Date of Birth: January 30, 1937
The lights go down and the spotlight targets the center of the curtain, which rises, revealing Sir Laurence Olivier. As he address the audience he informs them all of the arrival of famous actors' Rachel Kempson and Sir Michael Redgrave's first daughter, Vanessa Redgrave.
Originally Vanessa's passion was for dance and she attended the Ballet Rambert School for eight years, but she grew too tall for a career in dance, and in her teenage years she began to focus her attention on becoming an actor.
She prepared at the Queensgate School in South Kensington, then graduated from the Central School of Speech and Drama, and of the two people who won the Sybil Thorndike Prize, she was one of them.
Redgrave made her major debut on stage in 1958 in A Touch Of The Sun, working alongside her father. Redgrave described the event as "agonizing," listening to her father's every piece of advice on how to make her performance better. Though it was hard, it showed her what it meant to be a better actor. Redgrave also made her screen debut alongside her father in the film Behind The Mask (1958). In 1962 Redgrave married director Tony Richardson, and in 1963 she gave birth to her first daughter, Natasha Richardson.
In 1967 Redgrave was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, for which she vied with her sister (neither won). Siblings competing for the same Oscar hadn't occurred since 1941 between siblings Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland.
Most notable of all her endeavors other than her acting was her involvement in politics and human rights. After winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in the pre-WWII film Julia (1977), she used her acceptance speech time to denounce "Zionist hoodlums" who were allegedly mistreating Palestinian workers during the mid-seventies. This was met with some support but mostly boos from the audience. Afterwards, protesters fired shots through the CBS office windows in Los Angeles.
Redgrave continues to work on roles that challenge her as an actor and with a plethora of awards to her credit, she has proven that nothing is unattainable.
She had another daughter, Joelly Richardson, before divorcing Tony Richardson after just five years of marriage, on the grounds of adultery, naming french actress Jeanne Moreau as co-respondent in the divorce.
In 2009, tragedy struck Redgrave when her eldest daughter, Natasha, suffered a serious head trauma while skiing in Quebec on March 16, 2009. Two days later, she died at the age of 45 in a New York City hospital. In 2010, Redgrave lost both her younger brother Corin, and her younger sister, Lynn.
Redgrave also has a son, Carlo Gabriel Nero, with Italian actor Franco Nero. Born in 1969, Carlo has gone on to do some writing and directing. Redgrave and Nero finally decided to tie the knot in 2006. She played major roles in two Shakespeare-themed films: Anonymous (2011), in which she played Queen Elizabeth I, and Coriolanus (2012) where she played Volumina, mother of Caius Martius Coriolanus. More recently, she appeared in Song For Marion (2012), The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (2013) and Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013), where she starred alongside Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.
In 1967, Redgrave was made a Commander (CBE) of the Order of the British Empire. A longtime social activist for human rights, she has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 1995.