Vanessa Redgrave Biography

(Is an English Actress, Activist)

Birthday: January 30, 1937 (Aquarius)

Born In: London, England, United Kingdom

Vanessa Redgrave is an English actress and activist best known for working in films such as Julia and Isadora. Born and raised in London, Vanessa grew up with parents who were two of the most respected actors of their generation, Rachel Kempson and Sir Michael Redgrave. She learned ballet dancing when she was younger and eventually enrolled into the Central School of Speech and Drama to study acting. She made her acting debut in the late 1950s and is best known for appearing in films such as Isadora, Mary, Queen of Scot, The Devils, Julia, Atonement and Letters to Juliet among others. She has also been a Tony Award-winning theatre actress and a well-respected television actress. She has received the Triple Crown of Acting and a BAFTA Fellowship. She has also won an Academy Award for her role in the film Julia and has been nominated 5 other times. She was hailed by the famed actor Tennessee Williams as the ‘greatest actress of our generation’. Apart from acting, she has also been highly active in social causes and is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In January

Also Known As: Dame Vanessa Redgrave

Age: 87 Years, 87 Year Old Females


Spouse/Ex-: Franco Nero (m. 2006), Tony Richardson (m. 1962 – div. 1967)

father: Michael Redgrave

mother: Rachel Kempson

siblings: Corin Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave

children: Carlo Gabriel Nero, Joely Richardson, Natasha Richardson

Partner: Timothy Dalton (1971–1986)

Born Country: England

Actresses British Women

Height: 5'11" (180 cm), 5'11" Females

More Facts

education: The Alice Ottley School, Queen's Gate School, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Childhood & Early Life

Vanessa Redgrave was born on January 30, 1937, in Blackheath, London, to Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, into an affluent British family. Her father was an Academy Award and BAFTA nominee actor. Her mother was also an actress. She grew up with two younger siblings, a brother and a sister.

Her father was on-stage, performing in a drama when Vanessa was born. Sir Laurence Olivier, his co-star, announced after the show that a great actress was born that day, referring to Vanessa’s birth. With a long family history in the performing arts, it was almost destined since the day she was born that she was meant to be an actress. She herself was also fascinated with performing arts ever since she was a kid.

However, initially, she was interested in dancing. She had joined ballet classes at the Central School of Music and Dance in London, wanting to become a ballet dancer.

One of her earliest memories was during the Second World War, the East End Blitz of the late 1940 and early 1941. London was being bombed, which led her family to move to Herefordshire. However, once the danger subsided, the family returned to London, as both her parents had their career in the capital city.

Somehow, she eventually caught affection for acting in her late-teen years. She attended acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama in the mid-1950s. Thus, she began her training to become an actor and following her graduation from acting school, she began doing theatrical productions. To further expand her range as an actress, she attended Actors’ Studio located in New York around the mid-1950s.

Continue Reading Below
Film Career

In the late 1950s, she began doing theatre professionally. One of her first professional on-stage performances was with her brother, Corin Redgrave. She joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1959 and performed key roles in plays such as A Touch of Sun, A Midsummer’s Night Dream and The Seagull, among others.

She made her screen debut in 1958 with a supporting role in the film titled Behind the Mask. She played one of the biggest roles of her early career in the 1960 play titled The Tiger and the Horse. Over the next few years, she struck a balance between her film, television and stage roles.

Some of her early popular theatrical performances include key roles in plays such as As You Like It, Cymbeline and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

She made her television debut in the mid-1960s, with the mini-series titled A Farewell to Arms, which was based on an Ernst Hemingway novel of the same name. Vanessa played the lead role in the series, which received a great critical reception.

In 1966, she appeared in the first lead role of her film career, in the comedy film titled Morgan-A Suitable Cause for Treatment. She played Leonie Delt in the film, which was a major commercial and commercial hit. For her performance, Vanessa was awarded the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival. She also received an Oscar award nomination for her role.

Vanessa further went on playing critically acclaimed roles in films such as Blowup and Isadora. For the latter film, in which she played the leading role as Duncan, she won another Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival and a Best Actress award from the National Society of Film Critics.

Further in the 1960s, she appeared playing key roles in films such as The Sea Gull and Oh! What a Lovely War. In the early 1970s, she worked with the famous Italian filmmaker Tinto Brass in films such as Dropout and La Vacanza. In 1971, she earned her third Academy Award nomination for her role in the historical period drama film titled Mary, Queen of Scots.

