Personal detailsName: Vanessa Redgrave
Born: 30 January 1937 (Age: 77)
Where: London, England
Awards: 1 Golden Globe and 1 Oscar
All about this star
Like Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, Vanessa Redgrave has for decades been one of the UK's finest actresses. And, also like them, she is still feted worldwide as she passes through middle-age, bringing to screen and TV roles an authority and gravitas that younger actresses simply cannot match. First Oscar-nominated back in 1967, she'd still be winning major prizes 35 years later. Ever burning with energy and righteous anger, she continues to dedicate herself to the theatre and cinema, as well as the social causes for which she long fought - causes that have made her, alongside her American counterpart Jane Fonda, the most controversial actress of the modern era. Which probably explains why, unlike Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, she isn't yet a Dame.
Redgrave's present status was prophesied on the day of her birth by no less a luminary than Sir Laurence Olivier. On January 30th, 1937, during the curtain call of a performance at London's Old Vic Theatre, he announced to the audience "Ladies and gentlemen, tonight a great actress has been born. Laertes has a daughter!" (Laertes being the character played that night by Vanessa's father, the renowned Michael Redgrave). It really wasn't such a wild guess on Olivier's part. Michael was already an esteemed member of the thespian establishment. His father, Roy, starred in many of the first silent films to come out of Australia, while his wife and Vanessa's mother was another famed performer, Rachel Kempson, who'd debuted as Juliet at Stratford in 1932 (she'd met Michael during Liverpool Rep's production of Flowers Of The Forest in 1935 and married him that same year). Indeed, the Redgrave tradition would continue even beyond Vanessa. Vanessa's sister, Lynn, would be Oscar nominated, while her brother Corin would become a prime mover in British theatre. Beyond this, Vanessa's own children - Natasha and Joely Richardson - would become famous actresses, as would her niece, Corin's daughter, Jemma Redgrave.
As said, Michael Redgrave was already an accomplished stage actor at the time of Vanessa's birth. Soon he'd also be a screen star, starring in Thunder Rock and Dead Of Night and being Oscar-nominated in 1947 for Mourning Becomes Electra. The 1950s would see him in The Browning Version, The Dambusters and 1984, while during his decade-long stint with the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford he'd win rave reviews as Richard II, Marc Antony, Hamlet and King Lear. Young Vanessa would be marked for life by her father's achievements and attitude, as she saw the efforts of actors to contribute during war-time and also the sacrifices necessary to reach the very highest standards in the profession.
She decided to take to the stage while in her teens.