Vanessa Redgrave, CBE (born January 30, 1937) is an English actress of stage, screen and television, as well as a political activist.
Redgrave rose to prominence in 1961 playing Rosalind in As You Like It with the Royal Shakespeare Company and has since made more than 35 appearances on London's West End and Broadway, winning both the Tony and Olivier Awards. On screen, she has starred in more than 80 films; including Blowup (1966), Isadora (1968), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), The Devils (1971), Julia (1977), The Bostonians (1984), Howards End (1992),Mission: Impossible (1996) and Atonement (2007). Redgrave was proclaimed by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams as "the greatest living actress of our times," and she remains the only British actress ever to win the Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Cannes, Golden Globe, and the Screen Actors Guild awards. She was also the recipient of the 2010 BAFTA Fellowship "in recognition of an outstanding and exceptional contribution to film."
A member of the Redgrave family of actors, she is the daughter of the late Sir Michael Redgrave and Lady Redgrave (the actress Rachel Kempson), the sister of the late Lynn Redgrave and the late Corin Redgrave, the mother of Hollywood actresses Joely Richardson and the late Natasha Richardson, and the aunt of British actress Jemma Redgrave.
Personal life and family
Redgrave was born in Greenwich, London, the daughter of actors Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson. Laurence Olivier announced her birth to the audience at a performance of Hamlet at the Old Vic, when he said that Laertes (played by Sir Michael) had a daughter. She was educated at the Alice Ottley School, Worcester & Queen's Gate School, London before "coming out" as a debutante. Her late siblings, Lynn Redgrave and Corin Redgrave, were also acclaimed actors.
Redgrave's daughters, Natasha Richardson (1963–2009) and Joely Richardson (b. 1965) from her 1962–67 marriage to film director Tony Richardson, also built respected acting careers. Redgrave's son Carlo Gabriel Nero (né Carlo Sparanero), by Italian actor Franco Nero (né Francesco Sparanero), is a writer and film director. She met Franco while filming Camelot in 1967, the year she divorced her husband Tony Richardson, who left her for the French actress Jeanne Moreau. Redgrave and Nero married on 31 December 2006.
Within 14 months in 2009-10, she lost both a daughter and her two younger siblings. Her daughter Natasha Richardson died on 18 March 2009 from a traumatic brain injury caused by a skiing accident. On 6 April 2010, her brother Corin Redgrave died, and on 2 May 2010, her sister Lynn Redgrave died.
Vanessa Redgrave entered the Central School of Speech and Drama in 1954. She first appeared in the West End, playing opposite her brother, in 1958.
In 1959 she appeared at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre under the direction of Peter Hall as Helena in A Midsummer's Night Dream opposite Charles Laughton as Bottom and Coriolanusopposite Laurence Olivier (in the title role), Albert Finney and Edith Evans. 
In 1960, Redgrave had her first starring role in Robert Bolt's The Tiger and the Horse, in which she co-starred with her father. In 1962 she played Imogen in William Gaskill's production ofCymbeline for the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1966 Redgrave created the role of Jean Brodie in the Donald Albery production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, adapted for the stage by Jay Presson Allen from the novel by Muriel Spark. She won four Evening Standard Awards for Best Actress in four decades. She was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Actress of the Year in a Revival in 1984 for The Aspern Papers
In the 1990s, her theatre work included Prospero in The Tempest at Shakespeare's Globe in London. In 2003 she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in the Broadwayrevival of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. In January 2006, Redgrave was presented the Ibsen Centennial Award for her "outstanding work in interpreting many of Henrik Ibsen's works over the last decades." Previous recipients of the award include Liv Ullmann, Glenda Jackson and Claire Bloom.
