There's nothing like a Dame - and when it comes to Helen Mirren, that rings even more true.
We have been enamoured with her best style moments over the past 55 years, taking tips on how to dress regally but also playing with fashion. And when we aren't caught up in her stunning style or bold hair choices, she's continuing to deliver some of the best work in the likes of Yellowstone 1923 (plus her surprise involvement in blockbusters like Barbie).
If you love Helen Mirren, you might be fascinated by some of these lesser-known facts about her life and career.
32 interesting facts about Helen Mirren
She’s used the same hairspray all her life
Proving that, sometimes, a classic is a classic for a reason, Helen Mirren has avoided getting caught in the trap of paying for more expensive brands or trends and has stayed true to L'Oréal's timeless Elnett hairspray for most of her life.
She told the Daily Mail in 2022, "Elnett hairspray has also been with me my whole life and every hairdresser says they use it because it’s still the best. Even the can is rather old-fashioned with that 50s-style image of a woman."
That's one celebrity hair trick we can get on board with.
L'Oreal Elnett Hairspray 200 ml, £3.00 | Amazon
Nourish your hair and hold it in place with L'Oreal's classic hairspray. It gives a strong hold to keep your style in place all day, while the satin conditioners protect your hair and improve manageability.View Deal
Helen Mirren wasn’t the name given to her at birth
Dame Helen's given name at birth definitely wouldn’t fit on a movie poster.
The actress we now know as Helen Mirren was born Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironova. In 1951, her father, Vasily Petrovich Mironoff, changed the family name to Mirren by deed poll to Anglicise it.
She has Russian aristocracy in her roots
Helen's family traces back to Russian nobility.
Her grandfather, Pyotr Vasilievich Mironov, owned a family estate near the area now known as Gagarin. His mother, Helen's great-grandmother, was Countess Lydia Andreevna Kamenskaya, an aristocrat and a descendant of Count Mikhail Fedotovich Kamensky, a prominent Russian general in the Napoleonic Wars.
Her early acting nickname was Little Mother Russia – a nod to her ancestry.
She’s the queen of playing queens
Dame Helen has played a queen seven times on screen (and even a few times on the stage), and is the only actress who has portrayed both Elizabeth I and the late Queen Elizabeth II.
She has played Queen Elizabeth I in 2005's Elizabeth I, Queen Elizabeth II in 2006's The Queen, the fictional Snow Queen in 1995's The Snow Queen, Queen Charlotte in 1994's The Madness of King George, Roman empress Caesonia in 1979's Caligula, the Egyptian Queen in 1998's The Prince of Egypt and Catherine the Great in 2019's Catherine the Great.
She’s always had the gift of the gab
Helen Mirren charms audiences the world over when she appears on screen, and it’s a skill she learnt from her younger years.
She worked as a hustler at a theme park in Southend, Essex, using her verbal charms to draw in punters.
Throughout the early 60s, she spent many days pulling in the punters at the Kursaal amusement complex on the seafront, using her skills to encourage people to go on the rides.
She's not the only famous one in her family
Tania Mallet was an English actress and model, best known for playing Tilly Masterson in the James Bond film Goldfinger. Tania was also Helen Mirren's first cousin, sharing roots with their Russian grandfather.
Helen described her cousin in her autobiography as "impossibly beautiful and kind" and "a loyal and generous person" who used her earnings from modelling to pay for her brother's education and financially support her mother.
She was once voted the Naturist of the Year
She has no problem stripping off, and Calendar Girls director Nigel Cole even had to tell her to put her robe back on after a naked scene. this makes sense, since she is quoted as being a naturist, telling the Radio Times "I'm a naturist at heart. I love being on beaches where everyone is naked. Ugly people, beautiful people, old people, whatever. It's so unisexual and so liberating."
In 2004, she was named Naturist of the Year by British Naturism.
Accepting the honour, she said, "Many thanks to British Naturism for this great honour. I do believe in naturism and am my happiest on a nude beach with people of all ages and races!"
She swears by a 12-minute exercise
In 2014, Helen revealed to a press junket that she stays in shape by following a 12-minute Royal Canadian Air Force exercise plan from the 1950s.
