It’s somehow fitting that in the past year, Helen Mirren won a slew of awards — including an Oscar, a BAFTA, an Emmy and a pair of Golden Globes — for playing not one but two Queen Elizabeths, I and II, in “Elizabeth I” and “The Queen,” respectively.
Long considered one of the U.K.’s most accomplished actresses, this Dame — a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company — now appears to loom over all the others. “Helen is the Queen of British drama,” says Andy Harries, who produced the “Prime Suspect” TV series that starred Mirren, and Miramax’s “The Queen.” “She takes her responsibility to each role very seriously, and that shows in the work.”
And while many actresses over 40 are being offered fewer roles, at 62, Mirren is among the industry’s busiest.
“You never know if it’s a momentary thing or a kind of a trend,” says Mirren, explaining her present popularity. “I believe my profile is a small manifestation of what’s happening in the world, with more women in positions of authority who were excluded from that not too long ago. Drama will always reflect that, and our jobs as actors is to reflect the world in such a way that the audience recognizes themselves.
“All I do are the jobs I’m lucky enough to be offered and to do them as well and as gracefully as I possibly can,” she adds.
Despite suggesting she is “much lazier by nature” than her husband, director Taylor Hackford, Mirren currently has several films in the hopper, and recently wrapped “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.” In the sequel to the 2004 film, Mirren portrays the mother of treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage). “It’s a big movie and takes a lot of time,” she says. “But it’s good fun. This type of material doesn’t encourage introspection like ‘The Queen.’It’s a very proactive kind of script, and you’re not worrying about what is the deeper meaning of all this.”
Vocation: “To keep a roof over my head.”
Recent breakthrough: An Oscar and an Emmy for playing queens.
Role model: “I have many role models. Every time I open the newspaper I find a new one, but I wouldn’t necessarily lay that on one person.”
Career mantra: “Keep going gracefully.”
What’s next: “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”