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Feb 07, 2006

Acting great DAME HELEN MIRREN suffers from stage fright, despite 40 years treading the boards.

The CALENDAR GIRLS star, 60, has been performing in the theatre since she began her acting career with Britain's National Youth Theatre (NYT) in the 1960s.

Despite growing more famous over the decades, Mirren admits the fame and accolades she receives, only propel her anxiety further.

She says, "I do actually get stage fright. If anything it gets worse because you have a great sense of responsibility both to yourself and your audience.

"You know that the expectation is there and you don't want to disappoint. But it's not every night, and only for the first few performances - certainly not when the critics are there."

When Mirren is starring in a play, she admits she is so strict over her voice, she refuses to party.

She explains, "I used to go out late at night and party, but now I'm afraid of losing my voice."


Elizabeth I wins South Bank award
Jan 27, 2006

Period drama pipped sci-fi at the South Bank Show Awards as Channel 4's Elizabeth I was named top TV drama ahead of the BBC's Doctor Who.

But Billie Piper, sidekick of the Timelord, did pick up the breakthrough award for rising British talent.

Piper, 23, said she was having the time of her life and felt "overwhelmed".

Sir Richard Attenborough was given a lifetime achievement award, while Channel 4's Peep Show won best TV comedy, beating BBC Two's Extras.

Peep Show, which stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb as flatmates, has received critical acclaim and a devoted cult following.

Dame Helen Mirren collected the award for Elizabeth I, in which she starred in the title role.

Mirren thanked the scriptwriter, saying the script "sat in the mouth so beautifully", before adding: "Whoops, that sounds so rude. Oh dear, I'm supposed to be serious."

Piper received her breakthrough award, voted for by South Bank Show viewers and readers of the Times newspaper, from Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe.

She beat off competition from Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright and rapper MIA.

She said: "I find these awards so overwhelming. It's an extraordinary situation to be in. I feel quite awkward, terrified at these things."

She said she was so "desperate to win" the award that she had become "really emotional".

Kate Bush, who was nominated for her comeback album Aerial, her first release in 12 years, lost out to Coles Corner by Richard Hawley for the best pop award.

Graffiti artist Banksy was beaten in the visual arts category by landscape painter John Virtue, who was nominated for his series of London paintings at the National Gallery.

Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit won the award for film over The Constant Gardener and Bullet Boy.

Melvyn Bragg hosted the awards, now in their tenth year, at London's Savoy Hotel.

Source: BBC News -

Elizabeth I's playlist: boys to men
Jan 16, 2006
By Marisa Guthrie

PASADENA - HBO's four-hour miniseries "Elizabeth I" recounts the life of the queen through her relationships with the prominent men in her life, the Earl of Leicester and the much younger Earl of Essex.

So Helen Mirren, who plays Elizabeth, gets to share the screen and her bed with old friend Jeremy Irons, who plays Leicester, and young, hunky Hugh Dancy, who plays Essex.

"The queen did have a series of favorites, of which Essex was certainly one of the major ones," said Mirren. "Leicester was the love of her life, I think without a doubt. Essex obviously was a deeply inappropriate relationship. She was in her 50s and he was like, 18, you know so it was pretty forlorn."

Essex, said Dancy, was drawn to the queen's intellect, humor and volatility but also her power.

"They had these extremes contained within them," said Dancy. "But he didn't know when to stop himself."

"It all went to his head," said Mirren, "sort of like someone who wins 'Pop Idol,' isn't it?"


Source: New York Daily News -

'Elizabeth I' a regal showcase for Mirren
September 26, 2005
by Ray Bennett

LONDON (Hollywood Reporter) - Channel 4's new two-part historical drama "Elizabeth I" stars Helen Mirren in an intimate portrayal of the "Virgin Queen's" three great loves: the two men she is denied and her destiny, which she fulfills.

The first part begins 20 years into Elizabeth's reign with the queen still unmarried and therefore unable to produce an heir who might secure the throne for another generation and prevent potential civil war. Being the daughter of Henry VIII and a devout Protestant, she also has the Catholic French and Spanish to deal with, not to mention the pope, who declares her a heretic.

While in love with Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester (Jeremy Irons), she might not marry him and in fact seriously considers marrying the French Catholic Duke of Anjou (Jeremie Covillault) but is swayed by the strength of Protestant feeling in her court.