The XBX workout for women consists of 10 basic exercises -
30 seconds of toe touching/warm-up
30 seconds of knee raises
30 seconds of arm circling
30 seconds of partial sit-ups
2 minutes of chest and leg raises
1 minute of side leg raises
2 minutes of push-ups from a kneeling position
1 minute of leg lifts
3 minutes of running and hopping.
Her Parkinson appearance was one of the most controversial
Chat show legend Michael Parkinson sitting down with rising talent Helen Mirren in 1975 should have been a meeting of entertainment titans.
However, Dame Helen described the incident as "enraging" to BUST magazine and many still condemn the interview as sexist, after the broadcaster called her "sluttishly erotic" and suggested her breasts might detract from her career.
At the time, Helen retorted, "I can’t think that can necessarily be true. I mean, what a crummy performance if people are obsessed with the size of your bosom or anything else."
Helen revisited the interview in 2023, softening her reaction somewhat. Speaking to Radio Times, Dame Helen recalled the awkward exchange adding, "I didn’t feel sorry for Parky, but then in a way I did because in lots of ways he was right. My physicality did get in the way of me being taken seriously as a classical actress."
She also acknowledged that "times change", adding, "Yes, yes they really do. And fast. And we can only kick down the patriarchy one brick at a time."
She swears by castor oil
Considering she's still walking runways well into her 70s and looking radiant as ever, there's no wonder people are curious as to the actress's secrets.
Well, it turns out, she's a big fan of a natural product which can be bought from most supermarkets or food stores for a very low price tag. Dame Helen is a huge advocate for using castor oil pretty much everywhere - even her eyelashes.
"I use a little bit in my hair - very, very little. I use it on my fingernails. I use it on my skin," Helen told Vogue India.
"Castor oil’s amazing. A tiny bit on your hair gives it a little shine, a little separation. [I use it on my] eyebrows, eyelashes, fingernails - just rub it in."
She’s just one award away from an EGOT
The legendary EGOT - meaning someone has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony - has only been claimed by 24 people.
Dame Helen is one award away - she needs a Grammy.
She won the Oscar for The Queen, five Emmys and a Tony for The Audience, where she once again played Queen Elizabeth II.
Many actors can win a Grammy for recording an audiobook, so Helen won't have to drop an album to be in with a chance of joining the elite club.
She's one of less than 20 actresses in history to win the Triple Crown of Acting
The Triple Crown of Acting is a term used in the American entertainment industry to describe actors who have won a competitive Academy Award, Emmy Award, and Tony Award in the acting categories.
Only 24 people, 15 women and nine men have achieved the Triple Crown.
Living winners of the Triple Crown of Acting are Rita Moreno, Jeremy Irons, Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith, Frances McDormand, Jessica Lange, and Viola Davis.
She's a Dame - but she actually rejected her first honour
Helen Mirren was awarded the Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2003 Queen's Birthday Honours List for her services to drama.
Of course, three years later, she’d go on to play the late Queen Elizabeth in the movie, The Queen.
Interestingly, Dame Helen's opinions towards the monarchy might have changed over time, as she rejected the offer of a CBE in 1996.
She is the third person in history to achieve an awards double
A trend with Dame Helen is either matching or breaking incredibly prestigious records.
One such achievement for her acting includes becoming the third person, after Sigourney Weaver and Joan Plowright, to win two Golden Globes for acting in the same year.
The characters she played were both Queens of England, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II. One of the awards was for film and the other was for television.
She has the second-largest Best Actress award sweep in history
She holds the record for the second-largest Best Actress award sweep, achieving an incredible 40 wins for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II in 2006's The Queen.
To date, the only actress to do better is Cate Blanchett, who landed an impressive 41 wins for her performance as the fallen socialite Jasmine French in Woody Allen's 2013 film, Blue Jasmine.
She’s a firm atheist
In 1990, Helen stated in an interview that she is an atheist.
In the August 2011 issue of Esquire magazine, the Prime Suspect star once again explored the topic of religion and faith.
