Helen Mirren is an English actress who’s recognizable to just about everyone who has a passion for film. She began her career on the stage before moving on to television and film, where she has established herself as one of the most respected actresses in the profession. With countless awards and nominations under her belt, she has proven herself to be one of the best in the business. In honor of Dame Helen Mirren, we’ve collected some vintage photos of the superstar, along with some interesting facts about her life.
Her Breakthrough Came In The ’80s
During the 1980s, Mirren really came into her own. She had notable appearances in several well-known films. These included Excalibur, White Nights, and Mosquito Coast.
During that time, she also earned a Cannes Film Festival Award for her performance in the 1984 film Cal. While this is impressive enough, her major break came when she played Detective Inspector Jane Tennison ins the British mystery series Prime Suspect.
She Comes From Royalty
Although Helen Mirren is a queen of Hollywood in her own right, she also has connections to real royalty. Unknown to most, Helen Mirren’s father has roots in the Russian aristocracy. This is why the name that she was given when she was born is Lydia Petrovna Mironova.
However, when she was just nine years old, her father changed his last name to sound more English, ergo, “Mirren.” Furthermore, Mirren’s grandfather was a butcher that used to be the primary provider of meat that was presented to Queen Victoria.
Her Parents Didn’t Want Her To Become An Actress
Although Mirren fell in love with theater at a young age, especially after watching Hamlet’s production when she was 13, her parents did not want her to pursue acting as a profession. So, to prevent her from doing so, they sent her to a Catholic Convent school in Southern-on-Sea.
Nevertheless, when she was 18, she auditioned for the National Youth Theatre on a teacher’s recommendation. However, her mother insisted that she went to the teacher’s college to establish herself in a more “stable profession.”
The Mirren Family Wasn’t Small And They Were Hard Workers
Helen Mirren has two other siblings. She is three years younger than her older sister, Katherine, and also has another younger brother, Peter Basil. In order to support his three children, Mirren’s father worked especially hard.
Throughout Mirren’s childhood, her father worked a number of jobs. At one point he was a viola player with the London Philharmonic, and after World War II, he drove a cab. Eventually, he became a driving-test instructor, and then he landed a position at the Ministry of Transport.
Her Relationship With Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson and Mirren met on the set of the 1980s film Excalibur and ended up dating for the four following years. Neeson claimed that he was “smitten” with the actress from the first time he saw her in her Morgan le Fay costume.
Unfortunately, their relationship ended when Mirren, seven years older, encouraged Neeson to find his own way in the film industry. Just a year later, Mirren met her future husband, Taylor Hackford, although she and Neeson are still on good terms.
There Are Multiple Wax Figures Of Her
On her 70th birthday, Helen Mirren was presented with the honor of being immortalized in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London. While most people only have one wax rendition of themselves, Mirren has a whopping three of them.
They include her as Queen Elizabeth II, her Prime Suspect character of Jane Tennison, and one of her most famous looks on the red carpet. Mirren is a fan of all three, telling Routers that “It’s like having three sisters,”
She’s Been Good About Keeping Her Age A Secret… Maybe A Little Too Good
Impressively, Helen Mirren managed to keep her age a relative secret for some time, apparently not even knowing her own age herself. In January of 2018, she shocked audiences when she revealed her actual age on Ellen.
During the episode, Mirren was shocked to learn that she was a whole year younger than she originally thought. Although she claimed that she was just 74, her husband corrected her, saying that she was only 73. She commented saying she’s been given a “whole extra year.”
She’s No Stranger To Playing A Queen
Incredibly, Mirren has played the character of a queen an astonishingly six different times over the course of her career. She starred as Queen Elizabeth II in 2006’s The Queen, for which she won an Oscar, Golden Globe, and a SAG Award for her impressive performance.
On top of all that, even Queen Elizabeth II herself noted that The Queen was one of her favorite films of the year. Clearly, Mirren was doing something right!
She Has An Interesting Take On Having Children
Mirren has made the personal choice to not have children claiming that, “I never felt the need for a child and never felt the loss of it. . .I’d always put my work before anything.” To this day, she hasn’t regretted her decision, although she has said that the movie Parenthood had a particular impact on her.
Essentially, as she told Vanity Fair, the legacy that she wants to leave behind is a legacy that extends beyond children. She wants people to remember her for her performances and not her family life.
She’s Not Afraid Of Taking A Stand
Although most celebrities might consider this to be an honor, in 1996, Helen Mirren actually refused the Commander of the Order of the British Empire. However, she did accept a Dame Commander of the Order in 2003 for her work in the arts and entertainment.
