Friday Hoyden: Helen Mirren

From an interview by Louis B. Hobson of the Calgary Sun, Sunday, January 26, 1997:

Mirren warns that people shouldn’t confuse her with the stately and staid characters she often plays. “I’ve always been a bit of a wild thing and have the scars to prove it.”

Image Source: The Helen Mirren Appreciation Society

Helen was born on July 26, 1945 in London as Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov, her grandfather being a staunch tsarist scion of the Russian aristocracy who had the good fortune to be a diplomat in England at the time of the Russian Revolution. Her father Basil changed her name to Helen Lydia Mirren when he changed the family surname in the 50s. Helen says she knew she wanted to be an actress from the age of six, and that she wanted to be a great actress “in the old fashioned and traditional sense”. There’s a good bio at Wikipedia, which also quotes Mirren as saying that she considers her upbringing to have been “very anti-monarchist”, something she alluded to several times in the interviews she gave while promoting The Queen.

I first remember seeing her as Morgana in Excalibur. The way she is now cast as such straitlaced characters so often is quite a change from the films and stage shows of her earlier career, where she was generally cast as either a hoyden proper (As You Like It etc) or as the voluptuous embodiment of sexual danger (Cleopatra, Lady MacBeth, Morgan Le Fay). But it’s the hoyden within that gives her portrayal of characters constrained by circumstance, and especially the constraints of duty, so much power: Jane Tennison and HMQE2 especially.

Perhaps it’s at least partly to do with that tattoo that has to be covered up for those parts?

“When Mirren arrived in her ’65 Ford Mustang convertible for more talk and a photo session, the tattoo on her left hand was no longer covered up by theatrical makeup. “Only criminals and sailors had tattoos when I got this years ago,” she said. “I’d show up at lavish Hollywood parties and watch people’s eyes register horror when they saw it.”

(pg. 30-31) The Interview, By Amy Rennert, from the book HELEN MIRREN, A Celebration,Prime Suspect, Edited by Amy Rennert

You can find out all about the tattoo at the Helen Mirren Appreciation Society’s page all about it (HMAS is HM’s official fan club (begun by a Sydneysider in 1997!) which uses the same symbol as the tattoo for its logo). The site’s absolutely delightful, and the club has fostered a relationship with HM through being respectful and supportive as well as utterly besotted.

Edited to add: the HMAS also has lots of photos.

PS: I love the fact that she drives a classic Mustang convertible.

65 Mustang

I wonder if she’s gone for a red one with Shelby stripes?

Categories: arts & entertainment


4 replies

  1. Excellent Hoyden pick. If you haven’t seen her QEI in the HBO 2-parter with Jeremy Irons and Hugh Dancy as the two Robins, you should. Lots and lots of her Hoydeny goodness shows through.

  2. There was a nice, meaty profile of Mirren in The New Yorker last fall. (By John Lahr, who did an even better piece on Ian McKellen for the magazine a few weeks ago.) The Mirren piece is online here.

  3. Great links, both. Ta. Loved her in QEI as well as QEII.

  4. She was awesome in Any Mother’s Son, she played the mom of I think Bobby Sands or one of the hunger strikers. Great movie.

%d bloggers like this: