Film & TV

Bonus: Naturalism

Helen Mirren

Lesson time 13:35 min

Discover which film actors had the biggest influence on Helen and why their work is so important to her.

Helen Mirren
Teaches Acting
In 28 lessons, the Oscar, Golden Globe, Tony, and Emmy winner teaches her process for acting on the stage and screen.
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It's very interesting that some actors, no matter, really, where their background is-- what they come out of-- are natural Shakespearean actors. And here I would quote Marlon Brando, one speech in particular-- friends, Romans, and countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do, live after them. The good is often interred, buried with their bones. He does that speech with absolute pure Shakespearean-- if you like-- actor's expertise. He knows how to breathe. He knows how to carry on. And incidentally, speaking of voice, his voice is strong enough, and powerful enough, that you can believe that he's talking to 200 people. But at the same time here, he imbues it with his own natural sense of naturalism of drama. And I think it's a beautiful, beautifully executed Shakespearean speech. Done by an actor not famous for Shakespearean acting, and actually much better than most of the other British very-good-at-Shakespeare kind of actors in that film. I was blown away by it when I saw it many, many years ago. If you want to watch great Shakespearean actors, Olivier always. Olivier was famous in his day for naturalizing Shakespeare. And it wasn't acceptable when he first came to do Shakespeare, because Shakespeare was very declamatory thing at that point. And all of the work, really, in the 20th and 21st century, has been finding a way to be truthful to the poetry of Shakespeare-- utterly truthful to that-- but naturalize it. One day-- and I can't actually quite remember when it was-- I saw Anna Magnani work. And she became at that point, and still is, my great inspiration for film acting. Also, she was a theater actress, which I thought was great. I loved the fact that she was a theater actress as well. But on film, there's something so alive about her. It's the perfect combination of heightened but natural, which is what really, in a sense, the greatest acting is. Why, again, back to Al Pacino, Marlon Brando. The ones we love. The ones we really admire. It's heightened. Often they fall, because they go out on a limb. They're brave. They have the courage to put themselves out there into the world of poetry-- into the world of heightened work. But at the same time with naturalism. And it's a very heady mix. And for me that's what Anna Magnani has. There's an incredible scene in Mamma Roma, the film by Pasolini. I think one of her early films. This amazing scene, where it's this long-- talk about Scorcese-- I think it's like a three- or four-minute long shot where she's just walking towards the camera. And the camera's tracking behind her. I don't know how they did it, whether she was following someone on a bike, or something. It's very steady. They didn't have steadycam those days. So she's just walking and talking. And different characters come in a...

Find freedom in your roles

In her first-ever online acting class, Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren shares the techniques she has learned through the course of her international career that has spanned stage, screen, and television. Her powerful and versatile performances have earned her numerous awards, including the Academy Award in 2007 for her performance in The Queen, a Tony Award in 2015 for her performance in The Audience, and four Emmy Awards.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

More fuller picture of acting that any body tells you, Great job teaching, Helen! Tnx Staff that nobody tells you, you are learning yourself, on a set. Continuity, relationship with the crew. And things that you can negotiate your set, your look even lines. I did not know it.

Loved this and learned so much! Helen is the best!

I began this class during my audition process into the theatre schools of my region, and I have found it infinitely useful. It has given me a clear and inspiring idea of the field I am aiming to work in, and i truly hope that many others will, like me, benefit from Helen's sharing!

The class was incredible. Helen Mirren was amazing! I learned a lot from the lessons.


A fellow student

Just the act of listening to her and watching her is itself a lesson. She's a gifted storyteller with a natural command of the screen, which makes it easy to get hooked on her lessons. Her voice goes down like honey; listening to her is like drinking a warm cup of Earl Grey with milk and sugar on a grey, rainy day tucked comfortably inside. It's also really easy to crush on her. The wide open attitude of hers reveals so much about process. I especially enjoyed the case studies, particularly Gosford Park - that was fascinating, to learn how the idea of sisters erupted spontaneously midway production, along with the excision of an extraneous scene and the addition of a crucial scene that Altman directed Helen to write with Eileen Atkins upon the suggestion by Mirren that it was missing from the script! I found her set stories to offer the most practical lessons. Also, whoever did her hair, make-up and wardrobe - perfection. The set too, with that rug - thank you, Taylor Hackford? The image of an intrepid Helen Mirren standing up for her characters is an inspiring one. Masterclass grade for Professor Mirren: A+

Nina R.

I loved the Masterclass, it was very interesting and informative with a very friendly approach by Helen Mirren. It’s fabulous to be able to hear Helens thoughts, direction and advice as a one to one in the comfort of my home. I’m delighted this course is available to Actors and delighted to have learned from one of the Greats in Film and TV. Thank you Dame Helen Mirren for your truth and honesty about your career and the industry we venture into.

Henrique B.

Helen, i'm very enchanted with your humanity and accurate vision of thinking and change fast for the actors and acting with heightened and natural attitude.

Jessie K.

Helen Mirren, Thank you for sharing your stories, and the inner workings of your unique genius. What a wonderful journey this has been. May you continue to find characters and scripts that inspire us all.

Mary R.

Thank you MasterClasses and Helen Mirren for a thoroughly brilliant share of your approach and experience in acting. I love your approachable spirit and how in every lesson you made me feel less self-doubt and more confident in my own processes. I appreciated the homework recommendations. I took some of them on to deepen my understanding and also put that understanding inside myself inspiring me to keep finding my truth in each character I'm developing in current projects. Again, thank you so much!

Ron A.

Thank you Helen Mirren for a brilliant package. I loved the lay-back but informative approach and found the content brilliantly presented. I highly recommend this program. Your star quality comes through so clearly. Elegance and and skill.

A fellow student

Thank you Helen Mirren. What an incredible gift you have given all of us. Thank you for sharing your insights, your thought processes, your intricate beautiful way on how to approach, how to to make a story come alive. Forever grateful.

Troy B.

Wonderful course - I love your enthusiasm, grace and sincere desire to pass on to us what you know. Thank you Helen.

Dario Z.

I'm so sad that this course is finished! Thank you Helen...what an amazing actress and a super-talented teacher!


Dear Helen I want to thank you for thousands of labors, you've added a lot to me. King Regards...