Ageism, marriage and being child-free: Helen Mirren's trail-blazing road to fame.

When Helen Mirren reached fame and fortune, she was in her mid-40s. 

And while it can be hard to imagine a world where the international A-lister's name was not in lights, Mirren's own success has truly been a labour of love and tireless effort.

"From the start, I never stopped working, but I wanted [fame when] I was 22," the actor told Closer in 2017. "I had a certain kind of success in Britain, but the kind of international success I got didn't come until after 40."

Watch Helen Mirren's life tips. Post continues after video. 

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In a February 2022 interview, the 76-year-old Woman In Gold actor opened up about having a dual citizenship in both the US and Britain. She admitted the decision to become American was not one made in jest, but instead the result of an epiphany during the 9/11 bombings.

"I saw the second tower come down," she told PEOPLE. "I had an epiphany. I realised where my allegiance and my heart and my intellect lay in that confrontation between extremism, religiosity — all those things and everything that America represents.

"And I thought, 'I'm an American,'" Mirren added. "I got an American flag, and I put it outside my window."


While the Dame has conquered television, theatre and film, her rise to stardom has become a marvel all on its own.

Let's take a look back at her claim to fame and where she is now.

Helen Mirren's rise to fame.

Daughter of a Russian immigrant, the London-born actor was just 13-years-old when she watched an amateur production of Hamlet and realised her own dream to work in the arts.

"I was blown away by all this over-the-top drama," she told The Times. "We grew up without TV and never went to the cinema, so after Hamlet, all I wanted to do was get back into that world where all those fabulous things were possible."


By 20, she landed a role in the National Youth Theatre's production of Antony and Cleopatra at the Old Vic. 

She received such a feverous amount of praise for the production, that she was invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company. She was the youngest actor ever to get an invitation, and from there her mark in the arts landscape began to well and truly establish.

Throughout her tenure, she took on some seriously challenging roles including Lady Macbeth and Miss Julie, and pulled them off flawlessly.

Already in her 20s, she'd gotten glimpses of fame and success, but it wasn't until 1991 that she captured the admiration of a global audience for her work on Prime Suspect as Detective Jane Tennison. 

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Her first major award came in 1984 when she received a Cannes Best Actress Award. From there, she became unstoppable. 

In 2003, Mirren was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her services to drama 

But even with a number of heavy titles behind her name and her work in the theatre spanning over 40 years, Hollywood did not come knocking until the age of 61 when she agreed to play Elizabeth II in The Queen.

"I knew it would be so dangerous if you got it remotely wrong," she said of the role - admitting it was in the realm of roles she would have never had the bravery to take on as a younger actress. "[But I] had to do it, no matter what."

And the decision paid off, earning her not only an Oscar for her portrayal, but four Emmys and a Tony as well. 

Throughout her career, Mirren has acknowledged she's seen a major shift take place for the better.

At the 2014 pre-Oscars event, the actor detailed that the industry has become a more inclusive place to women.

"When I first came into this industry, you walked onto a film set and it was all men… and, my God, how much things have changed. I’ve witnessed that change," she explained. "It’s so exciting to see that change.… That’s why I want to live another 40 years, because I want to see what further changes are coming."


Mirren has been a driving force behind demanding support (and work) for older female actors.

"It’s f***ing outrageous," she said in 2015, in reference to fellow actor Maggie Gyllenhaal receiving criticism for playing a role with a love interest 18 years her senior. "It’s ridiculous. And ’twas ever thus. We all watched James Bond as he got more and more geriatric, and his girlfriends got younger and younger. It’s so annoying.

"I’ve been lucky, but if you look at any drama it’s still five-to-one men to women," she told Radio Times magazine.

"There are a few women in main roles, and although it’s changing, it’s still difficult for most to earn a living. Many I grew up with are immensely talented yet can’t. It’s much easier for men."

Helen Mirren's relationships. 

Just like Mirren's step into the spotlight, her own whirlwind romance has come into its own over time. 

Helen met film director Taylor Hackford just after her breakthrough part in the 1980’s film The Long Good Friday, and he later auditioned her for the movie White Nights.

They dated for ten years before officially tying the knot in 1997, when she was 41-years-old. 

Her secret to decades of marriage? Time apart. 


"My theory has always been that this is why we're still together: because we've spent so much time apart, we're always pleased to see each other," Mirren told You Magazine. 

And while there have been others - Hackford had two marriages prior - they both described eachother as the "love of their lives". 

“The great thing about finding a partnership later on [in life] is that you recognise it as such," Mirren told Today in 2016.

“You recognise the partnership level of this relationship as much as the love and the lust and all the rest of it.”


Throughout the pandemic, Mirren admitted she treasured the "normal" time shared with Hackford. 

"In all that time [marriage] because of the nature of both of our work we’ve always been looking at suitcases, at packing," she said. 

"It’s been really great to just sort of have what most people have. You know, normal, regular, repetitive lives, but comfortable lives."

In terms of marriage, Mirren says she is glad she waited for her "person". 

"I feel particularly grateful that I’m in a happy marriage. I love my husband, I love being with him," the actor explained. "Not that I can’t live without him, because I can. But that is a really nice part of my life."


Helen Mirren on not having children. 

While Mirren took on two step-children upon marrying, the actor has made it clear she's always intended to remain child-free. 

"It’s not that I don’t love children, they are funny and I just love them, but I never wanted to have them. I really tried to want it at one point. I thought maybe I should, but I never convinced myself," admitted the Dame, as reported by Showbiz Spy.

"I think some men and women just don’t have a deep urge to procreate."

It's a decision she has not regretted, except for one moment in her life. 

"I have never had a moment of regret about not having children," Mirren told The Sunday Times. "Well, I lie. When I watched the movie, Parenthood, I sobbed for about 20 minutes."

The film, the actor said, made her feel as if though parenting was a vital aspect of life. 

"I sobbed for the loss of [the chance at parenthood] and the fact that I never experienced it," she further explained. 

Even after shedding tears, the Dame admitted she quickly "got over it". 

"I’m quite relieved, actually."

Mirren is set to receive the Life Achievement Award at the 2022 SAG Awards this Sunday.

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia /Pathé Distribution.

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