Leicester, meanwhile, marries Lady Essex (Diana Kent) but maintains resolute fidelity to his queen. That loyalty comes in very handy as conspirators led by Sir Anthony Babington (Geoffrey Streatfeild) attempt to assassinate her, and Mary, Queen of Scots (Barbara Flynn) meddles from her prison in the north. There's also the Spanish Armada on the horizon.

Inevitably, Mary and Babington are disposed of, and their executions are depicted in gruesome detail, with Mary's neck needing two blows of the ax and Babington's innards being torn from his body and burned before his eyes.

The defeat of the Spanish is given short shrift in the film, but Elizabeth's pain about causing the death of her cousin Mary and the death of Leicester, the love of her life, are movingly portrayed.

The second part deals with the latter part of the queen's long reign and her indulgence of the Earl of Essex ( Hugh Dancy), who might or might not be Leicester's son. A hotheaded warrior, Essex becomes Elizabeth's favorite in court and in bed, but his unruly temperament leads to reckless decisions that lead him into treason.

Meanwhile, the queen's ministers, Sir Francis Walsingham (Patrick Malahide), William Cecil, Lord Burghley ( Ian McDiarmid) and his son, Robert Cecil (Toby Jones), see her safely through all the threats to her crown.

Elizabeth's story has been told many times onscreen, but Mirren captures a woman whose rarefied position in life requires someone of remarkable intelligence and strength. Her queen knows her place in history and is determined to fulfill her destiny. She is coquettish and generous to the men she loves, even though she is not permitted to marry either one. Her ego is as big as all outdoors, and she has no hesitation in asserting her absolute power over everyone in her life.

Mirren conveys all of that but still manages to suggest the woman's vulnerability and inner steel. Writer Nigel Williams' dialogue is good and well relished by Mirren and her co-stars, especially veterans Irons, Malahide and McDiarmid.

"We women have forgotten more about cruelty than you men will ever know," the queen says. But later, she reminds her court: "My dogs wear my collars, sirs!"

The two-parter, which is to air on HBO, is not a costume spectacular, but it is fascinating piece of history with performances to treasure.


Elizabeth I: Helen Mirren

Earl of Leicester: Jeremy Irons

Earl of Essex: Hugh Dancy

Sir Francis Walsingham: Patrick Malahide

Burghley: Ian McDiarmid

Duke of Anjou: Jeremie Covillault

Jean Simier: Erick Deshors

Mary, Queen of Scots: Barbara Flynn

Robert Cecil: Toby Jones

Gifford: Simon Woods

Lady Essex: Diana Kent

Dr. Lopez: Toby Salaman

Jesuit Priest: John McEnery

Sir Francis Drake: David Deleve

Sir Anthony Babington: Geoffrey Streatfeild

Frances Walsingham: Charlotte Asprey

Sir Walter Raleigh: Ben Pullen

Francis Bacon: Will Keen

Director: Tom Hooper; Teleplay: Nigel Williams; Producer: Barney Reisz; Executive producers: Susan Harrison, George Faber, Charles Pattinson; Director of photography: Larry Smith; Production designer: Eve Stewart; Editors: Beverley Mills, Melanie Oliver; Composer: Rob Lane.

Source: Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Thatcher, Madonna, the Virgin Queen... and I
September 24, 2005
by Fiona Maddocks

HELEN Mirren has long been admired for plain speaking. "I don't think Elizabeth I shagged," she says, startlingly, plunging straight into the matter in hand. We are discussing a new two-part Channel 4 drama by Nigel Williams in which Mirren plays the Virgin Queen in her later years, caught between passion for the Earl of Essex (Hugh Dancy), and the machinations of the Duke of Leicester (Jeremy Irons).

"She'd have had far too much to lose if she'd got pregnant," Mirren continues. "Her own claim to the throne was so dodgy that she was obsessed with legitimate succession. There's no way she could have knocked off to have a baby in secret then come back. Maybe she did all kinds of other things, sexually. I'm sure she wanted to. But my guess is that, finally, she wouldn't have jeopardised her body. It would have been too terrifying."

In preparation for the role of the Tudor queen, Mirren read widely and stared at portraits for hours, "hoping something would leap magically from the canvas into me. 'Who are you? Where are you?' I'd shout over and over."

