Is that who I think it is?
Yes, Vanessa Redgrave CBE, who turned 80 in January 2017, lives in Chiswick. She made her directorial debut in December 2016 in Hammersmith Town Hall with her documentary film about refugees ‘Sea Sorrow’. She’s almost as well known for her political activism as she is for her acting and she has a very long list of film and theatre credits.
She rose to prominence in 1961 playing Rosalind in As You Like It with the Royal Shakespeare Company and has since starred in more than 35 productions in London’s West End and on Broadway, winning the 1984 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival for The Aspern Papers, and the 2003 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for the revival of Long Day’s Journey into Night. She also received Tony nominations for The Year of Magical Thinking and Driving Miss Daisy.
On screen, she has starred in scores of films and is a six-time Oscar nominee, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the title role in the film Julia (1977). Her other nominations were for Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966), Isadora (1968), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), The Bostonians (1984) and Howards End (1992). Among her other films are A Man for All Seasons (1966), Blowup (1966), Camelot (1967), The Devils (1971), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Prick Up Your Ears (1987), Mission: Impossible (1996), Atonement (2007), Coriolanus (2011) and The Butler (2013). Redgrave was proclaimed by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams as “the greatest living actress of our times”, and has won the Oscar, Emmy, Tony, BAFTA, Olivier, Cannes, Golden Globe, and the Screen Actors Guild awards.
One of her recent parts was the narrator, the older Jenny in Call The Midwife. She also played the overbearing mother of painter L.S. Lowry in Mrs. Lowry & Son, with Timothy Spall playing Lowrie.
A member of the Redgrave family of actors, she is the daughter of Sir Michael Redgrave and Lady Redgrave (the actress Rachel Kempson), the sister of Lynn Redgrave and Corin Redgrave, the mother of actresses Joely Richardson and Natasha Richardson, the aunt of British actress Jemma Redgrave, and the mother-in-law of actor Liam Neeson.
Sea Sorrow was produced by her son Carlo Nero, who also lives locally, and she describes it as “a requiem for the thousands of refugees who have died through lack of support and protection”. Filmed in the Calais refugee camp known as the ‘Jungle’, as well as Greece, Lebanon and Italy, the documentary mixes poetry and commentary with interviews and reportage and highlights the awful conditions and the anxiety refugees face on their journey across Europe. Vanessa Redgrave herself was a two-year old evacuee from London during World War Two.
As well as living in Chiswick, Vanessa Redgrave has also filmed here. The 2006 mini-series Shell Seekers, which starred Vanessa Redgrave and fellow Academy Award winner Maximilian Schell, was partly filmed in Chiswick Town Hall. Hounslow’s film officer Dennis Firminger described the scene in our video feature about the films made in Chiswick.
Chiswick has been the location for many films, TV series and adverts over the years. Hounslow’s film officer Dennis Firminger, whose office is in Chiswick Town Hall, took Bridget Osborne on a tour of the favourite locations where TV series like Downton Abbey, Minder, New Tricks and Lewis have been filmed, and feature films such as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Vanity Fair. He also voiced his concern that if Heathrow builds a third runway, Chiswick will lose its film industry.