Shortly before scoring an Oscar nomination as Ian McKellen’s blunt Hungarian housemaid in the 1998 drama Gods and Monsters, Lynn Redgrave told EW, ”This role made me think, ‘At last, I can do what I really wanted to do when I was a young actor, which is have a go at everything.”’ In five decades of theater, film, and television work, Redgrave — who died May 2 at age 67 in Kent, Conn., after a seven-year battle with breast cancer — did exactly that. The youngest child of British actors Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, Lynn proved herself equally adept in dramatic films, spunky sitcoms, and confessional stage productions.
Redgrave first gained fame for her turn as a plain Londoner pursued by a wealthy older man in the 1966 comedy Georgy Girl. She was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for the role — and competed against her sister, Vanessa, a nominee for Morgan! (Both lost to Elizabeth Taylor for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) For the next three decades, she worked steadily on TV (including the 1979-82 sitcom House Calls) and in the theater (she received three Tony nominations). In her later years, she wrote and performed several solo plays based on her famous family; Nightingale, a reflection on her maternal grandmother, ran Off Broadway last fall. (Her brother, Corin, also an actor, passed away last month at 70; her actress niece Natasha Richardson died after a skiing accident in 2009.)
Outspoken and warm, Redgrave was known as much for her honesty in battling personal demons like bulimia as she was for her acting. ”She was always looking to disappear inside a character — for her, the highest compliment was when people would say, ‘I didn’t know you were in that movie,”’ says Bill Condon, who directed her in both Gods and Monsters and Kinsey. ”At the same time, with the plays she wrote, she’s also left us with this series of works that really explore where she came from and who she was.”