In 2007, Redgrave played Joan Didion in her Broadway stage adaptation of her 2005 book, The Year of Magical Thinking, which played 144 regular performances in a 24-week limited engagement at the Booth Theatre. For this, she won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play. She reprised the role at the Lyttelton Theatre at the Royal National Theatre in London to mixed reviews. She also spent a week performing the work at the Theatre Royal in Bath in September 2008. She once again performed the role of Joan Didion for a special benefit at New York's Cathedral of Saint John the Divine on 26 October 2009. The performance was originally slated to debut on 27 April, but was pushed due to the death of Redgrave's daughter Natasha. The proceeds for the benefit were donated to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and theUnited Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Both charities work to provide help for the children of Gaza.
In October 2010 she starred in the Broadway premiere of Driving Miss Daisy starring in the title role opposite James Earl Jones. The show premiered on 25 October 2010 at the John Golden Theatre in New York City to rave reviews. The production was originally scheduled to run to 29 January 2011 but due to a successful response and high box office sales, was extended to 9 April 2011. In May 2011, she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for the role of Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy. The play transferred to theWyndham's Theatre in London from 26 September to 17 December 2011.
In 2013, Redgrave stars alongside Jesse Eisenberg in Kip Fagan's The Revisionist. The New York production runs from 28 February to 31 March. Redgrave plays a Polish holocaust survivor in the play.
Early film work
Highlights of Redgrave's early film career include her first starring role in Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (for which she earned an Oscar nomination, a Cannes award, a Golden Globenomination and a BAFTA Film Award nomination); her portrayal of a cool London swinger in 1966's Blowup; her spirited portrayal of dancer Isadora Duncan in Isadora (for which she won a National Society of Film Critics' Award for Best Actress, a second Prize for the Best Female Performance at the Cannes Film Festival, along with a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination in 1969); and various portrayals of historical figures – ranging from Andromache in The Trojan Women, to Mary, Queen of Scots in the film of the same name. She also played the role of Guinevere in the film Camelot with Richard Harris and Franco Nero, and briefly as Sylvia Pankhurst in Oh! What a Lovely War.
Julia, The Palestinian and the Oscar controversy
In 1977, Redgrave funded and narrated a documentary film The Palestinian about Palestinians and the activities of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. That same year she starred in the filmJulia, about a woman murdered by the Nazi German regime in the years prior to World War II for her anti-Fascist activism. Her co-star in the film was Jane Fonda (playing writer Lillian Hellman), who, in her 2005 autobiography, noted that:
there is a quality about Vanessa that makes me feel as if she resides in a netherworld of mystery that eludes the rest of us mortals. Her voice seems to come from some deep place that knows all suffering and all secrets. Watching her work is like seeing through layers of glass, each layer painted in mythic watercolor images, layer after layer, until it becomes dark – but even then you know you haven't come to the bottom of it ... The only other time I had experienced this with an actor was with Marlon Brando ... Like Vanessa, he always seemed to be in another reality, working off some secret, magnetic, inner rhythm.
When Redgrave was nominated for an Oscar in 1978, for her role in Julia, members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), led by Rabbi Meir Kahane, burned effigies of Redgrave and picketed the Academy Awards ceremony to protest against both Redgrave and her support of the Palestinian cause.
Redgrave's performance in Julia garnered an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Accepting the award, Redgrave said:
My dear colleagues, I thank you very much for this tribute to my work. I think that Jane Fonda and I have done the best work of our lives, and I think this is in part due to our director,Fred Zinnemann.
And I also think it's in part because we believed and we believe in what we were expressing--two out of millions who gave their lives and were prepared to sacrifice everything in the fight against fascist and racist Nazi Germany.
And I salute you, and I pay tribute to you, and I think you should be very proud that in the last few weeks you've stood firm, and you have refused to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behaviour is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression.
And I salute that record and I salute all of you for having stood firm and dealt a final blow against that period when
Nixon and McCarthy launched a worldwide witch-hunt against those who tried to express in their lives and their work the truth that they believe in. I salute you and I thank you and I pledge to you that I will continue to fight against anti-Semitism and fascism.