Although the reason for her refusal of the initial award is still unknown to the public, it’s believed that she may have had issues with the English government when she received notification of the honor.
Her Performance In The Queen Did Not Go Unnoticed
For her performance in The Queen, Mirren was rightfully awarded a BAFTA for Best Actress, which she dedicated to Ian Richardson, her mentor from since she was a novice. She received the award just two days after his death.
However, this isn’t the only award that she won. Incredibly, for her role in The Queen, Mirren won more than 40 Best Actress awards across the globe, making her performance the second-highest total of any awards sweep.
She’s An Expert When It Comes To Packing
When celebrities travel a lot, it’s not uncommon that they develop certain traveling habits. That is definitely the case when it comes to Helen Mirren. She has a very strategic formula when it comes to packing her own belongings.
For example, when she travels to a cold location to shoot, she only packs one thing: underwear. She then goes thrift shopping to acquire anything that she might need to endure the climate of wherever she is filming.
She’s One Of The Few Women To Claim A Triple Crown
Unsurprisingly, considering all of her incredible work, Helen Mirren is one of a handful of women in the industry that can claim they have accomplished the feat of earning the Triple Crown. This means that she has earned an Oscar for acting in a film, an Emmy for television, and a Tony in the theater.
This incredible accomplishment was finally established when she won a Tony Award for her work in The Audience. Only 14 other actresses have managed to pull off such an accomplishment, with only nine males doing the same.
She Had A Moment Of Youthful Rebellion
It’s not unusual for most teenagers and young adults to have an act of rebellion here and there, and Helen Mirren is no exception. In her youth, Mirren decided to do something that she has described as being “utterly disgusted by.”
While it might sound bad, she only got a small tattoo of a symbol near her thumb. In an interview with People, she noted that the tattoo was the most “shocking thing I could think of doing,” although it turns out nobody cares or knows for that matter.
She Broke One Of Her Two Rules
Much like Helen Mirren had claimed that she would never have children for fear that it would affect her career and simply because she didn’t want any, she felt the same way about getting married. Nevertheless, she found love and broke her own rule.
She married director Taylor Hackford in 1997, with the ceremony taking place in the Scottish Highlands. The two met on the set of 1985’s White Night, with the marriage being her first and his third. They remain a married couple today.
She Was An Incredibly Convincing Queen Elizabeth
In 2007, Mirren was forced to turn down a personal dinner invitation from Queen Elizabeth II of England due to scheduling conflicts. Although many people might see this as a slight, they’re both on good terms.
To further demonstrate their close relationship, when the queen was unable to fulfill the wish of a sick child, Mirren stepped in dressed in her costume as Elizabeth II from the play she was in titled The Audience. The children in the hospital couldn’t tell the difference, and Mirren acted as queen-like as she possibly could, and the children couldn’t have been happier.
She Wasn’t Always A Feminist
Although Mirren is considered a feminist icon for the many roles that she has played and how she presents herself and vocalizes her beliefs, her beliefs weren’t always aligned with her image.
Yet, in 2017, at the commencement speech for Tulane University, she explained that she used to shy away from the label of being a feminist. However, in recent years, she has changed her stance and views feminism as “a necessity,” encouraging both males and females to be more progressive as well.
Her Looks Are Stil Hailed In Her Older Years
Throughout her life and career, Helen Mirren has been described as objectively one of Hollywood’s most breathtaking actresses. While she was a bit of a sex symbol in her youth, not much has changed in the decades that have followed.
That being said, not many people were surprised when she was named the Sexiest Woman Alive in 2010 by Esquire. On top of that, in 2011, she did a risqué photoshoot for the magazine in which she covered her body with the Union Jack.
Shakespeare Was One Of Her Greatest Influences
In her teenage years, around the age of 13, Mirren was exposed to the theater. However, what she watched wasn’t any ordinary play. Instead, she watched a performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which had a profound impact on her.
According to Mirren, it was during that play that she knew she wanted to be an actor. On Shakespeare, Mirren has stated that “kids shouldn’t be taught, Shakespeare. They should experience it first by seeing a grand production.”
Detective Inspector Launched Her Career
As a young and blossoming actress, Mirren made a name for herself portraying Jane Tennison in the popular series Prime Suspect, an award-winning series and beloved by the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, her work did not go unnoticed either.
For her performance as Tennison, Mirren earned three consecutive British Academy Television Awards for Best Actress, which made her one of four actors who acquired three consecutive BAFTA Awards for a single role. In 2006, she was ranked 29th on ITV’s poll of TV’s 50 Greatest Stars by the British public.
