One cooked, the other told scurrilous tales….
While producing a lovely magazine called Ego in the early 80s, two other callow youths and I met Helen Mirren at the BBC, where she chose to pose for our camera with a sign saying “Gentlemen, This Way” pointing into her open mouth. Invited to her Fulham home, and after she’d run to the shops for bottles of wine, we interviewed her while all reposing on her living-room floor – smoking, drinking, and being merry.
Then we realised that a tall man had entered the apartment and was gazing down on us, stony-faced. At first we imagined he was an Irish terrorist, as that’s what we’d seen him portraying in a TV drama the previous week.
It was, in fact, Liam Neeson, whom Mirren announced to be “my fella”. Neeson rather brusquely pointed out that he’d arranged to dine with Mirren that evening. But, in the thick of conversation – about Mirren’s amazing Polaroids of Peter Sellers on his hospital death-bed, impersonating Adolf Hitler – we and Mirren failed to empathise sufficiently with Neeson’s culinary expectations for the evening.
He prepared fish and pasta and salad. Neeson was a dab hand in the kitchen, rather continental and smooth, but at the same time making huffing noises. Then, during a discussion of the logistics of filming cinematic love scenes, Mirren closed the folding doors between the two rooms. Neeson, on the other side, opened it again. She, after a while, closed it again. Then he, after a while, opened it again, more dramatically. She closed it again, with a flourish. He opened it again. She closed it again… It remains one of the most endearing theatrical performances I’ve seen.