She said, "I am quite spiritual. I believed in fairies when I was a child. I still do sort of believe in the fairies. And the leprechauns. But I don't believe in God."
Her first major film role was in 1969
Aged 24, Helen Mirren starred in the comedy, Age of Consent.
Before that, she had been busy making a name for herself on the London stages, working with the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company.
Despite staying active since her breakthrough in 1969, Dame Helen's film choices were relatively small and not big box office draws for decades. Her mainstream breakthrough came with huge films like 1980's The Long Good Friday and 1981's Excalibur.
She credits one role with changing her life
For many people, Helen Mirren came to their attention through her work on Prime Suspect, where she played DCI Jane Tennison.
From 1991 to 2006, Helen played the role and won countless awards.
Speaking about the role, she told the Daily Mail in 2019, "When Lynda La Plante came up with DCI Jane Tennison for the television series Prime Suspect, that part changed me and changed my life.
"It was the first time I played a strong, brilliant woman who was made up of dark and light and who was driven and unapologetic. She wasn't attached to any man. I adored her. And more than that, I adored that we were bringing this woman out into the world."
Helen Mirren didn’t think she’d ever get married
After being together for 12 years, American film director and former president of the Directors Guild of America Taylor Hackford and Helen Mirren decided to tie the knot in 1997.
Helen was 52 years old at the time, and being a wife wasn't high on her priority list.
She spoke to AARP The Magazine about marriage in 2016 saying, "I always said I have nothing against marriage, it just wasn't to my taste, like turnips. It took me a very long time to come around to acquiring the taste. I just had to meet the right turnip."
She chose not to have children
"I love children, they are so funny and sweet, but I never wanted my own," Helen Mirren has said about why she chose not to start her own family.
She didn’t regret her choice. "I was always too engaged in my life as an actress. It was never an absolute conscious decision, it was just, ’Oh, maybe next year, maybe next year,’ until, really, there was no next year," she told ABC's taping of Popcorn With Peter Travers.
Helen enjoyed a good relationship with her husband's children from his first two marriages, though.
She found herself sobbing over the 'loss' of her potential family because of a film
Dame Helen made the empowered choice to focus on her career instead of having children of her own.
And while she's talked about this several times, repeating that she has no regrets, she also told The Mirror once that watching a film caused her to sob over the realisation she'd never experience being a parent.
She told the publication, "When I watched the movie, Parenthood, I sobbed for about 20 minutes. I realised I would never experience that, and for about 20 minutes, I sobbed for the loss of that and the fact that I never experienced it."
She tragically lost her stepson in 2022
Helen Mirren and her husband released a joint statement after his son, Rio Hackford, died on April 14, 2022.
Rio was known for his roles in films like Raising Helen and Fred Claus, plus the Disney+ drama, Pam & Tommy.
Rio’s cause of death was uveal melanoma, a rare and aggressive eye cancer. After his death, Helen and her husband urged people to get tested, writing in a heartfelt statement to People, "We would beg everyone reading this to get their eyes tested at least once a year, which might save their loved ones from this cancer."
Helen Mirren is a US citizen
For many, she's the quintessential British actress. After all, she's played the late Queen Elizabeth II multiple times on stage and screen.
So it might be surprising to find out Dame Helen is actually a US citizen. She officially became a citizen of the States in 2017, having been married to her American-born husband since 1997.
Helen voted in her first US election in 2020.
She had a past, years-long relationship with Liam Neeson
The gruff, tough Liam Neeson - known for his action movies like Taken - might seem like a strange fit for a woman who has played Queen Elizabeth multiple times, but Liam and Helen enjoyed a courtship which lasted years after meeting on the set of 1981's Excalibur.
For an AARP The Magazine cover story in 2022, Helen told the outlet, "We were not meant to be together in that way, but we loved each other very, very much."
Liam has said of Helen, "I should be so lucky and be honoured to have spent three or four years with that lady, She's something else."
Despite changing her mind about marriage, she’s still a realist
Helen revealed she never really grew up dreaming about the whole white wedding but she did go on to marry long-term partner Taylor Hackford in 1997. Only, it might not have been driven entirely by romance.
