Vanessa Redgrave

Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


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  Vanessa Redgrave—Actress, Political Activist

January 30, 1937, Blackheath, England, 6:00 PM, GMT. (Source: her autobiography and Rachel Kempson’s biography of the REdgraves)

(Ascendant, Leo; MC, Taurus with Uranus conjunct MC, H9; Sun in Aquarius; Moon and Neptune in Virgo; Mercury conjunct Jupiter in Capricorn; Venus loosely conjunct Saturn in Pisces; Mars in Scorpio; Pluto in Cancer)

Outspoken actress and freedom fighter, Redgrave gave a sensational performance as Rosalind in 'As You Like It' in 1961.  She turned the Academy Awards into a political outburst on 29 March 1978, and work offers dissipated soon after.  Her daughter is Natasha Richardson (b. 11 May 1963, 5.00 pm GDT, London, England, 51N30, 0W10, from her mother's autobiography, B).  Redgrave had a long-term relationship with actor Franco Nero (b. 23 November 1941, 10.30 pm CEDT (-2), San Lazzaro, Parma, Italy, 44N48, 10E22, from Birth Record, Grazia Bordoni, AA).  She appeared in a 1991 remake of 'Whatever happened to Baby Jane?' with her sister, actress Lynn Redgrave (b. 8 March 1943, 8.15 am GDT, London, England, 51N30, 0W10, from her to Tashi Grady, A).


A theater is being given over to market forces, which means that a whole generation that should be able to do theater as well as see it is being completely deprived.

Analyzing the problem is vital. It's the only way you're going to arrive at the right thing to do.
(Virgo Moon)

Anybody can lose their job and have nothing. And people mind having nothing.

Ask the right questions if you're to find the right answers.
(Mercury Jupiter conjunction)

How can we help the people in the audience-and ourselves-remove the cobwebs that prevents us all from being able to reach and touch things?

How could it not be horrifying and disturbing to see people sleeping on the streets?

How do we rid ourselves of tyranny? How do we rid ourselves of an oppressive society?

I began to see something of what was going in terms of actually keeping up people's spirit to resist-the resistance that causes change-even in the worst imaginable circumstances.
(Uranus conjunct MC)

I do feel very inadequate about it, but I feel I must try. I think any citizen can understand that you must raise your voice and do the best you can to speak out.

I don't know of a single government that actually abides by international human rights law, not one, including my own. They violate these laws in the most despicable and obscene way.

I don't want to give my ego a chance.

I have a bit of a tease and a laugh and try to make the person feel not put down. You can still kiss people. A kiss is still a kiss.

I have to go into Shakespeare's times and look at the times he was examining when he wrote the play. He was fantastically aware of so much, because he was living in such awful times.

I haven't had to face something that truly terrified me for quite a long time. I have continued to face quite a lot of situations that might frighten other people, but they haven't frightened me.
(Leo Ascendant. Mars in Scorpio.)

I love life so much, perhaps now more than ever before. But that doesn't mean that I can't be platonic.

I really think certain governments think that the poor are the undeserving poor-that they're poor because they're evil, and that the poor shouldn't have knowledge!

I want to try to reveal the tragedy I think Shakespeare is showing, which is that some human beings act like barbarians. And yet they could be the opposite of that-it's just a hand's length away.

I'm working on a double helix, which is there but can't function without that which comes in. In theater terms, that means, What do you do to open up the conditions in which the whole thing becomes activated?

I've always tended to be a sort of platonic person.
(Sun in Aquarius. Moon in Virgo.)

I've been to Sarajevo a few times and have gotten to know a lot of people there who put on plays during the siege. I wanted to share in that because I knew it was important to them.

I've come to see that people understand what I've tried to do, however inadequately I do it.

I've known why I was doing what I was doing. If you know why you must do something, that's a very big strength.
(North Node in Sagittarius)

I've learned an awful lot, which has been one of the good things about all the vicissitudes.

I've opened my mouth on a lot of subjects. And I thought the more prestige you get, I'd have the power to do what I like. It's not true.

I've seen a theater that does have free tickets. It's in Sao Paulo, and it's funded by industry. I saw one of the most brilliant productions I've ever seen there, and the theater was packed.

