In a fit of worry about her career, Helen Mirren once consulted an Indian palm reader. “He said, ‘You’ll have success, but you won’t be very, very successful until you’re in your 40s,’ which was, more or less, unbelievably true,” she confides.
The daughter of a Russian immigrant taxi driver, London-born Helen began working in theater as a young woman but didn’t win wide recognition in the U.K. until she starred in the British police drama Prime Suspect in 1991. Stardom in Hollywood took even longer. At 61, she agreed to play Elizabeth II in The Queen.
“I knew it would be so dangerous if you got it remotely wrong,” says Helen of her career-igniting role. Portraying a living beloved figure is something she would never have had the courage to attempt as a young actress. “[I] had to do it, no matter what,” she says.
The gamble, of course, paid off. In addition to the Oscar she won for the role, Helen’s been awarded four Emmys and a Tony. “I want to win a Grammy,” she says. “Unfortunately, I can’t sing at all. But it would be kinda cool, wouldn’t it?”
Beyond her enviable career, Helen remains proud of her personal life, which also took some time to come together. She was 41 when she wed An Officer and a Gentleman director Taylor Hackford. It was his third marriage, but the first for Helen, and she’s glad she waited. “I feel particularly grateful that I’m in a happy marriage. I love my husband, I love being with him,” says Helen, 76. “Not that I can’t live without him, because I can. But that is a really nice part of my life.”
The actress, who splits her time between Lake Tahoe, Nevada and Italy, never had children, but her close circle includes her older sister, Katherine, and Taylor’s adult sons and their families. “The fact that I’m very close to my family is great, even without children. Maybe especially without children,” she says, adding she’s blessed to have such a full life. “The longer your life, the more you have to remember,” Helen notes. “And I have some amazing memories.”