Welcome, new readers. This is a blog dedicated to one of the greatest actresses of our time and someone I’ve admired ever since I first set eyes on her as a moonstruck schoolboy in 1974. My plan, over the coming months, is to look back at some of her career highlights. The emphasis will be on her early work, to about 1980, hence the subtitle ‘Becoming Helen Mirren’. I go back to that time, not just because my most vivid memories of her are the earliest, not just because back in the day she was kind enough to answer the self-obsessed scribblings of an adolescent fan, but because I feel no one quite knew – not least Mirren herself – what she would become in the next thirty years. Who in 1974 would have confidently predicted that this self-declared Trotskyite would end up a Dame of the British Empire and a global brand so recognisable that she has only to step out in a bikini or utter an expletive in a TV interview for the Twittersphere to go into meltdown?
Well, perhaps there was one person who foresaw all. In her autobiography, Mirren describes visiting a palm-reader in a back street of Golders Green. This would have been about 1968. ‘He was an Indian man, more like an accountant than a mystic,’ she recalls. He told her that she’d be successful in life but would see her greatest success later, after the age of 45: ‘Not something you want to hear at the age of 23… I realised that I did not want to know what the future held. I wanted my life to be an adventure.’