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Last Updated: Monday, 9 June, 2003, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Vanessa Redgrave's acting destiny
Vanessa Redgrave
Redgrave: Political activism and acting have gone together
Vanessa Redgrave has been named best play actress at the Tony Awards, Broadway's most prestigious ceremony.

If the Redgrave dynasty is the royal family of the acting world, Vanessa is the queen of stage and screen.

The 66-year-old is a stalwart of plays and films for more than 40 years, her fierce passion both for acting and perceived political injustices have made her a unique figure.

She is the daughter of Sir Michael Redgrave - one of the finest actors of his generation - and another stage star, Rachel Kempson.

She inherited her parents' talent and began attracting attention on her own terms after joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1961.

After impressing on stage, it was not long before the wider world saw her as one of the fresh-faced icons of the 1960s.

Cult films like Morgan, A Suitable Case for Treatment - for which she earned her first Oscar nomination in 1967 - and Antonini's classic Blowup made her a star.

Vanessa Redgrave (left) with sister Lynn (centre) and niece Jemma in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane
Vanessa (left) with sister Lynn (centre) and niece Jemma
The nominations and awards began to flow; for her role as ballet dancer Isadora Duncan, as Guenevere in the musical comedy Camelot, in the title role of Mary, Queen of Scots and in the Nazi drama Julia.

Her strong-willed character has always come across in her roles, and her biggest successes have been those where her passion has been allowed to shine through.

She has mixed mainstream roles with independent and personal productions - such as 1977's The Palestinian, in which she was controversially seen dancing with a Kalashnikov rifle.

A political speech at the following year's Oscars, in which she said protestors who campaigned against her film were "Zionist hoodlums", made many in the movie industry and in living rooms feel she had gone too far.

Her political views have never been far from the fore, and she has been outspoken on issues ranging from Chechnya to Iraq.

Vanessa Redgrave and Akhmed Zakaev, a senior Chechen envoy
Redgrave paid bail for Chechen envoy Akhmed Zakaev
Some say her political stance has not done her career any favours, and that other actresses of her stature, such as Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, have all been made Dames.

But her acting performances have been strong enough to diffuse the controversy that she has created.

In recent years, she has reinvented her screen persona as a benevolent matriarch, attracting acclaim for roles in Howard's End, A Month By the Lake and Girl, Interrupted.

She has also remained dedicated to the theatre, cast in the male role of Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest in 2000 because she understood the role of someone "with immense power who is moved to mercy".

Her first Tony Award can now be put with her six Academy Award nominations and 13 Golden Globe nominations, making her one of the most successful modern English actresses.

Hairspray wins eight Tonys
09 Jun 03  |  Entertainment
Redgrave: Actress and campaigner
06 Dec 02  |  Entertainment
Actress Rachel Kempson dies
25 May 03  |  Entertainment
UK actress defends Chechen rebel
06 Dec 02  |  Europe
Redgrave stages Chechen plea
28 Jul 01  |  Europe
Redgraves hand over archive
13 Mar 00  |  Entertainment


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