AMPAS Hearts Vanessa

Unusual news today that the Academy will be hosting a tribute evening (not to be confused with the Governors’ Awards; Oprah will not be in attendance) in honor of Oscar-winning British acting legend Vanessa Redgrave, to be held next Sunday, November 13.

This event is unusual for two reasons: first, that it will be held in London, making it the first time ever that AMPAS has hosted an event outside the U.S.; and second, though these tribute events are not uncommon (there was one for Sophia Loren in Beverly Hills just earlier this year), they have hardly, if ever, been staged for someone who was already smack dab in the middle of that year’s Oscar race. Redgrave is pretty widely considered a frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress for her turn as Volumnia in Ralph Fiennes’ revisionist take on “Coriolanus,” and while weak reviews and even weaker box office for “Anonymous” seem to have scuttled that boat, her part in the controversial Shakespeare flick has certainly helped raise her profile this season.

Redgrave already has one statuette to her name (for Supporting Actress, “Julia,” 1978) and five more nominations, but this fête would seem to indicate that there’s a lot of love for the esteemed thespian still to be had from the Academy. Meryl Streep, Fiennes, recently Academy-approved James Earl Jones (and Redgrave’s current co-star in the London stage revival of “Driving Miss Daisy”), Eileen Atkins and Redgrave’s daughter Joely Richardson will all be delivering personal tributes.

There are certainly fewer actresses out there more deserving of such recognition. From her early days of turning heads in “Blow-Up,” “Camelot” and “A Man for All Seasons,” to her mid-career successes of “Mary, Queen of Scots,” “Julia” and “Howard’s End,” Redgrave has proven to be a consistently dominating and meticulously skilled screen presence. She’s mostly turned to the stage of late (for quality material, anyway), so it’s nice to see her back in the thick of things with a proper cinematic platform to strut her stuff. I concede I’ll always think of the actress fondly for her brief, scenery-chewing performance as the villainous Max in “Mission:Impossible” (absurd though it may be to single that role out). Has the venerable actress provided any particularly strong movie memories for you, dear readers?

3 thoughts on “AMPAS Hearts Vanessa

  1. Her luminous beauty in “Camelot” that made the Arthurian love triangle that much more understandable and sympathetic? Her presence as more than just another prim, British actress with a dominant, “royal” authority like a lot of other older actresses get stuck in (Eileen Atkins, Helen Mirren (when’s she’s not in RED), and Judi Dench to a degree).

    And about them holding it in London, the Academy is supposedly trying to expand and put more emphasis in their non-Hollywood branches to encourage increased participation and influence. So that makes sense that they would take this opportunity to do so.

  2. She’s had more famous moments, of course, but I liked her in The White Countess and in Evening. Her performances are always stamped with the hallmarks of intelligence and class, no matter what the vehicle.

  3. Camelot was my first sight of Vanessa on screen, and I’ve been hooked ever since. However, my favorite will always be her portrayal of Isadora, in which she is almost never off-screen for almost three hours. It was a demanding role for which she did her own dancing, and the combination of tragedy and humor in her nuanced performance was remarkable. I found her wicked sarcasm fascinating in Prick Up Your Ears, and loved her romantic leads in A Month By the Lake, and Mrs. Dalloway. Even her briefest, scene-stealing appearances in Girl Interrupted, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, The Pledge, and Atonement are heavyweight. For sheer wildness and fury, however, I have to acknowledge Orpheus Descending (both on stage and film) as one of her most daring and exciting interpretations of a part.

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