Welcome to The Helen Mirren Archives, your premiere web resource on the British actress. Best known for her performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company, "Prime Suspect" and her Oscar-winning role in "The Queen", Helen Mirren is one of the world's most eminent actors today. This unofficial fansite provides you with all latest news, photos and videos on her past and present projects. Enjoy your stay.
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She is indisputably Hollywood royalty, so much so that she was appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2003, she portrayed Queen Elizabeth II on the big screen in 2006 and now goes by the name of Queenie in the ever-expanding Fast & Furious cinematic universe. And even though Helen Mirren might be just shy of a Grammy to reach the coveted “EGOT” status (she is an Emmy, Oscar and Tony winner), she will undoubtedly be singing her way to box office success this weekend with her return to the world of fast cars and edge-of-your-seat suspense in F9.
“I was longing to drive,” the 75-old-year actress reveals to me at Forbes. “The reason I wanted to be in the Fast & Furious movies so I could drive cars really fast down closed-off streets. For the first two movies, I wasn’t anywhere near a car, so I paid my dues, so now I was allowed to get into the car.” In F9, new in theaters this weekend, Helen gets to do some enjoyable joy riding alongside the film franchise’s top-billed star Vin Diesel, whom Helen gives full credit to for her being a part of these projects. “I suspect really I’m in it because I begged to be in it and Vin is a very kindhearted person,” Helen continues. “I think that’s really the real reason. Sometimes, you have to ask for what you want or what you dream of having. One should have the courage to ask for it. A couple glasses of wine always help.”
Even though Helen seems like a natural behind the wheel on-screen, in reality, she has nothing but praise for the skilled professionals behind-the-scenes that make her and the F9 car chase scenes look so good. “I would like to say here that I’m a firm believer there should be an Oscar category for stunt people because the stunt people on films like Fast & Furious and many, many of the other movies that we all enjoy so much in the cinema are down to extraordinary stunt organizers and actors and actresses who do such extraordinary things.”
This is quite the week for Helen because beyond the highly-anticipated release of F9, she is also narrating the new series When Nature Calls, premiering on television tonight at 8/7C on ABC. Consisting of remarkably real footage of wildlife within their natural habitats, When Nature Calls adds human voices to these filmed encounters, bringing playful humor and a relatable sense to its storytelling. As to why Helen decided to become a part of this project, she says, “It was rather an off-the-wall suggestion that I should be a part of When Nature Calls and I always like to do things that surprise me. When I looked to the material, I thought it was really very charming and kind of a nice, easy and friendly way to remind us that we’re all part of the Animal Kingdom and that we share with this planet the most extraordinarily diverse and interesting group of fellow creatures. I like the fact that it’s done in a comedic way and I thought that might be fun. The very best of the best of the material that wasn’t used in some of those amazing nature documentaries that we’ve all had the pleasure of watching recently. In order to achieve those documentaries, of course there is a huge amount of film that can never be used because there wasn’t enough time for it all. So we get to enjoy that, piggyback off of it.”
When it comes to Hollywood today and fair pay equality between its actresses and actors, Helen comfortably shares her thoughts on this much-discussed matter. “It’s interesting. It’s kind of alongside another kind of push, which is a recognition of the women audiences. The argument for many years it was presented to me always was and I think there was a certain truth in it incidentally, but the people who drive the box office are males between the age of 18 and 28 and when young people go out on a date and they go to the cinema, they’ll go and see the movie the guy wants to see and the guy will not go and see the movie the girl wants to see. That was the general understanding and therefore, the young male was the person who drove the box office and therefore, the young male identified with was the person who was responsible for the financial success of the movie and that was usually a male actor. That in general, I think, was the argument. But of course, times have changed and that’s simply not the case anymore. It’s very interesting, Hollywood has notoriously to my mind, regularly forgotten about a whole section of the audience. They forgot about teenagers weirdly and then they sort of re-discovered teenagers and made films just for teenagers. And they forgot about children and then they re-discovered children and then they forgot about older people and suddenly realized Oh no! Oh my God, older people like to go to the cinema and then they started making films for older people. They sort of regularly forget about huge sections. I did think they sort of forgot about women and they forgot about that five or six women want to go to the cinema together as a group and they want to see what they want to see. The whole tapestry of life, in my experiences, changed so fundamentally even in the last five years, let alone the last ten years.”
Regarding her own contract negotiations, Helen acknowledges several factors that play a role in the pay she ultimately agrees upon for a given project. “Certainly if I was in a movie where I was on film as much as the male actor was and I thought I was of an equal stature in terms of ability and fame and box office, then absolutely I would ask for parity, but you know there are so many variables, aren’t there, in my industry. Sometimes, you’re in a movie for 15 pages but those 15 pages are all shot in one room and it’s going to take three days to shoot them. And then someone else is going to have to be on-set every day for three weeks to do the few pages that he or she is in. It’s not easy to sort of work it out and also obviously, box office is a very difficult thing to deal with. It’s a constantly fluctuating thing.”
Beyond the business aspects of her work, at this stage in Helen’s celebrated career, she knows exactly what roles intrigue her most to sign on for. “Anything that’s different from what I’ve just done. That’s why it’s so sort so nice to do something like [When] Nature Calls. It’s completely different from anything I’ve ever done. I love the big [films] and I love to be a part of that and I love the process of making those films. I also will always look for the smaller film that’s very story/character driven, has a truth and reality about it.”
A few of Helen’s latest projects include her recently released episode in the new Solos series on Amazon, where she performs an incredibly profound monologue within a space setting in the not-too-distant future, which Helen credits as a beautiful piece of writing that drew her to the role. Helen will also return to the big screen later this year in The Duke, which tells the very interesting story of a 1960s taxi driver who steals a popular work of art from the National Gallery in London. “I love to do a smaller movie. To do a film like The Duke is a totally different experience. It was a lovely true story that I didn’t know anything about, even though it sort of happened on my watch, if you’d like. I was certainly around when it happened. I wasn’t aware of the story and it’s such a delightful story.” Helen is currently filming the Shazam! Fury of the Gods sequel in Atlanta and opens up briefly about her larger-than-life character. “I play Goddess (laughs) which is, you know, one step up from the Queen, so you know that’s good. Zachary [Levi], who plays Shazam, is so good. It’s just such a pleasure to sit opposite him and watch him work. I just sit there trying to be a Goddess but really inside I’m thinking Oh my God, he’s brilliant, which he is.”
Arguably one of the most iconic film performances of Helen’s career came in 2006 with The Queen, where she embodied Queen Elizabeth II with such a captivating dedication that earned her an Oscar for her performance in 2007. When asked if Helen ever thinks about the 95-year-old ruling matriarch to the royal family today, following her extensive research and unforgettable on-screen depiction of Her Majesty, Helen reveals, “Yes, I do. Absolutely. I do kind of love the Queen. If I see an image of her, I don’t know if it’s my Britishness or the fact that I’ve played her, I have no idea, but I find myself feeling just quite moved by this woman with this incredible, extraordinary resilience. It’s a quality that is not applauded as much as it should be, to be constant. It’s not glamorous, it’s not sparkling, it’s not a firework that goes up and explodes and then falls to Earth. Just the relentless consistence of the Queen, I find quite moving. There’s an incredible backbone in there that I respect very, very much. And also, I think a kindness and a sweetness that is not sufficiently recognized. She can be quite funny but there is a fundamental goodness, I think, in that person.”