Having been taught history by a "Catholic convert, very extreme", her knowledge of the Protestant Elizabeth had been sketchy. "We were told she was utterly evil. She was glossed over and we moved straight on to Mary Queen of Scots."

How does she now see Elizabeth? "Mrs Thatcher times Saddam Hussein plus Madonna. She understood celebrity and branding. If you put anyone in a red wig with a big ruff and loads of jewellery - you, me, Whoopi Goldberg - bang, there's Elizabeth I."

Williams' drama, as Mirren stresses, goes deeper, examining the fragile psychology of this power-hungry woman alone in a man's world. This is the sort of high-quality British TV drama which Mirren so admires, and that has served her own career well, notably as DCI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect, for which she has won four Emmys and a huge following both here and in the US.

"When we were filming Elizabeth, as a distraction I watched all six hours of the Barchester Chronicles, which was bliss, though quite odd to be watching this quintessential English TV series on location in Lithuania."

Why Lithuania? Not because this former Baltic state looks the spitting image of Tudor London; on the contrary, filming took place in a sports centre, lovingly converted into the ancient palace of Whitehall. The reason was money: Eastern Europe comes cheap. This troubles Mirren.

"The film industry has become very brutal, economically. And the artisans in the British industry, probably the best in the world, are suffering - the caterers, the carpenters, the electricians and set painters and wardrobe workers. They'll leave the country or change careers. It's devastating that we'll lose that talent. Soon their knowledge and craftsmanship will die out."

She adds, hastily, that she loved working in Lithuania, in part finding some echo of her own Russian immigrant family background - "I loved the food, especially. The cabbage soup, the dumplings.

"I begrudge that country nothing. It's exciting for them. It's a new, young industry, springing to life in a poor country. But a British designer there said to me: 'I'm over here teaching Lithuanians to take my job from me.' I find that unbearably sad."

The problem has been compounded by the decampment of James Bond, and now the promised departure of the Harry Potter films, to foreign shores. "That's the final nail in the last bastion of British cinema. Someone should say stop. If JK Rowling said: 'No, it has to be made in the UK,' surely someone would listen."

Since our conversation, the parents of Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe have intervened, not in order pluckily to save the British film industry but to protect their son, fearing for his safety in Prague, the proposed location of the next film. Some compromise has been reached, but not enough to alter the situation.

Mirren, one guesses, has no intention of keeping quiet about the topic, especially now that, after years in the States, she and her American director husband, Taylor Hackford, are based in London full-time. "Fortunately, my husband is an Anglophile. He even loves public transport and travelling on the Tube. I always go by bus; you can be up high and see the world."

She could offer that quote verbatim to Transport for London in return for free travel but, since she recently turned 60, she is already eligible.

Growing older has never put the brakes on Mirren's career. If anything she has stormed to yet greater prominence, becoming a household name as Jane Tennison and winning great acclaim in Calendar Girls. "It pays not to be too pretty. I have this big, swoopy Russian nose, for a start. But once you put a dark wig on me I can look quite like a member of the British Royal Family."

She is referring here to the role she is about to film, coincidentally of the other Queen Elizabeth, our own monarch. The script, about the days following the death of Princess Diana, is by Peter Morgan, who wrote The Deal, a TV drama about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Though more of a republican by nature, Mirren feels respect and sympathy for the Queen. "The two Elizabeths have different mindsets. But they do share a sense of absolute duty to their country. And they both love horses."

Once the Diana drama is finished, Mirren will embark on her last Prime Suspect, to be filmed early in 2006. Definitely the last? "Yes. Jane Tennison would have retired long ago, I think."

After that she wants to return to the stage, in London or New York, preferably in comedy, a mainstay of her career which is generally overshadowed by more gritty or classical roles. "I did Alan Ayckbourn's Woman in Mind, which is brilliant. He's one of the few contemporary playwrights, in my view, who will last. I'd love him to write me something."

The abiding question with Mirren, which haunts her but has to be asked, is will she take her clothes off again? Her willingness to appear naked, long past the age of good sense and in at least a dozen feature films, has set her apart from her contemporaries.

She looks appalled at the thought. "Someone asked me that in Cannes and I laughed and said yes. It turned out to be a journalist. Next day, the headlines were 'Helen Mirren to go on taking her clothes off.'"

So? "There's no answer. I can't say yes. I'd prefer never to have to do it again. It's unpleasant and unnatural and you feel very silly. I for one don't want to look at myself nude."