She’s Very Open About Her Religious Beliefs
Although many celebrities may keep their personal beliefs to themselves regarding religion, unsurprisingly, Mirren has no problem sharing her with the public. Numerous times, she has claimed that she’s an atheist and openly proud of it.
In a 2011 issue of Esquire magazine, she commented, “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 Has A Connection With The Beatles
Not only was Helen Mirren immortalized for multiple roles in Madame Tussauds wax museum, but she arguably had an even higher honor when she was included in the new version of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.
She was given this opportunity due to her incredible work, which has established her as one of the most impressive celebrities to hail from the United Kingdom during her lifetime.
She Has An Impressive Amount Of Accolades
Impressively, in the Queen’s 2003 Birthday Honors, Mirren was appointed as a Dame or DBE for her work in drama with the ceremony taking place in Buckingham Palace.
Just one decade later, in 2013, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the next year, she received the BAFTA Fellowship for lifetime success from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. These are just a few of the numerous accolades she has received throughout her career.
She Has Been Arrested
In 1980, Mirren was a star in Peter Seller’s final film, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu. However, when production on the film finally wrapped, Seller gifted her a watch with her character’s name engraved on the back. Unfortunately, the watch turned out to be more trouble than it was worth.
Mirren spoke about the watch saying, “Wearing it on my wrist while traveling back from Paris, this watch caused me to be arrested for smuggling and questioned for over five hours at the airport.” Apparently, the watch was pure gold which aroused suspicion.
She Had An Interesting Nickname
Because of her ethnic background, for a period of time, Mirren was referred to as “Little Mother Russia” in the business. However, if that wasn’t a title enough in itself, her family had a much different nickname that she went by.
According to The New Yorker, her family would call her Popper or Pop, supposedly “because she would pop off into dreams.” If this was the case, her dreams came true and now she’s one of the most respected actresses in the business.
Her Early Roles Earned Her An Abrasive Nickname
While there’s no doubt that Helen Mirren is a beautiful actress, her employers took full advantage of her appearance in the early stages of her career.
For example, as a budding actress, she portrayed characters such as Castiza in The Revenger’s Tragedy in 1966, Cressida in Troilus and Cressida in 1968, and Lady Macbeth in a rendition of Macbeth in 1974. Although these were all highly respectable roles, she earned the somewhat unfair nickname of the “Sex Queen of Stratford.”
She Was Naturist Of The Year
In 2004, Mirren was named “Naturist of the Year” by British Naturism, an award that not many celebrities can say they have on their mantel. However, this is one of the awards she actually did accept due to her passion for the cause.
She commented, “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 […] 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 In A Movie That Had To Be Renamed Because Of A Tragic Event
After her success as a lead in Prime Suspects, Mirren landed the title role in the Killing Mrs. Tingle, a teen slasher film written by Kevin Williamson, who wrote the iconic script for Scream.
However, after the horrific events that transpired after the Columbine killings, the film had to be renamed. So, instead of Killing Mrs. Tingle, the title was changed to Teaching Mrs. Tingle. Although it was one of Mirren’s personal favorite films that she worked on, it thrashed by the box office.
She Published An Autobiography
In September of 2007, Mirren released her autobiography titled In the Frame: My Life in Words and Pictures. Her work was published in the United Kingdom by Weidenfeld & Nicholson and received positive reviews.
John Thaxter from The Stage reviewed her book and commented, “Sumptuously illustrated, at first sight, it looks like another of those photo albums of the stars. But between the pictures there are almost 200 pages of densely printed text, an unusually frank story of her private and professional life, mainly in the theatre, the words clearly Mirren’s own, delivered with forthright candour.”
She Was In A Questionable Film
Mirren’s film debut was in the film Caligula, which was produced by the adult magazine Hustler and starred Peter O’Toole. As a whole, the film was considered to be extremely controversial because of it’s obvious violence and adult imagery.
The film was eventually edited and given an R-rating so that it could be shown to the public. To this day, the uncut version is banned in several countries because of its subject matter.
Julie Andrews Was A Child Performer
Born in England in 1935, Julie Andrews began performing with her mother and stepfather at the age of ten. Two years later, she landed a spot at the London Hippodrome where she sang “Je Suis Titania” from the opera Mignon.
In 1948, Andrews, who was barely a teenager, performed for the king and queen at the London Palladium. She was the youngest soloist to be a part of the Royal Command Variety Performance. From age fifteen to seventeen, she was a cast member of the BBC comedy show Educating Archie.
