Helen Mirren Teaches Acting in Masterclass

November 17, 2017

In early 2018, British actress Helen Mirren will be teaching the craft of acting in an online Masterclass.

Mirren is one of the few performers to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting. That is, she earned an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen; a Tony Award for her performance in The Audience; and four Emmy Awards. Now 72 years of age, Mirren’s career is both prolific and international.

The elegant actress is known for her versatility and powerful performances. As a child, Helen acted in school productions, and at the age of 18, she auditioned for the National Youth Theatre and was accepted. It wasn’t long before she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company where she was fortunate enough to be mentored by the classical actor and founding member of the RSC, Ian Richardson. “I had the immense good fortune to work with an actor that was so generous at sharing his craft. He became a mentor to me, he helped me believe in myself,” she said. Helen then branched out into film in her early 20’s.

In her Masterclass, Mirren shares several aspects of her process. “Never act in front of a mirror,” she asserts. “You are doing the exact opposite of what acting is about. Acting is all about what’s happening within you. It doesn’t matter what’s happening on your face.” Mirren emphasizes the collaborative aspect of acting and gives much credit to crew members, like costume designers, when it comes to creating a character. And she discusses two basic approaches she uses while preparing for a role. First, she masters the technique, or the craft, of acting; then she allows her imagination to take charge, which she describes as the art of acting.

“I remember this feeling so well. And many of you will feel it. When suddenly, you’re in control of it … a moment where your technique is so deep within you, that gives you your freedom then to invent, to improvise, to act,” Mirren says.

She has also said, “I’ve always found as an actress that the best thing to do in film or TV or theater is just to lose yourself in it. Think of the story, the character, the worlds we’re in, and forget everything else.”

Mirren has played the part of a queen a total of six times, and her characters have often been described as “strong.” But this description rubs her the wrong way. “I don’t like the word ‘strong,’ because a strong character is never an interesting character. A character is made interesting by their vulnerabilities and their weaknesses,” she insists.

Topics covered in Mirren’s Masterclass include:

  • Researching characters
  • Breaking Down Scripts
  • Creating Characters through Hair and Makeup
  • Creating Characters through Costume
  • Characterizing Sets
  • Camera Technique
  • Performing Shakespeare
  • Collaborating with Writers and Directors

Those who are interested in the class can pre-enroll now. The cost is $90 and offers over 25 lessons. Mirren’s Masterclass is an immersive online experience that includes pre-recorded videos that can be watched at any time.


Who’s Right? Helen Mirren Vs. Russell Crowe on Aging in Hollywood

July 31, 2015

The Women In Gold star Helen Mirren turned 70 a few days ago, and she’s apprehensive why so many people are interested in how she is aging. Appearing on Good Morning Britain, the hosts expressed they couldn’t believe she was indeed 70 when she appears to look so much younger. In response, Mirren retorted, “Why can’t you believe it? Yes I do, I look 70 … with a lot of make up. I do totally look 70.” She later described their line of questioning about her age as “boring.” When one of the hosts attempted to explain that people are intrigued with age because she “looks fantastic,” Mirren bluntly stated, “I don’t understand your fascination with it, and I don’t think you’re fascinated with it. You’re just saying what your editor told you to say.”

This is not the first time the Oscar-winning English actress has spoken frankly about her thoughts on agism. Recently at the Wrap’s Power Women Breakfast it was revealed to Mirren that 37-year-old Maggie Gyllendall was turned down for a role because she was too old to play the romantic partner of a 55-year-old man. Dame Helen Mirren was not at all surprised to hear this, but was outraged, saying, “It’s f—– outrageous!…And so annoying. And ’twas ever thus. We all sat there, you know, watching James Bond…as James Bond got more and more geriatric, and his girlfriends got younger and younger.”

Mirren is among the elite category of actresses who have managed to keep working consistently over the decades such as 65-year-old Meryl Streep and 52-year-old Julianne Moore. Indeed, even the megastar Streep noticed a shift in the roles she was offered after she turned forty: a heap of evil witch roles.

Although men endure agism on the silver screen, it’s often argued that it’s worse for women as the years pass. This phenomena is nothing new; consider that less than twenty-percent of Shakespeare’s roles were written for women.

But Gladiator star, and director Russell Crowe has some ideas regarding why the lack of work exists for actresses over the age of 40–and he blames the females themselves. “To be honest, I think you’ll find that the woman who is saying that is the woman who at 40, 45, 48, still wants to play the ingenue, and can’t understand why she’s not being cast as the 21 year old,” Crowe remarked to Australia Women’s Weekly. “Meryl Streep will give you 10,000 examples and arguments as to why that’s bull—, so will Helen Mirren, or whoever it happens to be. If you are willing to live in your own skin, you can work as an actor. If you are trying to pretend that you’re still the young buck when you’re my age, it just doesn’t work….I can’t be the Gladiator forever,” he continued.

Many people have pointed out that 50-year-old Crowe is allowed to appear his age–salt and pepper hair, furrowed brow, laugh lines and all. On the contrary, the actresses that endure tend to maintain their exceptional beauty as they age regardless if they’re playing a witch, a queen, or an Alzheimer’s patient. Take Mirren, for example, who truly maintains a youthful quality and remarkable beauty.

What do you think? Does Crowe have a fair point to make, or is he being ignorant? Is Mirren right on the money or do you think she’s overreacting to people who are simply paying her a compliment? Also, do you personally feel affected by agism in Hollywood?