Later in the broadcast veteran screenwriter and Oscar presenter Paddy Chayefsky told the audience members that
there's a little matter I'd like to tidy up...at least if I expect to live with myself tomorrow morning. I would like to say that I'm sick and tired of people exploiting the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal propaganda. I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation, and a simple "thank you" would have sufficed.
In 1978, Rabbi Meir Kahane published a book entitled Listen Vanessa, I am a Zionist, which was later renamed Listen World, Listen Jew, in direct response to Redgrave's comments at the Academy Awards. To this day some Jewish groups, such as the Jewish Defense League, consider Redgrave an opponent and a supporter of terrorism, citing remarks she has made such as, "Zionism is a brutal, racist ideology. And it is a brutal racist regime."
Later film career
Later film roles of note include those of suffragist Olive Chancellor in The Bostonians (1984, a fourth Best Actress Academy Award nomination), transsexual tennis player Renée Richards inSecond Serve (1986); Mrs. Wilcox in Howards End (1992, her sixth Academy Award nomination, this time in a supporting role); crime boss Max in Mission: Impossible (1996, when discussing the role of Max, DePalma and Cruise thought it would be fun to cast an actor like Redgrave; they then decided to go with the real thing); Oscar Wilde’s mother in Wilde (1997); Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway (1997); and Dr. Sonia Wick in Girl, Interrupted (1999). Many of these roles and others, garnered her various accolades.
Her performance as a lesbian mourning the loss of her longtime partner in the HBO series If These Walls Could Talk 2 earned her a Golden Globe for “Best TV Series Supporting Actress” in 2000, as well as earning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a TV Film or Miniseries. This same performance also led to an “Excellence in Media Award” by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). The award honours “a member of the entertainment community who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people”. In 2004, Redgrave joined the second season cast of the hit FX series Nip/Tuck, portraying Dr. Erica Noughton, the mother of Julia McNamara, who is played by her real-life daughter Joely Richardson. She also made appearances in the third and sixth seasons. In 2006, Redgrave starred opposite Peter O'Toole in the acclaimed film Venus. A year later, Redgrave starred in Evening and the acclaimed Atonement, in which she received a Broadcast Film Critics Association award nomination for her performance that only took up seven minutes of screen time. In 2008, Redgrave appeared as a narrator in an Arts Alliance production, id – Identity of the Soul. In 2009, Redgrave starred in the BBC remake of The Day of the Triffids, with her daughter Joely. In the midst of losing her daughter, Natasha Richardson, Redgrave signed on to play Eleanor of Aquitaine in Ridley Scott's version of Robin Hood, which began filming shortly after Natasha's death. Redgrave later withdrew from the film for personal reasons. The part was given to her Evening co-star Eileen Atkins. She was next seen in Letters to Juliet opposite her husband Franco Nero.
She had small roles in Eva, a Romanian drama film that premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival as well as in Julian Schnabel's Palestinian drama, Miral that was screened at the 67th Venice International Film Festival and played the role of Winnie the Giant Tortoise in the 2010 environmental animated film Animals United. She has a supporting role in the Bosnia-set political drama, The Whistleblower, which premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. Both Miral and The Whistleblower are scheduled for U.S. theatrical release in 2011. Redgrave also narrates Patrick Keiller's semi-fictional upcoming documentary, Robinson in Ruins.
She has also filmed leading lady roles for two upcoming 2011 historical films. This includes, Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut of Shakespeare's Coriolanus in which she plays Volumnia; andRoland Emmerich's Anonymous as Queen Elizabeth I.
Redgrave and her brother Corin founded the Workers Revolutionary Party (UK) in the 1970s. Vanessa ran for parliament several times as a party member but never received more than a few hundred votes.