That seems to be the end of the matter. Then she adds: "But then again, if the dramatic process demands it, I guess I'm of the Gerard Depardieu school of acting."

Which is to say? "Which is to say, oh what the hell!"

Elizabeth I is on Channel 4 on 29 September and 6 October

Source: The Scotsman

September 22, 2005

Acting veteran DAME HELEN MIRREN jumped at the chance to play QUEEN ELIZABETH II in an upcoming movie, because she's always been a fan of the British monarch.

Mirren, 60, insists the Queen - who made her a dame in 2003 - is much misunderstood and was unfairly criticised for her reaction to the death of DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES in 1997, when she was accused of behaving coldly compared to the rest of the grief-stricken nation.

The actress says, "She's not at all grumpy. She's a person who is genuine, she refuses to be fake. She is steady, true, honest and British."

"I'm kind of with the Queen on this one (the aftermath of Diana's death). I'm not sure I get it either. I wasn't in England at the time so I was blissfully separated from it."


Meet Helen - the new Queen
September 21, 2005

THIS is the first picture of Dame Helen Mirren playing Her Majesty The Queen.

The actress stars as the monarch in a new film about the death of Princess Diana.

Called simply, The Queen, the film is set in the week following the fatal car crash which killed Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed on August 31 1997.

Mirren, 60, is pictured reading news of Diana and Dodi's death in a newspaper.

The Prime Suspect star recently said of playing the Queen: "I've really been studying her a lot. I think she's incredibly misunderstood. She's not grumpy... I think she's a person who is genuine, she refuses to be fake. She's steady, true, honest and British."

The film is directed by Stephen Frears, whose previous credits include My Beautiful Launderette.

He said: "From the moment this screenplay was commissioned, there was only one actress whom we considered for the role of the Queen."

Mirren is soon to play another Queen, Elizabeth I, in a Channel 4 drama.

Frears's film claims to recreate the events of that week from the point of view of the Royal Family and the Prime Minister. The script is based on interviews with insiders and royal observers.

A film spokesman said: "The film paints an intimate and sympathetic portrait of a shocked and grieving family, struggling to deal with their private response to Diana and her death, in the face of an extraordinary and unprecedented outpouring of sorrow and anger."

Source: Manchester Evening News

September 21, 2005

SEXY screen star Dame Helen Mirren is involved in a royal cover-up - as she plays the Queen.

The Prime Suspect actress has shed her clothes for many films.

But she pulled on a respectable dress and pearls to play HRH in the controversial new movie.

The Queen follows the events of the weeks following the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

Key scenes were filmed at Cluny Castle in Aberdeenshire.It doubles for Balmoral, where the Royal Family were staying when Di had her fatal crash in Paris.

Julia Linzee Gordon, of Cluny Castle, said yesterday: "Dame Helen was very relaxed and friendly. With her involvement, I am sure the production will be of high quality and great integrity."

The movie looks at the Windsors' relationship with PM Tony Blair inthe tragedy's aftermath. The royals were criticised for apparently ignoring the nation's grief.

Blair's aides are said to have advised Buckingham Palace how to deal with the death and funeral.

Michael Sheen, who played Blair in political TV drama The Deal, reprises his role in the movie.

Dame Helen is also set to appear as Elizabeth I in a new Channel 4 drama this month


Helen Mirren is Queen in Diana tale
September 20, 2005

Helen Mirren is playing Her Majesty The Queen in a new film about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Called simply, The Queen, the film is set in the week following the fatal car crash which killed Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed on August 31 1997.

Mirren, 60, bears an uncanny resemblance to the Queen in the film, down to the trademark hairstyle.

In a new picture, she is seen reading news of Diana and Dodi's death in a newspaper.

The Prime Suspect star recently said of playing the Queen: "I've really been studying her a lot. I think she's incredibly misunderstood.

"She's not grumpy... I think she's a person who is genuine, she refuses to be fake. She's steady, true, honest and British."

The film is directed by Stephen Frears, whose previous credits include My Beautiful Launderette and Dirty Pretty Things.

"From the moment this screenplay was commissioned, there was only one actress whom we considered for the role of the Queen," he said.

Mirren is soon to play another Queen, Elizabeth I, in a Channel 4 drama.

Frears's film claims to recreate the events of that week from the point of view of the Royal Family and the Prime Minister.


News September 2005

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