Last week, Dame Helen Mirren was awarded a Fellowship Award at the BAFTAS, celebrating her contribution to film, theatre and television during a career that spans over fifty years. Aged 68, she is an emblem for British style and charm, rising from a controversial devil-may-care blonde of the 1960s to one of the industry’s most influential and elegant actresses, creating a presence that is formidable, mischevious and delightfully humble.
Mirren began her career in the 1960s working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Her first film appearance in 1969 found her seducing audiences in Age of Consent, lying topless on a beach off the coast of the Great Barrier Reef as nomadic tear-away Cora Ryan. This overtly provocative, bohemian demeanor would become her trademark for the next decade, swinging from low-cut Patricia in O Lucky Man! to a net-clad Morgana Le Fay in Excaliber, alongside a series of alluring photographs taken by her then-boyfriend James Wedge. She became known for her blonde hair, voluptuous physique, and the cryptic tattoo on her left hand which she credits to a wild evening in Minnesota. She participated in an infamous interview with Michael Parkison aired in 1975, where, carrying an extravagant feather and wearing high green boots, she retorted, “what a crummy performance if people are obsessed with the size of your bosom or anything else.”
"What I really fancy is getting a bit notorious” — Helen Mirren
Mirren, unlike many actresses of her time, has aged gracefully. Rarely placing a sartorial foot wrong, she has come into her own in recent years, developing into a style icon with her array of couture gowns by Dolce & Gabbana, Vivienne Westwood and Ellie Saab. Her tousled curls have been cropped and bobbed, becoming a definitive hairstyle in its own right. But she is mostly aspirational due to her carefree attitude, apparent in each role she takes on, from running a 1970s brothel as Grace Botempo in Love Ranch to Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. "What I really fancy," she once said, "is getting a bit notorious.”
Text by Mhairi Graham