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.

I am totally motivated and inspired to move on and take more acting classes. It has been so exciting to watch Helen Mirren and learn about her experiences.

Helen make me understand so many things and now I can see the theater and the films from a different point of view, which is obviously a better than it was

This was an excellent class. I recommend it.

Seeing a set was very helpful. Helen Mirren explains things wonderfully, and has so many funny and great stories about her own learning curv.


Amy K.

This was amazing! Truly providence that this popped up for me, I can't even explain how necessary this has been to me.

Elizabeth R.

Thanks for being so natural and direct, great to hear your advices and experience!


And as a second thought, her remarks on facial expression point out, without her saying so, that actors and actresses who use botox or have their faces lifted destroy a large part of their skills as actors.


A lot of her observations were entirely applicable to writers. I think Dame Mirren's remark that it is difficult to speak bad dialogue is especially telling and a good tip for writers to note.

Leah M.

I was blown away by this masterclass! The detail and consideration to props, costume, set and hair was really interesting. I loved the fact that she constantly emphasised the actor's right, or even obligation to speak up if something connected to the character feels too thin or just wrong. Helen's advice on the importance of the relationship between the actor and the crew was gold! She was fabulous to listen to, and I will revisit this masterclass over and over again. I devoured every single lesson!

Aftab K.

Acting lessons on a extremely deep levels. I Loved It! Thank You Helen Mirren for all those Golden Acting Nuggets :)


I thought Ms. Mirren became more and more intimate with the students as the class went along. She speaks more and more like we're having coffee and she's telling me what she really wants me to know. I loved it.

Maryalice C.

I am making a correction to my last post. I meant to say "so strong and thick (not "think") with detailed and creative information."

Maryalice C.

Oh my! I love Helen Mirren's master class. So thorough - so strong and think with detailed and creative information. I am enamored with acting and actors. I am not one, but love to learn and understand their talent and process better. I have such respect, admiration, and appreciation for the art and craft of all parts of acting, film, and theater. Thank you Ms. Mirren! You are amazing!

Susan F.

I'm constantly drawn to Ms. Mirren's humanity as well as her expertise. It's helpful to realize that even a brilliant actress can occasionally be insecure or need to navigate a set. I found lots of practical tips and many interesting observations. I especially loved the lessons about costumes, props and the set as they affect character and I appreciated her skill in making all of them work. The sessions about working on set were helpful. This was my first master class and I enjoyed it.