UK markets open in 2 hours 15 minutes
  • NIKKEI 225

    29,298.76
    +486.16 (+1.69%)
     
  • HANG SENG

    28,466.89
    +48.89 (+0.17%)
     
  • CRUDE OIL

    65.68
    +0.05 (+0.08%)
     
  • GOLD FUTURES

    1,788.30
    +4.00 (+0.22%)
     
  • DOW

    34,230.34
    +97.34 (+0.29%)
     
  • BTC-GBP

    41,168.68
    +1,537.31 (+3.88%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    1,468.52
    +63.21 (+4.50%)
     
  • ^IXIC

    13,582.42
    -51.08 (-0.37%)
     
  • ^FTAS

    4,011.51
    +54.76 (+1.38%)
     

Helen McCrory remembered: ‘She had a brightness about her. She was a star’

Richard Eyre
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer</span>
Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

Part of the tragedy of Helen McCrory dying at such a young age, leaving a husband and two young children, is that professionally she had everything to look forward to. She had established herself as a very considerable actor in the theatre and on film and television.

She had a brightness about her, a luminosity: she was, in short, a star. She lit up a stage or a screen – you knew you were in the presence of a force of character and talent.

When I was running the National Theatre in the 1990s we cast her in a play about the theatre called Trelawny of the Wells – part comedy, part melodrama.

She played the part of a young actress who married a dull man, whose family found her behaviour too extravagant: she left him to return to the theatre.

In some ways this was essential Helen. She was shortly out of drama school, strong-willed, hugely gifted, and she took possession of the Olivier auditorium – a giant cauldron that requires great heat to bring to the boil. I can still remember her call in the play to her fellow actors: “Boys!” she said, with a voice that cracked like Judi Dench’s and touched the heart of everyone in the audience and mine especially. I adored her.

Helen triumphed in the theatre – among many remarkable appearances, a performance as Hester Collyer in Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea that suggested that the part might have been written for her – and she excelled on film, endowing the character of Cherie Blair [in The Queen] with her own wit and generosity.

Apart from her elegance and grace and skill, she had an entirely endearing brassiness, by which I mean the glitter of a fine brass player rather more than the flash of a mouthy barmaid. She was open and honest and a great leveller: direct and true. I’m sure that, as John Bunyan said, she will have passed over and all the trumpets will have sounded for her on the other side.

I think Helen was philosophical about her death. It’s possible she could have shown us how not to be angry and upset that such a malign fate has deprived us of her company and her talent at such an early age. She was a comet who blazed very brightly and brightened everyone and everything that she encountered.