Helen Mirren — Dame Helen Mirren, as she is now, following her investiture at Buckingham Palace on Dec. 5 — isn’t entirely sure that mature women are back in cinematic vogue, even if “Calendar Girls,” in which she stars, and the Diane Keaton movie “Something’s Gotta Give” would suggest that it is ladies’ day at the movies at last.
“If you get two films on a vaguely similar subject, people start talking about trends,” says Mirren, 58, who finds herself wanting to say in response, “Wait a minute, that’s only two movies; it’s only coincidental that they’re opening at the same time.”
And yet, she continues, “having said that, yeah, it’s cool. It’s long overdue that women have been allowed to grow up in the movies — to grow up and to be sympathetic with it. Usually, if you’re in your 40s and 50s in movies and you are a woman, you become a harridan, a monster, someone frightfully horrible.”
Instead, as the feisty Yorkshire-accented Chris Harper, Mirren gives a deeply warm and humane perf as the woman who leads the calendar girls’ foray into the risque.
“Helen Mirren is a born leader,” notes the pic’s helmer, Nigel Cole, “and she proved to be that during the shoot. She kind of galvanized the women and took responsibility for them, sometimes — and all that was absolutely right for Chris.”
Mirren has flirted with Oscar twice before: two years ago for “Gosford Park” and, prior to that, for her role as Queen Charlotte in “The Madness of King George” (1994). But she waves off any anxiety about going into this year’s kudo carnival. “The pressure and hype is a fun thing, really,” she laughs. “I think journalists take it more seriously than actors do.”
Coming attractions: “The Clearing,” “Raising Helen”