I've talked with people who've lived through times when everything had to be coded, like Moscow until perestroika and glasnost. Those who knew those codes just translated them in their heads.

If, as Actors or writers or directors or designers, we can keep the will to resist alive in as many people as possible, then that's what we are about, and that's what we can do.

Theater and poetry were what helped people stay alive and want to go on living.
(North Node in Sagittarius opposition Chiron in Gemini.)


Born January 30, 1937 (age 70)
London, England, United Kingdom
Height 180 cm (5 ft 11 in)
Years active 1958 -
Spouse(s) Tony Richardson (1962-1967)
Ancestry and Familywas born in London, England to Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson (Lady Redgrave). Her siblings, Lynn Redgrave and the equally outspoken Corin Redgrave, are also acclaimed actors. Redgrave's daughters, Natasha Richardson and Joely Richardson (by her 1962-1967 marriage to film director Tony Richardson) have also built respected acting careers. Redgrave's son Carlo Nero (né Carlo Sparanero), by her relationship with Italian actor Franco Nero (né Francesco Sparanero), is a writer and film director. She met Nero while filming Camelot in 1967. During the late 1970s and 1980s she had a long-term relationship with actor Timothy Dalton.

Stage careerentered the Central School of Speech and Drama in 1954. She first appeared in the West End theatre, playing opposite her father, in 1958.

Redgrave continues to work regularly in the theatre. In 2003 she won a Tony Award for "Best Actress in a Play" for her performance in the Broadway revival of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. In January 2006, Redgrave was presented the Ibsen Centennial Award for her "outstanding work in interpreting many of Henrik Ibsen's works over the last decades."[2] Previous recipients of the award include Liv Ullmann, Glenda Jackson, and Claire Bloom.

Redgrave will play Joan Didion in Didion's upcoming New York stage adaptation of her recent book, The Year of Magical Thinking.

Film career

Early film career
Redgrave in Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup, 1966Highlights of Vanessa Redgrave's early film career include her first starring role in Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (for which she earned an Oscar nomination, a Cannes award, a Golden Globe nomination and a BAFTA Film Award); her portrayal of the cool London swinger, Jane, in 1966’s Blowup; her spirited portrayal of dancer Isadora Duncan in Isadora (for which she won a National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress, along with a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination in 1969); and various portrayals of historical figures - ranging from Andromache in The Trojan Women, to Mary of Scotland in Mary, Queen of Scots.

In 1977, Redgrave funded and narrated a documentary film "The Palestinian", which focused on the plight of the Palestinian people. That same year she starred in the film Julia, about a woman murdered by the Nazi regime in the years prior to World War II for her anti-Fascist activism. Her co-star in the film was Jane Fonda who, in her 2005 autobiography, noted that "there is a quality about Vanessa that makes me feel as if she resides in a netherworld of mystery that eludes the rest of us mortals. Her voice seems to come from some deep place that knows all suffering and all secrets. Watching her work is like seeing through layers of glass, each layer painted in mythic watercolor iimages, layer after layer, until it becomes dark - but even then you know you haven't come to the bottom of it . . . The only other time I had experienced this with an actor was with Marlon Brando . . . Like Vanessa, he always seemed to be in another reality, working off some secret, magnetic, inner rhythm."

Redgrave's performance in Julia garnered an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. However, members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), led by Rabbi Meir Kahane, chose to picket the awards ceremony in the spring of 1978 to protest against both Redgrave and her support of the Palestinian cause.

Aware of the JDL's presence outside, Redgrave, in her acceptance speech, denounced all forms of totalitarianism, noting neither she nor the Academy (who had received death threats if she won) would be intimidated by “a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature to Jews all over the world.” Her statement was greeted by both applause and boos from the audience.

Later in the broadcast, veteran screenwriter and Oscar presenter Paddy Chayefsky announced to the audience, “there's a little matter I'd like to tidy up…at least if I expect to live with myself tomorrow morning. I would like to say that I'm sick and tired of people exploiting the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal propaganda. I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation and a simple ‘Thank you' would have sufficed.” He received thunderous applause.

