Glenda Jackson, a two-time Academy Award-winning performer who had a second career in politics as a British lawmaker before an acclaimed late-life return to stage and screen, has died at age 87.
Jackson's agent Lionel Larner said she died Thursday at her home in London after a short illness. He said she had recently completed filming “‘The Great Escaper,” in which she co-starred with 90-year-old Michael Caine.
Born into a working-class family 1936 in Birkhenhead, northwest England, Jackson trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company — where she starred in the cutting-edge drama “Marat/Sade” directed by Peter Brook — and became one of the biggest British stars of the 1960s and 70s, winning two Academy Awards, for “Women in Love” in 1971 and “A Touch of Class" in 1974.
On television, she took home two Emmy Awards in 1972 for her performance as Queen Elizabeth I in “Elizabeth R.,” and secured a place in British pop-culture history by playing Cleopatra in a classic sketch on "The Morecambe & Wise Show" in 1971. “All men are fools,” she proclaimed in what became a famous one-liner, "and what makes them so is seeing beauty like what I have got.”
In her 50s Jackson went into politics, winning election to Parliament in 1992. She spent 23 years as a Labour Party lawmaker, serving as a minister for transport in Prime Minister Tony Blair’s first government in 1997.
She came to be at odds with Blair over the 2003 invasion of Iraq. She said Blair's decision to enter the U.S.-led war without United Nations' authorization left her “deeply, deeply ashamed.”
“The victims will be as they always are, women, children, the elderly,” she told The Associated Press before the invasion.
Jackson's blunt manner and outspokenness continued throughout her political career, and may have helped keep her from high government office. After former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died in 2013, she eschewed politeness about the dead to rail in Parliament against the “heinous social, economic and spiritual damage wreaked upon this country” by the late leader.
Jackson returned to acting after leaving Parliament in 2015 and had some of her most acclaimed roles, including the title character in Shakespeare's “King Lear." It opened at London's Old Vic in 2016 and later played on Broadway.
She had her first film role in a quarter-century in the 2019 movie “Elizabeth is Missing.” Jackson won a BAFTA award, Britain's equivalent of an Oscar, for her performance as a woman with Alzheimer's trying to solve a mystery.
Director Oliver Parker, who recently worked with Jackson on upcoming movie “The Great Escaper,” said the team was “shocked and deeply saddened" at her death.
“She had such fierce intelligence, such passion, and fearlessness,” Parker said. "It is hard to believe that it was less than a month ago that we screened the finished film for her and Michael (Caine) — she was as feisty and vibrant as ever and we will treasure the memory of that emotional and happy day.”
Caine said it was “as wonderful an experience this time as it was 50 years ago,” when the two last worked together.
“Glenda was one of our greatest movie actresses,” he said. “I shall miss her.”
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said Jackson “leaves a space in our cultural and political life that can never be filled.”
“She played many roles with great distinction, passion and commitment," he said. “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.”
Tulip Siddiq, Jackson's successor as Labour lawmaker for the London seat of Hampstead and Kilburn, said she was “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," Siddiq wrote on Twitter.
Jackson is survived by her son, Dan Hodges.