Vanessa Redgrave

Biography

Vanessa Redgrave CBE (born 30 January 1937) is an English actress of stage, screen and television, and a political activist. She is a 2003 American Theatre Hall of Fame inductee and received the 2010 BAFTA Fellowship.

Redgrave rose to prominence in 1961 playing Rosalind in As You Like It with the Royal Shakespeare Company and has since starred in more than 35 productions in London’s West End and on Broadway, winning the 1984 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival for The Aspern Papers, and the 2003 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for the revival of Long Day’s Journey into Night. She also received Tony nominations for The Year of Magical Thinking and Driving Miss Daisy.

On screen, she has starred in scores of films and is a six-time Oscar nominee, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the title role in the film Julia (1977). Her other nominations were for Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966), Isadora (1968), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), The Bostonians (1984) and Howards End (1992). Among her other films are A Man for All Seasons (1966), Blowup (1966), Camelot (1967), The Devils (1971), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Prick Up Your Ears (1987), Mission: Impossible (1996), Atonement (2007), Coriolanus (2011) and The Butler (2013). Redgrave was proclaimed by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams as “the greatest living actress of our times”, and has won the Oscar, Emmy, Tony, BAFTA, Olivier, Cannes, Golden Globe, and the Screen Actors Guild awards.

A member of the Redgrave family of actors, she is the daughter of Sir Michael Redgrave and Lady Redgrave (the actress Rachel Kempson), the sister of Lynn Redgrave and Corin Redgrave, the mother of actresses Joely Richardson and Natasha Richardson, the aunt of British actress Jemma Redgrave, and the mother-in-law of actor Liam Neeson.

Growing up with such celebrated theatrical parents, great expectations were put on both herself, her brother Corin Redgrave and sister Lynn Redgrave at an early age. Shooting up early and finally reaching a height just short of 6 foot, Redgrave initially had plans to dance and perform ballet as a profession. However she settled on acting and entered the Central School of Speech and Drama in 1954 and four years later made her West End debut. In the decade of the 1960s she developed and progressed to become one of the most noted young stars of the English stage and then film. Performances on the London stage included the classics: ‘A Touch of Sun’, ‘Coriolanus’, ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’, ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’, ‘As You Like It’, ‘The Lady from the Sea’, ‘The Seagull’ and many others. By the mid 1960s, she had booked various film roles and matured into a striking beauty with a slim, tall frame and attractive face. In 1966 she made her big screen debut as the beautiful ex-wife of a madman in an Oscar nominated performance in the oddball comedy Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966), as well as the enigmatic woman in a public park in desperate need of a photographer’s negatives in the iconic Blow-Up (1966) and briefly appeared in an unspoken part of Anne Boleyn in the Best Picture winner of the year A Man for All Seasons (1966).

She managed to originate the title role in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” the same year on the London stage (which was then adapted for the big screen a few years later, but Maggie Smith was cast instead and managed to win an Oscar for her performance). Her follow up work saw her play the lead in the box office hit adaptation Camelot (1967), a film popular with audiences but dismissed by critics, and her second Academy Award nominated performance as Isadora Duncan in the critically praised Isadora (1968).

Her rise in popularity on film also coincided with her public political involvement, she was one of the lead faces in protesting against the Vietnam war and lead a famous march on the US embassy, was arrested during a Ban-the-Bomb demonstration, publicly supported Yasar Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and fought for various other human rights and particularly left wing causes. Despite her admirably independent qualities, most of her political beliefs weren’t largely supported by the public. In 1971 after 3 films back to back, Redgrave suffered a miscarriage (it would have been her fourth, after Natasha Richardson, Joely Richardson and Carlo Gabriel Nero) and a break up with her then partner and father of her son, Franco Nero. This was around the same time her equally political brother Corin introduced her to the Workers Revolutionary Party, a group who aimed to destroy capitalism and abolish the monarchy. Her film career began to suffer and take the back seat as she became more involved with the party, twice unsuccessfully attempting to run as a party member for parliament, only obtaining a very small percentage of votes.