Along with appearing in some critically acclaimed roles in major films, she also did films that ran into major controversies. In the 1971 film The Devils, she played a lead role as Sister Jeanne des Anges. The film was set in the 17th century and was based on the life of a priest named Urbain Grandier, who was accused of witchcraft. The film was trashed for being highly problematic and vulgar.

Later in 1977, she appeared in the period drama film titled Julia, which was centred on the World War II era. Vanessa played the titular role in the film which was that of a woman murdered by the Nazis. For the role, she received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. However, the film was deemed as a pro-Palestine film and the Jewish Defense League protested against her Oscar nomination and burned her effigies.

Continue Reading Below

In her award speech, she said that she was not intimidated by some ‘zionist hoodlums’ and said that they were insulting the great Jewish heritage of fighting fascism and oppression. Her speech gathered a lot of controversies, and it was later noted that it affected her career very negatively.

She later appeared playing major roles in films such as The Bostonians, Yanks, Agatha and Prick Up Your Ears. She has regularly appeared in films through the decades. Lately, she appeared in the 2019 film titled Mrs Lowry & Son.

In addition to her film roles, she has also consistently appeared playing major roles in various television series’ and mini-series. Some of her main television credits include series’ such as Man in an Orange Shirt, Peter the Great and Nip/Tuck. Additionally, she has also occasionally worked in theatrical productions such as Richard III, Driving Miss Daisy and The Year of Magical Thinking.

Political Career

Vanessa Redgrave and her brother joined the Workers Revolutionary Party in the 1970s. She has also tried to enter electoral political many times but she never received more than a few hundred votes in the many parliamentary elections that she had participated in.

In 1977, she served as the narrator on the documentary film titled The Palestinian. She has also funded the documentary film which showcases the whole issue going on between Palestine and Israel for decades.

She has also been a vocal critic of the Iraq War and the incidents of human rights violations. Along with her brother, she laid the foundation of a political party named Peace and Progress Party to further her cause. However, she eventually left the party.

She has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

She has been a long-term supporter of LGBT rights and has given donations for AIDS research.

Many industry insiders have speculated that she could have had a great career if she was not so much outspoken about her political opinions.

Personal Life

In 1962, Vanessa Redgrave married director Tony Richardson. The couple had two daughters together, before getting divorced in 1967.

After her divorce, she famously dated actor Franco Nero. They had a son together.

In the early 1970s, she began a long term relationship with actor Timothy Dalton and later reunited with Franco Nero. She ended up getting married to Franco in 2006.

Vanessa has said that she follows her catholic faith to ‘some extent’ and sometimes visits a catholic church.

She had a heart attack in 2015. Although it was a massive heart attack, she survived.

In 1967, she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Vanessa Redgrave Movies

1. Red and Blue (1967)


2. A Man for All Seasons (1966)

  (Drama, History, Biography)

3. The Devils (1971)

  (Drama, Biography, History)

4. Blow-Up (1966)

  (Drama, Thriller, Mystery)

5. Isadora (1968)

  (Romance, Biography, Drama, Music)

6. Dropout (1970)

  (Romance, Drama)

7. Julia (1977)


8. Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)

  (Biography, History, Drama)

9. Atonement (2007)

  (Drama, War, Mystery, Romance)

10. Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

  (Drama, Crime, Mystery)


Academy Awards(Oscars)
1978 Best Actress in a Supporting Role Julia (1977)
Golden Globe Awards
2001 Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000)
1978 Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Motion Picture Julia (1977)
Primetime Emmy Awards
2000 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000)
1981 Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Special Playing for Time (1980)

See the events in life of Vanessa Redgrave in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Vanessa Redgrave Biography
- Editors,

People Also Viewed

Franco Nero Biography
Franco Nero
Corin Redgrave Biography
Corin Redgrave
Lynn Redgrave Biography
Lynn Redgrave
(American, British)
Natasha Richardson Biography
Natasha Richardson
(American, British)
Joely Richardson Biography
Joely Richardson
Millie Bobby Brown Biography
Millie Bobby Brown
Ella Purnell Biography
Ella Purnell
Anya Taylor-Joy Biography
Anya Taylor-Joy
(American, British)