Is Helen Mirren, pictured below in the late 1960s, one of the greatest actresses of our time?
Yes, when you consider what a journeywoman actress she's been, having done cinematic versions of plays by Strindberg (Miss Julie, in the title role, in 1972) and Shakespeare (Hamlet, as Ophelia and Gertrude, in 1976), as well as movies that are little noted nor long remembered (the last Peter Sellers movie, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, and that less said about that, the better). Her best years as an actress, however, have been later in life.
She's played both English queens named Elizabeth (in Elizabeth I and, as Elizabeth II, The Queen), and she reprised her portrayal of Britain's current monarch on stage for The Audience. In fact, many of her roles have been historical figures - she's played philosopher Ayn Rand in The Passion of Ayn Rand, she's played Austrian Jewish refugee Maria Altmann (who took on the Austrian government to reclaim priceless paintings owned by her family and stolen by the Nazis . . .and won) in Woman In Gold, and she appeared as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in Trumbo (about a blacklisted screenwriter). But she's also done lighthearted movies, like Calendar Girls, about middle-aged women in Britain who make a calendar with nude photos of themselves for charity. And much more.
Born Helen Mirinoff to an English mother and to a Russian father whose own father was a Russian diplomat caught in London after the czar was overthrown (her father had the family name anglicized), she began her career with the National Youth Theatre in 1965, which led to her joining the Royal Shakespeare Company a year later. She would work with different theater companies and eventually appear on Broadway in the U.S., in addition to her film work. Though she's done a lot of Shakespeare, her Russian heritage would come in handy, not just for Russian plays like Ivan Turgenev's A Month In the Country but for roles such as a Soviet cosmonaut in 2010, the 1984 sequel to 2001 (and who could have known in 1984 that there would be no Soviet Union in the twenty-first century?)
Fun fact: Helen Mirren is married to film director Taylor Hackford. You know An Officer and a Gentleman? Chuck Berry: Hail Hail Rock and Roll? Him.