She revealed, "I couldn’t see the point until a financial adviser told me how much money we would be saving. I was on board immediately."
"As you get older, you start thinking about wills and planning for your estate. We realised it was going to be so much clearer if we got married," she told Hello!
She loves Beyonce - and she inspired her to dance more
Helen lit up the 2022 Cannes Red Carpet, dancing with Andie MacDowell in front of the flashing bulbs. And we might actually have Beyoncé to thank for Helen's love for letting her hair down and dancing.
She told Hello! magazine in the past, "I’m a huge fan of Beyoncé and I do love to twerk. I love dance. I am mesmerised by it."
"It's unbelievable how they do it. I always like it when a new dance arrives on the scene."
She has a wild side, including getting drunk tattoos
Often considered regal and poised, Dame Helen also knows how to cut loose.
She once revealed a drunken act of rebellion from her youth involved getting a tattoo on her left hand.
The ink has a pattern of interlocking Vs. While the actress has joked that it was a drunken act, she later gave the tattoo a deeper meaning, suggesting it means to "love thy neighbour," acting as a reminder of the importance of tolerance.
She's become an icon for her bold hairstyles
From dying it pink and blue to match her red carpet looks to growing it long, Helen Mirren is leading the charge for women to have more freedom with their hairstyles at all ages.
On growing it long, she described her new hair look as "pretty cool" and explained that she decided to grow it long in the Covid lockdowns and "couldn’t be bothered to cut it."
Speaking on Lorraine, she said, "You’re not supposed to have longer hair after a certain age. But during Covid, I started growing my hair and I hadn’t actually had long hair since I was in my 20s. And it sort of grew and grew and grew, and I couldn’t be bothered to cut it, basically"
Her favourite perfume is Hermès Un Jardin en Méditerranée
Described by the brand as the first in the Parfums-Jardins collection, Helen's favourite scent was created in 2003.
Un Jardin en Méditerranée eau de toilette evokes a walk through a secret Tunisian garden overflowing with trees and flowers.
She told You magazine about her love of the fragrance, saying, "I love Hermès Un Jardin en Méditerranée. There’s a great book called The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr (former scent critic of The New York Times). I read about it being his favourite perfume so I went out and bought it ‒ and it is gorgeous!"
She has some surprisingly simple skincare tips
Some of Dame Helen’s best tips when it comes to her now legendary looks?
"I love make-up and I’m probably at my happiest sitting putting it on. But one of my rules is: put it on, then take half of it off," she once said in an interview with You Magazine.
She's also been vocal about her love for modern makeup artistry, telling Bazaar, "I never tell a make-up artist what to do. I say, 'Do what you like! Do what you think is the right thing to do.' Make-up artists are creative, they’re artists, and I love to see what someone else might make of my face,"
Another tip? "Open your refrigerator and pop your face in for 30 seconds after doing your make-up – to cool and set it."
She 'didn't smile' until her thirties
When it comes to self-confidence, Dame Helen seems to have it in spades, rocking blue hair on the red carpets and playing with fashion fearlessly.
But this is something she has learnt with age, and when she was younger, she struggled with self-esteem.
"It’s something I have to handle on almost a daily basis," the Oscar-winning actress revealed on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC Two.
"It’s more exacerbated when you’re younger because you don’t quite know what your place in the world is going to be, but I think those moments certainly don’t go away, as far as I’m concerned, into your adulthood.
"It was only actually in my mid-thirties that I learnt to smile. I couldn’t smile before that – I thought I looked stupid when I smiled."
She shared her tips for a life well lived
Dame Helen shared her tips for living your best life in an interview with Vogue, and her words are something to live by.
She told the fashion magazine, "Don’t feel paralysed by your own insecurities and don’t be too polite or apologetic in life. I mean, I hope I am a very polite person, I hate rudeness, but I don’t mean that.
"Chat to people and be as open as possible. It’s a very good idea, occasionally, to look at the world as a child or foreigner and witness your own environment. Imagine you’re seeing it for the very first time and try and experience the magic in it – because there is magic in every environment. All it needs is to be seen with fresh eyes,"