She Played Several Princesses As A Teen
Julie Andrews’ first experience in voiceover work was when she was seventeen, in the role of Princess Zeila in The Singing Princess, an animated Italian movie. She also performed as Princess Badroulbadour in Aladdin and as Cinderella.
This photograph shows her at a dress fitting for her role as Cinderella in November of 1953. Around this time, she also performed in Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Humpty Dumpty. In 1954, she landed her first role in a Broadway performance. This completely shifted the trajectory of her success.
She Was The Original Star Of My Fair Lady
After portraying Polly Browne in her debut Broadway show The Boy Friend, Andrews was urged to audition as the flower girl in My Fair Lady. She did, landing not only that part but also the role of Cinderella in the Rodgers and Hammerstein television special.
After being nominated for an Emmy for her role as Cinderella in 1957, Andrews went on to appear in several television shows and released her first solo album. Despite her growing recognition, she was passed over for the film version of My Fair Lady, and her part was instead given to Audrey Hepburn.
Disney Insisted On Having Her Play Mary Poppins
In 1959, Andrews married set designer Tony Walton. The next year, she starred as Queen Guinevere in Camelot, a performance that convinced Walt Disney that she was the perfect person to portray Mary Poppins.
However, Andrews declined and returned to London due to pregnancy. Nevertheless, Disney insisted that they would hold production until she was ready. In 1964, Andrews won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress for her role in Mary Poppins.
She Didn’t Always Play Light-Hearted Roles
In 1964, Julie Andrews secured the lead role in The Americanization of Emily. The dark dramedy is set in London near the end of World War II, a time and setting that Andrews lived through as a child.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune, the movie is the favorite of Andrews’ of the films she’s performed in. Andrews was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best British Actress in a Leading Role for her part in the film.
The Sound Of Music Wasn’t Always Easy
Unlike with Mary Poppins, Andrews had to audition for the lead in The Sound of Music against giants of the time like Grace Kelly. Though she snagged the part, filming the famous opening scene was a bit messy. She told the Hollywood Reporter that she was “spitting mud and grass and hay” as the helicopter flew by to film several takes.
Nevertheless, Julie Andrews earned her second Golden Globe for Best Actress for her leading role in The Sound of Music, the highest-grossing film of 1965. She was also nominated for a BAFTA and an Academy Award.
She Starred In Several 1960s Smash Hits
In 1966, Andrews returned to the world of drama for her starring role in Hawaii. The epic film chronicled a Yale student from the 1800s and his wife, played by Julia. It was a major success in the box-office.
The same year, Andrews starred in the Alfred Hitchcock film Torn Curtain. The political thriller was yet another smash hit of the 1960s. Another successful film of the era was Thoroughly Modern Millie, a rom-com musical she starred in alongside Mary Tyler Moore.
She Was With Her Second Husband For Life
In 1969, Andrews married her second husband, Blake Edwards. The following year, she starred in Darling Lili, a film written and directed by Edwards. Though the film was not very successful, in part due to studio pushback, the pair went on to collaborate on other projects in the following decades.
The couple remained married until Edwards’ death in 2010. Speaking on their marriage, Andrews told Good Morning Britain, “Success in our marriage was to take it one day at a time and so, lo and behold, 41 years later there we still were.”
She Established Her Television Presence
As the 1970s began, Andrews did a variety of television specials, including An Evening with Julie Andrews and Harry Belafonte and Julie and Carol at Lincoln Center. In 1972, she landed her own television series, The Julie Andrews Hour.
Despite winning several Emmys, the show ended after one season. During the ’70s she also appeared in two movies, both of which were written and directed by her husband, Blake Edwards. Both films were well-grossing, and one– The Tamarind Seed— even received a Royal Command Performance.
She Adopted Two Children
Julie Andrews gave birth to one child from her first marriage, Emma, in 1962. Upon marrying her second husband, she became a stepmother to Jennifer and Geoffrey Edwards. As if three children and a bustling film and television career weren’t enough, Edwards and Andrews decided to adopt.
They adopted a daughter named Amy in 1974, and another daughter, Joanna, in 1975. Andrews now has nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Though she’s remained in the spotlight for quite some time, she’s kept her children predominantly out of it, which may be a testament to her own childhood in show business.
She Helped Raise Funds For Cambodia
In 1980, Julie Andrews supported Operation USA’s mission to aid those starving in Cambodia. Then called Operation California, the nonprofit had yet to gain its notoriety. Their website states that Julie Andrews, a founding board member, was a “large part” of the reason that they had the opportunity to host a television special.
