Double Oscar-winning actress and former MP Glenda Jackson dies aged 87 after 'brief illness'

15 June 2023, 11:40 | Updated: 15 June 2023, 14:11

Double Oscar winner and former Labour MP Glenda Jackson has died aged 87
Double Oscar winner and former Labour MP Glenda Jackson has died aged 87. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By StephenRigley

Two-time Oscar-winning actress and former Labour MP Glenda Jackson has died aged 87 after a "brief illness".

Ms Jackson, who won Academy Awards for Women in Love in 1970 and A Touch of Class in 1973, retired from acting in 1991.

She was elected to Parliament to represent Hampstead and Highgate in north London a year later, later serving as a junior transport minister in a 23-year career in the House of Commons.

Ms Jackson stepped back from politics in 2015, returning to acting for the last eight years of her life.

In a statement on Thursday morning, her agent Lionel Larner said: "Glenda Jackson, two-time Academy Award-winning actress and politician, died peacefully at her home in Blackheath, London this morning after a brief illness with her family at her side.

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Glenda Jackson has died
Glenda Jackson has died. Picture: Alamy

"She recently completed filming 'The Great Escaper' in which she co-starred with Michael Caine."

Ms Jackson was born to a working-class household in Birkenhead in the Wirral, where her father was a bricklayer and her mother was a cleaning lady.

Her first job was in a pharmacy but she was accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) at the age of 18, which proved the start of a long and successful acting career.

The double Oscar-winning actress and former Labour MP has died aged 87
The double Oscar-winning actress and former Labour MP has died aged 87. Picture: Alamy

As well as her two Oscar wins, she was nominated in 1971 for Sunday Bloody Sunday and in 1975 for Hedda - a film adaption of Ibsen’s 1891 play Hedda Gabler, a story of a woman trapped in a marriage and house that she does not want.

She also won three Emmy awards, for Elizabeth R and Elizabeth is Missing, two BAFTAs for Sunday Bloody Sunday and Elizabeth is Missing, and a Tony award for her work onstage in Three Tall Women.

Ms Jackson twice played Queen Elizabeth I but also loved lighthearted material, famously appearing alongside “utter pros” Morecambe and Wise.

Last year she she said she "loved" working with Morecambe and Wise as she recalled her fond memories of playing Cleopatra in a hilarious section of the pair’s comedy show.

She took on the role of the Egyptian queen in 1971 for an episode of The Morecambe & Wise Show.

Glenda Jackson died after a brief illness
Glenda Jackson died after a brief illness. Picture: Alamy

Speaking to Radio Times in 2022, she said: “Oh, I loved working with them. I found it extremely difficult to restrain my laughter when we were doing Cleopatra.

“They had this reputation for being intensely funny, and they were.”

Eric Morecambe gave her the best advice she had ever received, she added.“In all these years, the best piece of advice I’ve been given by a director came from Eric,” she said.

"He just said, ‘faster and louder’ and that was it: we did it faster and louder.”

Ms Jackson gave up acting for politics more than a quarter of a century ago and served as a Labour MP for 23 years.

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Glenda Jackson served as a transport minister under Tony Blair
Glenda Jackson served as a transport minister under Tony Blair. Picture: Alamy

In 1992 she was elected as the Labour MP for Hampstead and Highgate and served as a junior transport minister from 1997 to 1999 during Sir Tony Blair’s government.

Ms Jackson stood down as an MP at the 2015 general election and returned to acting.

She won a Bafta for best actress in 2019 for her role in Elizabeth Is Missing, which followed the story of a woman suffering from dementia.

Despite her acting success, Ms Jackson said she did not enjoy the glamorous side of acting.

Glenda Jackson meeting the Queen
Glenda Jackson meeting the Queen. Picture: Alamy

Tributes came in for Ms Jackson after her death.

Sir Keir Starmer said: "I was very sad to hear of Glenda Jackson's passing. She leaves a space in our cultural and political life that can never be filled.

"She played many roles with great distinction, passion and commitment.

"From award-winning actor to campaigner and activist to Labour MP and government minister, Glenda Jackson was always fighting for human rights and social justice.

"As a fellow north London MP, I know how much she was loved and respected by her constituents."

Tulip Siddiq, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, which was Glenda Jackson's constituency from 1992 to 2010, paid tribute to her predecessor as a "very supportive mentor" and "formidable politician".

Glenda Jackson during filming for King of the Wind
Glenda Jackson during filming for King of the Wind. Picture: Alamy

She tweeted: "Devastated to hear that my predecessor Glenda Jackson has died. A formidable politician, an amazing actress and a very supportive mentor to me. Hampstead and Kilburn will miss you Glenda."

Reacting to news of her death, the spokesman for Rishi Sunak said: "Obviously that's extremely sad news and obviously his thoughts will be with her friends and family at this time, but I'm sure we will have more to say."

Alastair Campbell said she may have found becoming an MP harder than she had expected.

Labour's former communications chief under Tony Blair said: "One of the finest actresses of our lifetime, our local MP and for a time minister in (Tony Blair) government.

"I sometimes felt she found the transition to politics harder than she expected. But a great life well lived and a major contribution on so many fronts."

Carol Vorderman said that Ms Jackson was a part of her "growing up years".

The TV personality added: "Watching the Oscar winning actress Glenda Jackson be her extraordinary self. And then to see this unique woman turn into a firebrand in politics was deeply impressive for young girls like me."