Cressida. Lady Macbeth, Ophelia in “Hamlet,” Queen Margaret in “Henry V” and now Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — and Helen Mirren doesn’t want to be considered a Shakespearean actress. “I hate the word ‘Shakespearean actress.’ It conjures up a kind of museum attitude, a false respectability,” says Mirren. “All my life I’ve tried to kick that down. It’s just a part of my work. “It has an image of theatricality and formal ity about it, which actually is no longer true.” she says. “I think of myself as an actor, and though I’ve done a good deal of Shakespeare. I try to vary my work. I do something esoteric, and then I do something nakedly commecial.” Mirren. Rosalind in “As You Like It” in the first season of public TV’s six-year series. “The Shakespeare Plays,” is back tonight in the fourth season in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” She will appear later in the infrequently performed “Cymbeline.” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is the 20th new production in the British Broadcasting Corp. and Time-Life Television series that eventually will include all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays.
Elijah Moshinsky. whose production of “All’s Well That Ends Well” as broadcast in the third season, directed the current two-hour adaptation of what may be Shakespeare’s most popular comedy. Nicky Henson and Cherith Mellor play Demetrius and Helena, and Robert Lindsay and Pippa Guard are Lysander and Hermia. Brian Glover is the loudmouth weaver Bottom, who is transformed into an ass by the mischievous Puck, played by Phil Daniels. The fact is, Mirren. who spent a time with the Royal Shakespeare Company, beginning in l%7. may be best-known in this country for other, less classical roles. She was in public TV’s “Mrs. Reinhardt” with Brail Davis last year, and is in the theatrical film “The Long Good Friday.”
“If they are not artistic.” she says of her selection of parts, “they are naughty – like ‘Caligula.’ for example. “I’ve been very lucky, to date, in my employment, in my own country.” she says. “The one thing I would never do is a television scries, that’s for sure I don’t like the everyday aspect of television, it’s too confining. “To me. acting is very much the role of the vagabond — we should be on the outside. Artists arc like that, and I consider myself an artist.” Mirren began her career with Britain’s National Youth Theater. She made her film debut in HHW. with James Mason in “Age of Consent.” and recently appeared in the movie. “Excalibur.” as Morgana. She says she is selective about the parts she chooses to play. “I always read the script from the back, to see how soon it is before my character disappears It’s a really good thing if you’re on the last page.” Mirren says, “and better if your character has the last speech. “I’m a Leo. so I have a terrible pride.” she savs. “I can’t accept parts that I find are undermining to my particular form of pride. “1 like parts with power and passion,” she says, “or else, low-key parts, like ‘Mrs. Reinhardt.’ ” she says. “But there are things I cannot accept, because of my pride. “I turned down a part in a movie. ‘The Duellists.’ because the female character I would have played was so subjugated to the male characters I couldn’t bring myself to accept it.” she1 says. She says she had similar reservations about her role in “The Long Good Friday” and argued the point with (he director. John Mackenzie. ‘The movie turned out quite good.” she says, “and that’s a lesson you learn. You’ve got to fight when you think you can improve a character.