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Arts & Entertainment

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.

It's been very interesting to see a prominent actor talk about what goes into shaping their often award winning performances

I loved this masterclass! Helen is so relatable, it felt like a chat with a friend. She is so interesting to watch,

Thanks for this wonderful class, Ms. Mirren. I am a 'more mature' person entering the world of acting. I found your insights, suggestions, tips and gentle approach very stimulating and inspiring. See you on set:-)

I loved seeing Helen as a very real and raw person, discussing her experiences as both a theatre and film actress. It was beautifully taught and edited. Thank you.


Judy P.

Thank you so very much Helen Mirren and Masterclass. This has propelled me further. I am more in love with the craft...this is the gift I give back to you. I truly admire Helen who is funny, intelligent, kind and generous and a brilliant artist. I appreciate her great career and this golden experience. My dream of acting has come alive. I loved every minute. Thank you so much and all the very best to you.

Halszka K.

Fantastic classes. She is so natural with providing us with an insight to her knowledge. Loved it, very helpful, thank you!

Dorothy B.

Helen has given me an exhaustive exploration of the dimensions of acting. She describes her symbiotic relationships with the writer, producer, director(s), fellow actors, cinematographer, production/set designer, costume designers, hair and make-up personnel, the entire movie crew, as well as with her audience during a theatre performance. Helen provides her personal inner journey to the acting experience. She deconstructs the filmmaking process. I better understand the fluidity necessary in playing a role, the use of the imagination and the sense of timing necessary to give a great performance. Mirren demonstrated the fine balance of 'being out of control, in control'...the required adeptness in swimming inside your imagination and being crucially aware of the technical aspect of filmmaking. She also described the liberation of adroitly 'sending out your arrow, and then just letting it go'. Yes, we are storytellers who must learn to rely solely on our instincts. Additional key points I take with me shared by Helen are: "Train your voice; fully allow yourself to be who you are; discover the dialogue in your own mouth; our art resides in living in that moment; journey into your imagination; root fantasy characters into a back story; bring life into a character". As a writer, I can take the character anywhere I want. I have product; I am the producer. Thank you Helen Mirren for sharing your myriad acting experiences. The sensibilities you have revealed necessary for your craft have given me the assurance that I can write, act and produce stories about my own inner journeys.

Shoghi A.

This was very reassuring and inspirational,I've gained more confidence simply by the keen presentation and the process of thought that went into this,thank you.

Sabrina Z.

HELEN!!!! Gracious, funny, smart, introspective. I want to be you when I grow up.

Madeleine K.

This was so insightful and went through all the complexities of acting in both film and theatre. As a young aspiring actor I found this course so inspiring and fuelled my desire even further to tell these stories that make us who we are. Helen is such a inspirational and developed actress of her time, her acting is timeless, she has taught me not to just act but to live.

William M.

A good performance with a bad accent is better than a bad performance with a good accent. Touch the other characters/actors Memorize your lines so well you can forget them Commit to the imaginary world When interacting with an actor screen, place an X just left of the camera lens and act towards it. Costume details are key, especially in period pieces.

Vanessa R.

¡Amazing! He visto la clase con mucho detenimiento no he querido perderme ningún detalle, es una masterclass enriquecedora, extraordinaria, especial, útil, sincera, y no sé qué más escribir me quedo corta con lo que escribo.


Thank you very much. You indicated that you choose not to view the scenes shat one a given day. I am curious after the film is finished to you view the movie?

Eva L.

Helen is an exceptional human being. Thank you for this incredible Master Class.