In 1978 Rabbi Meir Kahane published a book entitled Listen Vanessa, I am a Zionist, which was later renamed Listen World, Listen Jew in direct response to Redgrave's comments at the Academy Awards. To this day many right-wing Jewish groups, such as the JDL, consider Redgrave a supporter of terrorism. The JDL itself, however, has been described by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Congressional testimony as a “violent” and “extremist” group. In a sidebar in its “Terrorism 2000/2001” report, the Bureau notes, “The Jewish Defense League has been deemed a right-wing terrorist group.”[3]

In June 2005 Redgrave was asked on Larry King Live: “Regardless of distinctions about policy, do you support Israel's right to exist?” “Yes, I do,” she replied.[4]

Later film career
Redgrave in Mrs Dalloway, 1997Later film roles of note include those of suffragette Olive Chancellor in The Bostonians (1984, a fourth Best Actress Academy Award nomination), transsexual Renee Richards in Second Serve (1986); Mrs. Wilcox in Howards End (1992, her sixth Academy Award nomination, this time in a supporting role); crime boss Max in Mission: Impossible (1996, when discussing the role of Max, DePalma and Cruise thought it would be fun to cast an actor like Redgrave, luckily they decided to go with the real thing); Oscar Wilde’s mother in Wilde (1997); Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway (1997); and Dr. Wick in Girl, Interrupted (1999). Many of these roles and others, garnered various accolades for Redgrave.

Her performance as a lesbian grieving the loss of her longtime partner in the HBO series If These Walls Could Talk 2 earned her a Golden Globe for “Best TV Series Supporting Actress” in 2000. This same performance also led to an “Excellence in Media Award” by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). The award honors “a member of the entertainment community who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people”.[5]

Political activism
Since the 1960s Redgrave has supported a range of human rights causes, including opposition to the Vietnam War, nuclear disarmament, independence for northern Ireland, freedom for Soviet Jews (she was awarded the Sakharov medal by Sakharov's widow, Yelena Bonner, in 1993 for her efforts), and aid for Bosnian Muslims and other victims of war. She serves as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and was a co-founding member of Artists Against Racism.

Redgrave identifies as a socialist, but her opposition to Soviet oppression led her, early in her career, to join the anti-Stalinist Workers' Revolutionary Party (UK) (WRP), on whose ticket she twice ran for Parliament. Redgrave's Trotskyist political views have been a cause of controversy for some, as has her membership in the WRP. She remained loyal to WRP founder Gerry Healy when he was expelled from the WRP in the mid-1980s. She and other Healy loyalists founded the short-lived Marxist Party in the 1990s. Since 2004 she has been a member of the Peace and Progress Party.

In 1980 Redgrave made her first American TV debut as concentration-camp survivor Fania Fénelon in the Arthur Miller-scripted TV movie Playing for Time – a part for which she won an Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actress in 1981. The decision to cast Redgrave as Fenelon was, however, a source of controversy for some Jewish individuals and organizations. In light of Redgrave's support for the Palestinian cause, even Fenelon objected to her casting. Redgrave was perplexed by such hostility, stating in her 1991 autobiography her long-held belief that "the struggle against anti-Semitism and for the self-determination of the Palestinians form a single whole." (p. 306)

and Akhmed ZakayevIn December 2002 Redgrave paid £50,000 bail for Chechen separatist Deputy Premier and special envoy Akhmed Zakayev, who had sought political asylum in the United Kingdom and was accused by the Russian government of aiding and abetting hostage-takings in the Moscow Hostage Crisis of 2002--in which 128 hostages lost their lives due to Russian special forces (OMON) action --and guerrilla warfare against Russia.

At a press conference Redgrave said she feared for the life of Zakayev if he were to be extradited to Russia on terrorism charges. He would "die of a heart attack" or some other mysterious explanation which would be offered by Russia, she said.[6] On 13 November 2003, a London court rejected the Russian government's request for Zakayev's extradition. Instead, the court accepted a plea by lawyers for Mr Zakayev that he would not get a fair trial - and could even face torture - in Russia. "It would be unjust and oppressive to return Mr Zakayev to Russia," Judge Timothy Workman ruled.[7]

In 2004, Vanessa Redgrave and her brother Corin Redgrave announced the launch of the Peace and Progress Party which would campaign against the Iraq War and for human rights.


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