From Helen Mirren's MasterClass

Bonus: Naturalism

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

Topics include: Marlon Brando • Anna Magnani • Beyond Naturalism


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

Topics include: Marlon Brando • Anna Magnani • Beyond Naturalism

Helen Mirren

Teaches Acting

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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.

Great to have the pdf and reading list prior to the Masterclass

I love clever women with a sincere attitude.

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

I have learned very much about not thinking that I am not permitted to be a part of the stars scene, when I work with them. That was very eyeopening for me. From now on I will not be star stroked hopefully again :-)


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...


To act "naturally" is now in vogue, she says. And to think that for decades, actors worked very hard to put on a certain affectation, until someone somewhere decided to simply act naturally, and voila!, people liked it! Fascinating; I'll try it.

Lora H.

Thank you, i found this masterclass extraordinary! My sincere compliments to Helen Mirren and the team!

A fellow student

Beyond excellent, as was Ms. Mirren's entire course. Complete, riveting, genuine, thoughtful, surprising, delightful. I am not a performer but have the idea to write small stories. This course taught me a whole new layer of experience and technique to bring to that task. Thank you Helen ~~ I'll be out here watching!

A fellow student

Hi Helen. Thoroughly enjoyed your course! I will recommend it to people, when I can. Lots of insightful stuff I've learned about acting-there's more to it than meets the eye. Here I thought it was a shallow career, but in fact, it's very complicated and sophistacted (as writing fiction is). There's many things we, the audience, don't see and therefore we have misconceptions about them (granted, there are actors/actresses out there who do fit the stereotype of 'dumbies'/ 'shallow'' as you said in an early lesson). I really enjoyed learning the technical side of film acting as well. All that machinery has got to be annoying when you're trying to focus. I realize I probably couldn't thrive in that environment, being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). lol. And thank you for your kind words in regard to writers! I appreciate your regard for our craft, as in many cases, a film or stage production begins with a book and is adapted for either medium....