In terms of her film career at the time, she was given probably the smallest part in the huge ensemble who-dunnit hit, Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and given another thankless small part as Lola Deveraux in the Sherlock Holmes adventure The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976).

After a celebrated Broadway debut, she created further controversy in 1977 with her involvement in two films, firstly in Julia (1977) where she acted opposite Jane Fonda as a woman fighting Nazi oppression and narrated and featured in the documentary The Palestinian (1977) where she famously danced holding a Kalashnikov rifle. She publicly stated her condemnation of what she termed “Zionist hudlums”, which outraged Jewish groups and as a result a screening of her documentary was bombed and Redgrave was personally threatened by the Jewish Defense League (JDL). Julia (1977) happened to be a huge critical success and Redgrave herself was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, but Jewish support groups demanded her nomination to be dropped and at the event of the Academy Awards burned effigies of Redgrave and protested and picketed. Redgrave was forced to enter the event via a rear entrance to avoid harm and when she won the award she famously remarked on the frenzy causes as “Zionist hoodlums” which caused the audience to audibly gasp and boo. The speech reached newspapers the next morning and her reputation was further damaged.

It came as a surprise when CBS hired her for the part of real life Nazi camp survivor Fania Fenelon in Playing for Time (1980), despite more controversy and protesting (Fenelon herself didn’t even want Redgrave to portray her) she won an Emmy for the part and the film was one of the highest rating programs of the year. Her follow up film work to her Oscar had been mostly low key but successful, performances in films such as Yanks (1979), Agatha (1979), The Bostonians (1984), Wetherby (1985) and Prick Up Your Ears (1987) further cemented her reputation as a fine actress and she received various accolades and nominations.

However mainly in the 1980s, she focused on TV films and high budget mini-series as well as theatre in both London and New York. She made headlines in 1984 when she sued the Boston Symphony Orchestra for $5 million for wrongful cancellation of her contract because of her politics (she also stated her salary was significantly reduced in Agatha (1979) for the same reason). She became more mainstream in the 1990s where she appeared in a string of high profile films but the parts often underused Redgrave’s abilities or they were small cameos/5-minute parts. Highlights included Howards End (1992), Little Odessa (1994), Mission: Impossible (1996) and Cradle Will Rock (1999), as well as her leading lady parts in A Month by the Lake (1995) and Mrs Dalloway (1997).

In 2003 she finally won the coveted Tony award for her performance in ‘The Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ and followed up with another two Tony nominated performances on Broadway, her one woman show ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ in 2007 and ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ in 2010 which not only was extended due to high demand, but was also transferred to the West End for an additional three months in 2011.

Vanessa continues to lend her name to causes and has been notable for donating huge amounts of her own money for her various beliefs. She has publicly opposed the war in Iraq, campaigned for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, supported the rights of gays and lesbians as well as AIDs research and many other issues. She released her autobiography in 1993 and a few years later she was elected to serve as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She also famously declined the invitation to be made a Dame for her services as an actress. Many have wondered the possible heights her career could have reached if it wasn’t for her outspoken views, but being a celebrity and the artificial lifestyle usually attached doesn’t seem to interest Redgrave in the slightest.

Vanessa has worked with all three of her children professionally on numerous occasions (her eldest daughter, Natasha Richardson tragically died at the age of 45 due to a skiing accident) and in her mid 70s she still works regularly on television, film and theatre, delivering time and time again great performance

 

Filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1958 Behind the Mask Pamela Gray
1966 Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment Leonie Delt
1966 A Man For All Seasons Anne Boleyn
1966 Blowup Jane
1967 Camelot Guinevere
1967 The Sailor from Gibraltar Sheila
1968 The Charge of the Light Brigade Mrs. Clarissa Morris
1968 A Quiet Place in the Country Flavia
1968 Isadora Isadora Duncan
1968 The Sea Gull Nina
1969 Oh! What a Lovely War Sylvia Pankhurst
1970 Dropout Mary
1970 A Mother with Two Children Expecting Her Third Short; Swedish: En mor med två barn väntandes sitt tredje
1971 Mary, Queen of Scots Mary, Queen of Scots
1971 The Devils Sister Jeanne
1971 Vacation Immacolata Meneghelli Italian: La vacanza
1971 The Trojan Women Andromache
1974 Murder on the Orient Express Mary Debenham
1975 Out of Season Ann
1976 The Seven-Per-Cent Solution Lola Deveraux
1977 Julia Julia
1979 Agatha Agatha Christie
1979 Yanks Helen
1979 Bear Island Heddi Lindguist
1980 Playing for Time Fania Fenelon
1983 Sing Sing Queen
1984 The Bostonians Olive Chancellor
1985 Wetherby Jean Travers
1985 Steaming Nancy
1986 Comrades Mrs. Carlyle
1986 Peter the Great Sophia TV miniseries
1986 Second Serve Richard Radley / Renee Richards TV film
1987 Prick Up Your Ears Peggy Ramsay
1988 Consuming Passions Mrs. Garza
1988 A Man for All Seasons Lady Alice More
1990 Romeo.Juliet Mother Capulet
1990 Breath of Life Sister Crucifix Italian: Diceria dell’untore
1990 Pokhorony Stalina English journalist
1991 The Ballad of the Sad Cafe Miss Amelia
1991 Young Catherine Empress Elizabeth TV film
1992 Howards End Ruth Wilcox
1993 A Wall of Silence Kate Benson Spanish: Un Muro de Silencio
1993 The House of the Spirits Nivea del Valle
1993 Sparrow Sister Agata Italian: Storia di una capinera
1993 Great Moments in Aviation Dr. Angela Bead
1993 They Florence Latimer
1994 Mother’s Boys Lydia Madigan
1994 Little Odessa Irina Shapira
1995 A Month by the Lake Miss Bentley
1996 Mission: Impossible Max
1997 Smilla’s Sense of Snow Elsa Lubing
1997 Wilde Lady Speranza Wilde
1997 Mrs. Dalloway Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway
1997 Déjà Vu Skelly
1997 Bella Mafia Graziella Luciano
1998 Deep Impact Robin Lerner
1998 Lulu on the Bridge Catherine Moore
1999 Cradle Will Rock Countess Constance LaGrange
1999 Uninvited Mrs. Ruttenburn
1999 Girl, Interrupted Dr. Sonia Wick
2000 If These Walls Could Talk 2 Edith Tress Segment “1961”
2000 Mirka Kalsan
2000 A Rumor of Angels Maddy Bennett
2001 The Pledge Annalise Hansen
2001 Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story Countess Wilhelmina/Narrator
2002 Crime and Punishment Rodian’s Mother
2002 Searching for Debra Winger Herself Documentary
2003 Good Boy! The Greater Dane Voice role
2004 The Fever Woman Also executive producer
2005 The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam The Heiress
2005 Short Order Marianne
2005 The White Countess Vera Belinskya
2006 The Thief Lord Sister Antonia
2006 Venus Valerie
2007 The Riddle Roberta Elliot
2007 How About You Georgia Platts
2007 Evening Ann Lord
2007 Atonement Older Briony Tallis
2008 Restraint Sky News Reader
2008 Gud, lukt och henne
2009 Eva Eva
2010 Letters to Juliet Claire Smith-Wyman
2010 The Whistleblower Madeleine Rees
2010 Miral Bertha Spafford
2010 Animals United Winnie Voice only (English Version)
2011 Coriolanus Volumnia
2011 Cars 2 Mama Topolino/Queen Voice only
2011 Anonymous Queen Elizabeth I
2012 Song for Marion Marion
2012 The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh Rosalind Leigh
2013 The Butler Annabeth Westfall
2014 Foxcatcher Jean du Pont
2016 The Secret Scripture Old Roseanne McNulty
2017 Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool Jeanne McDougall
2017 Sea Sorrow Director
2018 The Aspern Papers Juliana Bordereau
TBA Georgetown[1] Viola Drath
TBA The Medusa[2] TBC

Filmography

  • Movie Name

    Ratings

  • Blowup

    A day in swinging 60's

    9.3 /10

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Modernism and Post-Modernism | An Analysis of Blow-Up

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