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Helen Mirren Is 'Heartbroken' by Stepson Rio's Death — Inside Her Life as a Stepmother

Junie Sihlangu
Apr 21, 2022
01:30 P.M.
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Dame Helen Mirren never had any biological children and is a stepmother through her husband, Taylor Hackford. She lost one of her stepchildren in 2022 and took the news quite hard.


Dame Helen Mirren is a famous British celebrity who will turn 76 in 2022. She's an iconic actress who has starred in movies like "Trumbo," "The Queen," and "Catherine the Great."

The star has had a long and successful acting career that has earned her several awards, including an Oscar. However, one thing that has stood out about her is her views on having children.

Helen Mirren on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" on March 10, 2018, and her with Taylor Hackford, and sons Rio and Alex Hackford at a ceremony honoring the actress on January 3, 2013, in Hollywood, California. | Source: YouTube/The Late Show with Stephen Colbert & Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage/Getty Images


Over the years, Mirren has been continuously asked why she doesn't have any biological offspring. The star has had differing views on the topic, including her becoming a stepmother instead.

Sadly, she and her husband of 24 years, Taylor Hackford, suffered a tragedy in 2022 when the actress's stepson passed away. Here are more details about Mirren's life as a wife and stepmother and the sudden death of her stepson.


Taylor Hackford and Helen Mirren at the 13th Annual BAFTA/LA Britannia Awards on November 4, 2004, in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Kevin Winter/Getty Images


Mirren met Taylor, a film director, just after taking part in her breakthrough 1980's "The Long Good Friday." He later got to audition his future wife for the film "White Nights."

However, they spent a lot of time apart throughout their relationship because they were both busy with their successful film work. The secret to their long relationship was traveling the world separately, with Mirren noting:

"My theory has always been that this is why we're still together: because we've spent so much time apart, we're always pleased to see each other."


In February 2022, the actress revealed how the pandemic's lockdown gave her and Taylor an opportunity they hadn't had in a long time. During an appearance on "The Graham Norton Show," she said:

"For the first time in 30 odd years of marriage we sat at the table opposite each other and had dinner together every night for six months. It was fantastic, brilliant."

Helen Mirren and Taylor Hackford at the European premiere of "Collateral Beauty" on December 15, 2016, in London, England. | Source: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images


The couple's long-term love story has been discussed over the years. In 2016, Mirren was featured on the "Today" show, where she shared how she believed finding "the love of her life," Taylor, "later in life" helped their relationship, stating:

“The great thing about finding a partnership later on [in life] is that you recognise it as such. You recognise the partnership level of this relationship as much as the love and the lust and all the rest of it.”

Helen Mirren and Taylor Hackford at the Monte-Carlo Gala For Planetary Health on September 24, 2020, in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. | Source: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images


The star was already 38 when she first met her future husband and had consciously chosen her work over relationships up to that point. After they had been together for over a decade, the pair decided to marry for a surprising reason, with Mirren sharing:

"We got married in the end because we realized that we were going to be together forever. We got married, ultimately, for legal reasons more than anything else."

The actress also shared more reasons for their union, adding: "Estate planning and other complicated things like that. And our families, we sensed, wanted us to be married." Ultimately, it was a great decision because they're still together. 



Rio Hackford and Helen Mirren at the Weinstein Company & Netflix's SAG after-party on January 30, 2016, in West Hollywood, California. | Source: John Sciulli/Getty Images

Mirren is an actress who has won many accolades, including Emmys, Golden Globes, and Baftas, but one thing that she didn't have was biological children. Speaking to  Sunday Times' Culture magazine in 2016, she explained:


"I love children, they are so funny and so sweet, but I never wanted my own. I have never had a moment of regret about not having children."

Helen Mirren at the premiere of "When the Whales Came" on September 7, 1989, in London, England. | Source: Georges De Keerle/Getty Images


The star noted, "Well, I lie. When I watched the movie, Parenthood, I sobbed for about 20 minutes" after feeling regret while watching the 1989 movie. Mirren recalled how the film "was about the whole story of being a parent and how it never stops, even when you're a grandparent."

The star added, "I realized I would never experience that, and for about 20 minutes, I sobbed for the loss of that and the fact that I never experienced it," with the English actress concluding, "Then I got over it and I was happy again."

Taylor Hackford and Helen Mirren at the 10th Annual Critics' Choice Awards on January 10, 2005, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Vince Bucci/Getty Images


Mirren's views on women deciding not to become mothers have often caused debates. In 2007, while speaking to Contact Music, the actress shared how she had "no maternal instinct" before confessing:

"I'm just not interested. I've no maternal instinct whatsoever. And I don't think I'm so unusual."