In 1980 Redgrave made her American TV debut as concentration camp survivor Fania Fénelon in the Arthur Miller-scripted TV movie Playing for Time, a part for which she won an Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actress in 1981. The decision to cast Redgrave as Fénelon was, however, a source of controversy. In light of Redgrave's support for the Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO), even Fénelon objected to her casting. Redgrave was perplexed by such hostility, stating in her 1991 autobiography her long-held belief that "the struggle against anti-Semitism and for the self-determination of the Palestinians form a single whole."
In 1984 Redgrave sued the Boston Symphony Orchestra, claiming that the orchestra had fired her from a performance due to her support of the PLO. Lillian Hellman testified in court on Redgrave's behalf. Redgrave won on a count of breach of contract, but did not win on the claim that the Boston orchestra had violated her civil rights by firing her.
In December 2002 Redgrave paid £50,000 bail for Chechen separatist Deputy Premier and special envoy Akhmed Zakayev, who had sought political asylum in the United Kingdom and was accused by the Russian government of aiding and abetting hostage-takings in the Moscow Hostage Crisis of 2002 and guerrilla warfare against Russia.
At a press conference Redgrave said she feared for Zakayev's safety if he were extradited to Russia on terrorism charges. He would "die of a heart attack" or some other mysterious explanation offered by Russia, she said. On 13 November 2003, a London court rejected the Russian government's request for Zakayev's extradition. Instead, the court accepted a plea by lawyers for Zakayev that he would not get a fair trial, and could even face torture, in Russia. "It would be unjust and oppressive to return Mr Zakayev to Russia," Judge Timothy Workman ruled.
In 2004 Vanessa Redgrave and her brother Corin Redgrave launched the Peace and Progress Party, which campaigned against the Iraq War and for human rights. However, in June 2005 Redgrave left the party.
Redgrave has been an outspoken critic of the "war on terrorism". During a June 2005 interview on Larry King Live, Redgrave was challenged on this criticism and on her political views. In response she questioned if there can be true democracy if the political leadership of the United States and Britain does not "uphold the values for which my father's generation fought the Nazis, [and] millions of people gave their lives against the Soviet Union's regime. [Such sacrifice was made] because of democracy and what democracy meant: no torture, no camps, no detention forever or without trial...[Such] techniques are not just alleged [against the governments of the U.S. and Britain], they have actually been written about by the FBI. I don't think it's being 'far left'...to uphold the rule of law."
In March 2006 Redgrave remarked in an interview with US broadcast journalist Amy Goodman: “I don't know of a single government that actually abides by international human rights law, not one, including my own. In fact, [they] violate these laws in the most despicable and obscene way, I would say.”
Goodman’s interview with Redgrave took place in the actress’s West London home on the evening of 7 March, and covered a range of subjects, particularly the cancellation of the Alan Rickmanproduction, My Name is Rachel Corrie, by the New York Theater Workshop. Such a development, said Redgrave, was an "act of catastrophic cowardice" as "the essence of life and the essence of theatre is to communicate about lives, either lives that have ended or lives that are still alive, [and about] beliefs, and what is in those beliefs."
In June 2006 she was awarded a lifetime achievement award from the Transilvania International Film Festival, one of whose sponsors is a mining company named Gabriel Resources. She dedicated the award to a community organisation from Roşia Montană, Romania, which is campaigning against a gold mine that Gabriel Resources is seeking to build near the village. Gabriel Resources placed an "open letter" in The Guardian on 23 June 2006, attacking Redgrave, arguing the case for the mine, and exhibiting support for it among the inhabitants: the open letter is signed by 77 villagers.
In December 2007 Redgrave was named as one of the possible suretors who paid the £50,000 bail for Jamil al-Banna, one of three British residents arrested after landing back in the UK following four years' captivity at Guantanamo Bay. Redgrave has declined to be specific about her financial involvement but said she was "very happy" to be of "some small assistance for Jamil and his wife", adding, "It is a profound honour and I am glad to be alive to be able to do this. Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) is a concentration camp."