Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Oh, look, the internet is a wonderful place

Someone on my Facebook feed linked to a post, and I thought I’d share it here. I can’t remember who linked to it, so if it was you, I apologize. Anyway, the link shows behind-the-scenes photographs of a movie version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that was made in 1968. Why is that significant? Because starring in it were … Diana Rigg, Judy Dench, and Helen Mirren. Yep. Here’s the link, in case you’re interested. Here are some of the photos (unfortunately, there aren’t too many, but they’re still neat):

Diana Rigg and Helen Mirren
Judi Dench

Dench played Titania, Rigg played Helena, and Mirren played Hermia. Dench was already 33 and a veteran of British television and movies, while Rigg was 29/30 and had already put The Avengers in her rear view and was about to star as the greatest Bond girl ever in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and Mirren was 22/23 and had only been in one movie and one TV movie. This was a good cast, too – David Warner, Ian Richardson, and Ian Holm were in it, among others. I know people know Rigg was gorgeous in the 1960s and you can tell that Dench and Mirren, who didn’t become extremely famous until a bit later in life (Mirren maybe in the early 1980s with Caligula and Excalibur, but I would argue Prime Suspect in the early 1990s really made her famous; Dench perhaps not until she became M in Goldeneye, although I could be wrong), would be beautiful earlier in life because they still look amazing today (Rigg has aged a bit more severely, but she’s still superb). So this is a fun time capsule, especially when it comes to Dench and Mirren.

Anyway, some fun for a lazy Saturday afternoon. Have a good one!


  1. fit2print

    Great time capsule, indeed.

    I’m not sure I’d consider Helen Mirren “extremely famous” even today, though these days she is at least widely recognized and has undoubtedly been doing terrific work for decades.

    She first came on my radar (if memory serves) in 80s genre flicks like The Long Good Friday and 2010, before solidly making her mark (with me) in The Mosquito Coast and then, as you say, becoming much more prominent with Prime Suspect.

    Mirren’s choice of roles over the years has been impressively eclectic — and she’s versatile as hell — which is either a reasonable explanation for why it took her so long to make it big or a case in point when it comes to criticisms that the film industry slow-walks the careers of performers who don’t fit neatly into a fixed set to stereotypes.

    Be that as it may, she’s in a short list of actors whose films I will have a look at pretty much irrespective of anything else – director, genre, co-stars, storyline — simply because she generally succeeds in elevating the material and, at the very least, injecting … I dunno … a certain weight and energy into any scene in which she appears. That’s a hell of an accomplishment all on its own.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Regarding Mirren: Well, she’s won an Oscar, which doesn’t automatically mean you’re super-famous, but it doesn’t hurt!

      I remember her from Excalibur and 2010, but I think I focus on Prime Suspect because prior to that she was just part of a cast. You didn’t necessarily go to see a movie because she was in it. It’s possible that hasn’t changed, but it’s true that people do get excited to see Mirren in a cast, so even if she’s not the “star,” she’s still valuable, and people know that you’re going to get excellent work from her no matter the quality of the finished movie.

  2. tomfitz1

    Helen Mirren, hmmm. I think my first movie of her may have been Excalibur and/or 2010 (though I can’t really remember her specifically), but first took notice of her in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover anf the tv series Prime Suspect.

    But all 3.actresses are excellent in their own right.

  3. Edo Bosnar

    So, you’re just now discovering Flashbak? Excellent site – I like to pop by every few weeks and spend about a half-hour going through the various posts. (In fact, as soon as I saw the cropped featured image, I thought, ‘that looks familiar…’)
    Anyway, since it seems to be everyone’s (understandably) favorite takeaway from this post: Helen Mirren. I actually became aware of her precisely through this film version of Midsummer Night: our teacher screened it in my sophomore English class when we were covering Shakespeare. I was quite taken with her – and then not long afterward, she appeared in 2010. Since then, I’ve always kept an eye out for her. She’s always been “extremely famous” to me.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Edo: Yeah, I’ve never seen Flashbak before, but now I have to check it out! That’s cool that you saw this in high school. We saw the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet, which was fine, but I probably would have liked this more! 🙂

  4. There’s a whole discussion on an episode of the Office about Helen Mirren and how hot she looks and how the only way she’d look hotter was if she was pregnant and in a bikini. They’re trying to make Pam feel better because she’s a needy needy woman and she’s feeling bad about being noticeably pregnant (iirc), but Dwight shuts the conversation down because he says they’re getting absurdly ridiculous.
    In summation, I don’t like Pam from the Office.

  5. Jeff Nettleton

    Mirren was on my list early on, with Excalibur and 2010, though I didn’t immediately recognize her in that. It was a few years later before I saw The Long Good Friday, on cable, then the Mosquito Coast. She had done The Fiendish Plot of Dr Fu Manchu; but, it tanked, so it wasn’t on too many radars. Prime Suspect really put her on the map, in the US, probably more than Excalibur, which did decent, but modest box office. However, after the Queen, she is famous here. Far better known in the UK, but quite well known here, plus more recent era roles. I had also seen her in White Knights, which mys sister played endlessly, which is where she met husband Taylor Hackford.

    Dench had a profile with a certain audience, via PBS showings of As Time Goes BY and was known to cult film audiences for A Study in Terror (Holmes vs Ripper, where she is a police constable). Shakespeare in Love is as much to do with her notoriety here, as the Bond films. She spent more time in theater and British television that did not make it to PBS, until after the mid-90s, like A Fine Romance. Mrs Brown and Iris got her more into critical circles, but both were more arthouse films.

    Ironically, apart from Bond, Riggs’ film career was probably less successful, in the US. There is The Assassination Bureau, Ltd, but it wasn’t a big hit here and was more of a cult audience. Apart from that her highest profile role was in The Great Muppet Caper!

    This production also featured the future face of Darth Vader, Sebastian Shaw and Zev, Christopher Malcolm. Judi Dench’s nieces also appear as fairies.

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