Helen Mirren and Taylor Hackford at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards on February 27, 2011, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images


The star believed many women didn't want to have children but felt pressured into it. She thought they felt like something was wrong with them if they didn't want to become mothers, and Mirren wanted them to know it wasn't true. 

In 2013, she told British Vogue that sexist "boring old men" were the ones who questioned her about her decision not to have children, not other women. She said she dismissed them abruptly when they tried calling her out. 


When the legendary star was 67, she admitted how she'd always wanted to be a mother. During the 2013 interview, Taylor's wife delved into the topic of motherhood, stating:

“It was not my destiny. I kept thinking it would be, waiting for it to happen, but I never did, and I didn’t care what people thought.”


Taylor Hackford, Helen Mirren, Rio, and Alex Hackford at a ceremony honoring the actress on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on January 3, 2013, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage/Getty Images


Mirren and her American director husband became romantic partners in 1986, but they only tied the knot in 1997. Upon marriage, the actress became a stepmother to Taylor's sons, Rio and Alexander Hackford, from the director's two previous marriages.

Becoming a stepparent is something Mirren described as having given her "great pleasure." The actress once said she has nothing against any offspring because she "loves children" and enjoys being a stepmother, adding:

"I'm so happy I don't have children. But I do love children and I've got family, and Taylor has children that I'm involved with – and with great pleasure – but it's just not for me."


The "Ray" director's wife once explained that she never felt maternal toward Rio and Alexander and felt like their friend. However, the two adult children sometimes referred to Mirren as their stepmother, and it scared her, with the star confessing:

"It's not a phrase I recognise - I was never very motherly towards them... People don't need more than one mum unless their mother is deficient, and neither of their mothers was."

Rio Hackford, Vince Vaughn, Taylor Hackford, and Alex Hackford at the opening night of "Louis & Keely" on March 19, 2009, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: John M. Heller/Getty Images


She said, "Both had great mothers, really." Mirren and Taylor's children have managed to build successful lives for themselves, with Alex working as the A&R director at Sony Computer Entertainment or Playstation, where his duties include musical brand promotions.

Before that, he was Sanctuary Artist Management manager and the A&R at Columbia Records. Some of his credits include "God of War III," "Uncharted: Golden Abyss," "Fat Princess," and more.

Rio Hackford at "The Lookalike" premiere on November 5, 2014, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic/Getty Images


His brother, Rio, worked as an actor, with his first job being in the 1990's "Pretty Woman." He's also featured in movies like "Blood In, Blood Out," "Exit to Eden," "Strange Days, Stay Alive," "Treasure Island," and "Jonah Hex."

They [Helen Mirren and Taylor Hackford] urged others to get their eyes tested once a year to avoid not picking up the cancer early.

Rio has also appeared on television in shows like "True Detective," "American Crime Story," "The Mandalorian." Besides acting, he's a businessman who owned New Orleans' One-Eyed Jacks and Pal's Lounge, San Francisco's Homestead, and Los Angeles' Monty.



Rio Hackford and Helen Mirren at the premiere of "Trumbo" on October 27, 2015, in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/Getty Images

On April 14, 2022, Mirren and Taylor shared the heartbreaking news that they were in mourning. The couple announced the tragic death of Rio at age 51 in Huntington Beach, California.


In Taylor and Mirren's statement to People magazine, the duo said they were "both inspired by the life of our son and stepson, Rio Hackford, and heartbroken by his loss." The grieving pair shared how Rio's life had shown them how to live in community and generosity.

The late actor shared his life with many people who were now mourning him and celebrating how fortunate they were to have known him. Mirren and Taylor said Rio had died from a rare and aggressive form of cancer called uveal melanoma.


They urged others to get their eyes tested once a year to avoid not picking up the cancer early. Tributes came flowing in from those who'd loved Rio, with Josh Homme, from "Queens of the Stone Age," honoring him with a tattoo and stating:

"Rio just knew things. Esoteric things. Off-the-map things. Secret things. Wonderful things. He knew these things because of his charm, wit, honesty, character and tough personality."

She added, "He was a real man in a sea of poseurs." Renée Zellweger had this to say about the late star,  "Rio … a titan of kindness, love, class, courage. And cool. A legend." Mirren also paid tribute to her late stepson with a photo on her Instagram account.