Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Mirren, Helen (1945-)


Main image of Mirren, Helen (1945-)

Helen Mirren (born Ilyena Mirnoff) is an intelligent actress who can move serenely between trashy (Caligula, (US/Italy, d. Tinto Brass, 1979)) and quality (The Madness of King George (UK/US, d. Nicholas Hytner, 1994, UK/US) roles.

She showed off her body in Michael Powell's Age of Consent (Australia, 1969), Ken Russell's Savage Messiah (1972) and Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (UK/France, 1989).

She is best known to general audiences as Jane Tennison in the Prime Suspect TV series (1991-1996), though there have been notable film performances: in the gangster classic, The Long Good Friday (d. John Mackenzie, 1979), as Morgana in Excalibur (UK/US, d. John Boorman, 1981), as the Queen in The Madness of King George and as one of the mothers in Some Mother's Son (Ireland/US, d. Terry George, 1996).

She has had an extensive Hollywood career, and with her 2001 performances as Michael Caine's widow in Last Orders (UK/Germany, d. Fred Schepisi) and the housekeeper with a dark secret in her past in Gosford Park (UK/Germany/US, d. Robert Altman, for which she garnered an Oscar nomination), she has matured into one of Britain's great character actresses.

On stage with the RSC, she proved a formidable performer as Ophelia (1970), Miss Julie (1971) and Lady Macbeth (1974). She is married to US-based director Taylor Hackford.

Book: Helen Mirren: A Celebration, edited by Amy Rennert (1995)

Anthony Slide, Encyclopedia of British Film

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Excalibur (1981)Excalibur (1981)

John Boorman's visually stunning, ambitious Arthurian epic

Thumbnail image of Herostratus (1967)Herostratus (1967)

Extraordinary feature in which a man sells his suicide to a marketing firm

Thumbnail image of Long Good Friday, The (1979)Long Good Friday, The (1979)

Bob Hoskins dazzles in the defining gangster film of the turn of the '80s

Thumbnail image of Blue Remembered Hills (1979)Blue Remembered Hills (1979)

Dennis Potter recreates a 1940s West Country childhood, using adult actors

Thumbnail image of Cymbeline (1983)Cymbeline (1983)

BBC Television Shakespeare adaptation

Thumbnail image of Prime Suspect (1991-2006)Prime Suspect (1991-2006)

A female detective confronts tough cases and prejudiced colleagues

Thumbnail image of Thriller (1973-76)Thriller (1973-76)

Popular anthology of suspenseful tales

Related collections

Related people and organisations