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Remembering Film And Stage Star Lynn Redgrave
The British stage and film star a member of a storied acting dynasty died Sunday after "a seven-year journey with breast cancer," her family said. She was 67. Fresh Air remembers the star of Georgy Girl and The Happy Hooker with excerpts from a 1986 conversation. Fresh Air from WHYY Play

Actress Lynn Redgrave, whose resonant, deep voice and full figure propelled her to critical acclaim as the title character in the 1966 film Georgy Girl, died on Sunday. She was 67.

In a statement released Monday, Redgrave's children said, "Our beloved mother Lynn Rachel passed away peacefully after a seven year journey with breast cancer. She lived, loved and worked harder than ever before. The endless memories she created as a mother, grandmother, writer, actor and friend will sustain us for the rest of our lives."

Redgrave -- the youngest daughter of the acting legends Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, and the sister of actors Vanessa and Corin -- became interested in performing when she was 15, after seeing a performance of Twelfth Night at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. In a 1986 interview with Terry Gross, she explained how the experience resonated with her.

"I saw it 17 times ... and it seemed so magical," she said. "It seemed if I could put myself in her position -- there was something about the romance of that character Viola, the romance of the production by Peter Hall, which was exquisite to look at. I somehow just longed to enter that golden world of make-believe."

Redgrave made her stage debut at 18 in the Royal Court Theater production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.. A year later she joined the National Theater, where she worked with directors Laurence Olivier and Franco Zeffirelli and actors like Peter O'Toole and Maggie Smith.

"Television and movies, at the point where I started, were completely outside my realm of imagination," she said. "I didn't fit the accepted mold of that day. And the mold changed, thank goodness, around the time that I became an actor. For a young woman, you had to be small and cute. ... I was 5 foot 10 inches, heavier, and I looked as if I was about 13 even when I was 20, 21. I had a very baby round face. And I was no good as the juvenile [character] because I was too big."

Then, in the mid-'60s, Redgrave was cast in Georgy Girl as a chubby, carefree leading lady who fends off advances from her parents' boss, played by James Mason. She received the first of her two Oscar nominations for her performance.

"It wasn't until [Georgy] was a success ... that I then did find the double-edged sword of great success in a particular role," said Redgrave. "Because of course, all of the next roles I was offered would be, 'She ambled down the street on her heavy hips, wheeling a baby carriage.' You know, those would be the opening statements, and I would scream with horror. Not because I didn't love playing Georgy Girl, but because I felt if I played somebody once, why would I play them twice?"

Redgrave refused to be typecast. After Georgy, she moved to New York and made her Broadway debut in Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy. She would appear in a dozen other Broadway shows during her career, including The Constant Wife and Saint Joan.

On screen, she received her second Oscar nomination for her portrayal of a gay filmmaker's German housekeeper in 1998's God and Monsters. She also hammed it up in Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask and played Geoffrey Rush's paramour in the 1996 film Shine.

Redgrave often said that her famous last name was both an asset and a hindrance when trying to audition for roles.

"In England -- unlike in America -- nepotism is a really dirty word. If someone knows you through your parents, they probably won't even see you," she said. "The advantage is: They will look at you. Actors just want a chance. If you have a famous name, they will watch. It's a double-edged sword: They expect you either to be brilliant or a dud. You are in the spotlight, which is good. But if you are less then brilliant, they will remember, so you can't come back."

Redgrave is survived by her sister Vanessa, three children and five grandchildren. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.