daughter to tell the men standing in her way to “f**k off”. As we wish her a happy 68th birthday, it seems clear that Dame Helen is just reaching the peak of her career, and the peak of her general, all-around awesomeness!
Author Bio: Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment and film blogger for GetDirectTV.org. His goal in life is to be half as cool as Dame Helen now, let alone when he’s in his 60’s. He lives and works in Chicago with his sullen cat Rupert.
Dame Helen Mirren in ‘Red 2’