Perhaps the ultimate thinking man's sex symbol, Helen Mirren is also one of the most respected actresses of British stage, screen, and television. With classical training, years of work on the London stage, an acclaimed television series, and dozens of films to her name, Mirren has proven herself an actress of talent, versatility, and unforgettable presence.
Born Ilynea Lydia Mironoff on July 26, 1945, in London, Mirren is a descendant of the White Russian nobility. Her father was a member of an aristocratic Russian military family who came to England during the Russian Revolution, but while Mirren was growing up, he worked in turn as a violinist with the London Philharmonic, a taxi driver, and a driving instructor. His daughter, on the other hand, knew her true calling by the age of six, when she realized she wanted to become an actress, in the "old-fashioned and traditional sense." After trying to please her parents with a stint at a teacher's college, Mirren joined the National Youth Theatre, where she first made her mark playing Cleopatra. The acclaim for her performance led the way to other work, and she was soon a member of the vaunted Royal Shakespeare Company, with whom she performed a wide range of classics.