The Shakespearean Dame: Young Helen Mirren’s Career Highlights

helen mirren

Every actor, no matter how diverse their performances, are associated with certain traits and roles. Keira Knightley is known for her stirring performances in period dramas. Mila Jovovich is known for her roles in action movies. Meanwhile, Dame Helen Mirren is known for her regal performances. She has appeared in over 70 performances on film and 40 performances on the stage.

With a career that spans decades, it’s easy for the younger generation to forget the amazing range Helen Mirren has demonstrat5ed since the earlier stages of her career. Did you know that the kind, older woman who portrays Death in “Collateral Beauty” was once known as the ‘Thinking Man’s Pinup,” an epitaph she surely would have very strong opinions on.

Learn more about the career highlights of a young Helen Mirren.

Helen Mirren Today

If you know Helen Mirren, you’re probably more familiar with works from the 21st century. Already, it becomes apparent that she is an amazingly versatile actress. Helen Mirren’s awards include an Academy Award for Best Actress, thanks to her stirring performance as Queen Elizabeth II in 2006’s “The Queen.” For many younger viewers, this is probably when she first made it on their radar. In 2008, she portrayed Meg Folchart’s domineering aunt in the film adaptation of “Inkheart.”

However, she has also branched out to featuring in action movies. She started in 2010’s “RED,” portraying retired but extremely dangerous MI6 agent Victoria Winslow. She went on to portray Victoria again in the film’s sequel in 2013.

Mirren has also appeared in the long-running automobile-centric action “Fast and the Furious” franchise. In 2019, she made an appearance in the franchise’s spin-off movie “Hobbs and Shaw” as the mother of Jason Statham’s character.

But what was a young Helen Mirren’s career like? How did she earn her acting stripes and why is she such an iconic member of the British acting community?

Young Helen Mirren’s Career Highlights

helen mirren
Young Helen Mirren embodied Shakespeare on the stage and evoked intense emotion on-screen.

Helen Mirren was born in 1945 and from a young age, she bent her energies to perfecting her acting skills. In primary school, she played the lead role in the school’s production of “Hansel and Gretel”. Later in life, Mirren studied in London’s New College of Speech and Drama. At 18, she got accepted into the National Youth Theater. It was on the stage that a young Helen Mirren’s career will take flight.

  • Shakespearean Expert

When she turned 20, Helen Mirren landed a role as Cleopatra in the National Youth Theater’s production of “Anthony and Cleopatra.” It was this role that would launch her career. Mirren’s earlier years and successes came from her bold performances in Shakespearean productions. Mirren would appropriately move on to performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and would play multiple lead female roles in their productions. During her tenure with the prestigious acting company, Mirren would enthrall audiences in the Bard’s most tragic roles: tortured Cressida, desperate Ophelia and conniving Lady Macbeth.

Her prowess in playing Shakespearean roles were also key to her breaking through to film. In 1968, one of young Helen Mirren’s first films was playing Hermia in the movie version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” In 1976, she would go on to play both the damaged Ophelia and the regal Gertrude in that year’s film production of “Hamlet.”  Thanks to her impassioned and amazing performances in Shakespeare’s works, Mirren managed to transition from the stage to the silver screen.

  • Thought Provoking and Sensual

Helen Mirren’s range is incredible, but for one reason or another, people locked into her physical figure. Young Helen Mirren was indeed very beautiful, and one of her struggles was to get critics and audiences alike to take her seriously and see past her physical beauty. Despite the chauvinistic view some people had of her career, Mirren was also not afraid to show some skin when a project called for it. However, she always tempered her sensual scenes with thought provoking performances.

One of her boldest performances was alongside Malcom McDowell in 1979 epic historical movie “Caligula.” The film was rife with eroticism, but Mirren shines as the wife of the titular emperor. Her other sensual performances include the seductive sorceress Morgana in the Arthurian epic “Excalibur” and the cunning wife of a restaurant owner and gangster in “The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover.” In each of these performances, Mirren shows that just because an actor shows some skin does not mean they are not serious in their craft. Young Helen Mirren showcased superior craftmanship in the face of interviewers like Michael Parkinson. Mirren rightfully reprimanded the host on air in a now-viral video from 1975 and once again when they reunited for an interview in 2009.

Helen Mirren’s Awards

helen mirren
From young Helen Mirren to Dame Helen Mirren.

Helen Mirren is one of only 22 actors to have ever won the coveted Triple Crown of Acting. This means that she has won an Academy Award, an Emmy Award and a Tony Award during her career. Helen Mirren’s awards include a British Academy Film Award, two Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and three Screen Actors Guild Awards. Aside from her multiple film and acting awards, Mirren was also appointed a Dame of the British Empire for services to drama.

Aside from age, there’s little difference between young Helen Mirren and Dame Helen Mirren. She has retained all of her fire and vivacity while improving her gravitas and expanding her versatility. Helen Mirren is truly a treasure of screen and stage.  

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