Vanessa Redgrave's Life in Photos

The legendary actress of stage and screen, who is part of a longtime acting legacy that includes daughters Natasha Richardson and Joely Richardson, has lived an incredibly rich and politically active life. As she turns 85 on Jan. 30, look back at her amazing life in photos 

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Vanessa Redgrave's Childhood

Redgrave Family Watching Makeup Artist at Work
Bettmann Archive

Vanessa Redgrave was born for the stage. Her January 30, 1937 birth was announced after a production of Hamlet starring her father, Sir Michael Redgrave, by his costar Laurence Olivier.

Vanessa is pictured here with her mother, actress Rachel Kempson, and brother Corin, watching father Michael be aged by makeup ahead of a film shoot.

Vanessa and Corin relocated with their family from London to Herefordshire during World War II following the East End Blitz. They returned in 1943, the same year their little sister Lynn was born. All three Redgrave children followed their parents into acting.

02 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave's First Husband

Redgrave and Richardson in "Charge of the Light Brigade"
Bettmann Archive

Redgrave went to drama school in London in 1954 and made her West End debut in 1958. She then began working in television in the early 1960s; her first starring film role, in Morgan!, earned her widespread acclaim and multiple award nominations.

In 1962, she married director Tony Richardson (seen here directing her in The Charge of the Light Brigade), with whom she had two children, Natasha and Joely. They divorced in 1967.

03 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave in Camelot

Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave Starring in Camelot
Bettmann Archive

Also in 1967, Redgrave filmed one of her most iconic roles, as Guinevere in Camelot. She's seen here with Richard Harris and Franco Nero (on one knee), who would become her second husband after her split from Richardson.

04 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave's Second Husband

Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero at Cannes Film Festival in 1967
Gilbert TOURTE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Redgrave and Nero make a splash on the Cannes steps in 1967.

05 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave Is Honored by England

Vanessa Redgrave - Life in Pics
Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The actress received the honor of Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1967 for her contributions to the arts. She rejected the opportunity to be Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1999 (a committed Marxist, she disagreed with Tony Blair's government, she explained) but accepted the honor in 2022.

06 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave's Family

Vanessa Redgrave and Family
Dennis Stone/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Redgrave and Nero had a son, Carlo, in 1969, but broke up shortly after his birth. She's pictured here with all three children en route to Rome.

07 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave's Relationship with Timothy Dalton

Vanessa Redgrave, Timothy Dalton
Universal Pictures/Getty

In 1971's Mary Queen of Scots, the two fell in love and remained together until splitting in 1986.

08 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave Wins an Oscar

Vanessa Redgrave stands in front of a red curtain and a large Oscar statue
Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images

The star has been nominated for six Academy Awards, and one once, for 1977's Julia (in which she plays an anti-Fascist woman murdered under the Nazi regime.

09 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave & Lynn Redgrave's Relationship

Vanessa Redgrave and her sister, Lynn, at the opening party for "The Lady From the Sea" at Gallagher's Restaurant
Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Vanessa and Lynn were tremendously close throughout their lives and careers, until Lynn's death in 2010 from complications from breast cancer.

"it's a wonderful relationship ... I just adore her. I admire her massively and we can talk to each other very intimately about whatever's on our minds," Vanessa said on NPR in 2005.

10 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave and Her Daughters

Natasha Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, and Joely Richardson
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

The actress's daughters Natasha and Joely followed her into acting. They're seen here at the 1994 premiere of the film Blue Sky, the last film the girls' father Tony directed before his death from AIDS in 1991.

In 2009, Natasha was killed in a ski accident; months later in 2010, Vanessa lost both of her siblings.

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Vanessa Redgrave at the Venice Film Festival


The actress continued to work steadily throughout her career. Here's she seen en route to the Venice Film Festival (with daughter Joely Richardson and granddaughter Daisy Bevan), where she would appear for 2007's Atonement.

12 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave Wins a Tony Award

Vanessa Redgrave holds her award for "Best Leading Actress in a Play" for the play "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and poses with her sister actress Lynn Redgrave
Evan Agostini/Getty Images

In 2003, Vanessa won a Tony Award for her performance in A Long Day's Journey Into Night, and sister Lynn was there to support her.

"The wonderful thing about our relationship is now that we're in a later part of our life is that we--in many ways I feel we've come back to this wonderful sisterhood that we had as quite young children," Lynn said in the 2005 NPR interview.

13 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave in The Year of Magical Thinking

David Hare, writer Joan Didion and actress Vanessa Redgrave take the stage during cutain call for the opening night of "The Year Of Magical Thinking"
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

The actress starred in the 2007 stage adaptation of Joan Didion's meditation on grief (she's seen here on opening night with the author).

Just two years later, Redgrave would experience a tremendous amount of grief herself, first with the shocking 2009 ski accident that led to daughter Natasha Richardson's death, followed shortly by losing her brother Corin and sister Lynn just months later.

In 2016, Redgrave confessed to The Guardian that after suffering a heart attack the year prior, she had been ready to die because "trying to live was just getting too tiring." But she recovered, and returned to work onstage and as a film director.

14 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave Directs Sea Sorrow

Vanessa Redgrave and producer Carlo Gabriel Nero talk at a Q&A
Rob Kim/Getty Images

In 2017, the then-80-year-old star took on her first directorial project, a documentary about the European migrant crisis she worked on with her son Carlo Nero (seen here with the actress giving a talk at the New York Film Festival).

15 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave Models for Gucci

Vanessa Redgrave for Gucci
Glen Luchford/Gucci

In 2017, she took on a new project: fashion model! She was the face of several Gucci campaigns, shot by photographer Glen Luchford.

16 of 17

Vanessa Redgrave's Activism

Colombia's First Lady Maria Clemencia Rodriguez listens as she talks with British actress Vanessa Redgrave

The star has been politically active her entire life, running for Parliament as a member of the Worker's Revolutionary Party, serving as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, joining picket lines for various causes and actively speaking against Britain and the United States' role in the "war on terror."

In 1973, she founded a nursery school in London centered on providing high-quality early eduction. She's seen here touring the building in 2016 with the then-first lady of Colombia, Maria Clemencia Rodriguez de Santos.

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Vanessa Redgrave's Marriage to Franco Nero

Franco Nero and his wife Vanessa Redgrave
Gisela Schober/Getty

In 2006, the couple rekindled their relationship and tied the knot. He is seen here with her at the 2020 Berlinale film festival, shortly before they each returned to their home bases (she in London, he in Rome) — and were separated for months due to Covid.

Nero recently told a journalist that despite their near-40 years apart, he knew they were meant to be. "Life is sometimes very ­complicated," he said. "I always loved her."

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