The special was called “Because We Care” and aired on CBS that January. The concert led by Julie Andrews and featuring various stars of the time generated funds through tickets and phone donations. The two-hour special raised more than a million dollars for relief in southeast Asia.
She Changed Her Image In The 1980s
Despite her roles in dramatic films, Julie Andrews still was considered a wholesome actress for much of her career. One thing that helped her evolve this image was her starring role in her husband’s 1981 film S.O.B.
In the comedy, Andrews is married to a despondent Hollywood executive who realizes through a series of mishaps why he has failed to gain the success he desires. Creating a movie within a movie, the film satirizes the Hollywood industry. Andrews’ role as Sally also has some parallels to her own image at the time, which was “squeaky clean.”
She Was The Hasty Pudding Woman Of The Year
The Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year is an annual award granted by a theatrical society at Harvard University. The first awardee was selected in 1951 and was actress Gertrude Lawrence, who Julie Andrews portrayed in the biopic Star! in 1968.
Julie Andrews was given the honor in 1983. Winners over the years have also included stars such as Jane Fonda, Liza Minnelli, Meryl Streep, Halle Berry, and Andrews’ Princess Diaries costar Anne Hathaway, to name a few.
She Declined A Tony Award Nomination
Julie Andrews was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Actress and an Academy Award nomination for her role in Victor/Victoria in 1982. Her success with the film made it unsurprising that more than a decade later she would star in the stage musical version.
Returning to Broadway after a 35-year hiatus, the show debuted in 1995 and went on a world tour. However, Andrews was the only person in the production to be nominated for a Tony Award. According to the New York Times, she denied the nomination because she felt the entire production deserved recognition.
She Did An Emmy-Winning Christmas Special
Julie Andrews had her own Christmas Special that aired on CBS in 1987. Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas featured Julie alongside Placido Domingo (a Spanish opera singer and conductor) and singer-songwriter John Denver.
The special was both funny and informative, offering insight into the history of such greats as Mozart and Strauss. Filmed in Austria, the special received world-wide recognition and is today considered a classic. The event was so spectacular that it won a whopping five Emmy Awards.
She’s An Official Disney Legend
Starting in 1987, Disney Legend Awards became an honor given to those who have made an impressive impact on The Walt Disney Company. The awardees are chosen by a committee that consists of historians and other top players in the company, headed by Roy E. Disney at the time.
In 1991, Andrews was made an official Disney legend. More than a decade later, she was named the Official Ambassador of the “Happiest Homecoming on Earth,” an on-going celebration of Disneyland’s 50th anniversary.
She Sang For The First Time In Years In 2004
One of the defining moments in Andrews’ life was a damaging throat surgery she underwent in 1997. She later had reparative surgery done which was effective on her speaking voice, but not her singing. Nevertheless, she stayed active in her career, refraining from singing.
She returned to Disney Studios for the first time since Mary Poppins to star in The Princess Diaries in 2001. She later sang alongside Raven Symone for the soundtrack of the 2004 sequel. The specially-arranged octave melody was the first song she had sung since her surgery. According to the film’s music supervisor, she nailed it in one take.
She’s Done Voiceover Work
After portraying a live-action queen in The Princess Diaries, Julie Andrews went on to play the voice of Queen Lillian in the second, third, and fourth Shrek movies alongside Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, and Antonio Banderas.
In 2007, she narrated the Disney film Enchanted starring Amy Adams. She then played the role of Marlena Gru in the Despicable Me series alongside Steve Carrell. Most recently, she voiced Karathen in the 2018 film Aquaman.
She’s A Children’s Book Author
While many know Julie Andrews for her outstanding performances, less are aware that she has written a plethora of children’s books, many of them alongside her daughter, Emma. The mother-daughter duo is pictured here with a copy of The Very Fairy Princess, which reached number one on the New York Times Best Seller List.
In 2011, the pair also won a Grammy for Best Spoken-Word Album for Children. The album is called A Collection of Poems, Songs and Lullabies. They also have a pre-K television series on Netflix called Julie’s Greenroom.
She’s Won THREE Lifetime Achievement Awards
Among Julie Andrews’ long list of awards and nominations, she is one of the few to win a Lifetime Achievement award, let alone multiple times over. The first was given to her by the Screen Actors Guild in 2007. Just four years later, she was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Most recently, she was given the Golden Lion Honorary Award for Lifetime Achievement. This photo shows her glowing as she received the award. It was presented to her during the Venice Film Festival at Sala Grande in 2019.