(Sali Hughes’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/26.; via Pam Green.)
Her 70th birthday is just around the corner, but the celebrated actor shows no signs of slowing down, shutting up or becoming invisible. We salute her fearless approach to fashion
Mirren, who doesn’t bother to call herself a feminist (because “it’s just fucking obvious”), is more immediately concerned about class inequality in the acting world. In a recent Weekend interview, Julie Walters said that the profession would no longer even be an option for someone from her modest background. Mirren and Walters are cut from not dissimilar cloth: Mirren was born Helen Mironoff to a Russian immigrant father and working-class mother from West Ham, who both told her she could never be an independent woman unless she went out and earned money. She grew up with her brother and sister in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on a tight family budget (her father drove a cab and worked as a driving test examiner). The Mirrens – her father had anglicised the (at one time quite grand) family name when Helen was a little girl – were, and still are, very close. Like Walters, she attended vocational college (studying teaching) rather than drama school, but got her big break through theatre groups: at the National Youth Theatre (Ben Kingsley, David Suchet and Ian McShane were contemporaries), she was spotted by director Trevor Nunn. “In the 60s and 70s, the Youth Theatre was so important,” she says. “That’s the one organisation that cuts right across. And you still need some sort of financial support, even there. It’s very tough.
“I couldn’t afford to go to drama school. To become an actor was a dangerous thing, financially. But, on the other hand, it was doable and I don’t know whether it is any more. It’s gone back to only really posh kids being able to afford to be actors.”
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