Lunch at the palace

Helen Mirren and Taylor HackfordHelen Mirren and husband, director Taylor Hackford, are invited to lunch at Buckingham Palace in January, but have already met Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Hackford recalled for me how the meeting was at a Royal Command Performance for a film he’d directed in 1985, “White Nights.”

Mikhail Baryshnikov and Mirren starred. The royal meeting followed the screening. Mirren is currently commuting from the London filming of “Inkheart.” the heavily special effects film doesn’t wind until March 3. But Mirren’s pact permits her travel time to attend the SAG Awards and Golden Globes for which she’s been nominated. And, of course time off for the Oscars where she’s sure to be nominated for “The Queen.”

She also has time off to spend Christmas in New York with Hackford who says they look forward to the lunch at Buckingham Palace. (Hopefully with the Queen). He admits “it was dangerous” for his wife to have played Elizabeth II. “But,” he says, “Helen did the monarchy a huge favor — you came out feeling for the queen.”

Hackford, who was Oscar-nominated for directing “Ray,” has received an honor this week from his peers, the Directors Guild, who named him, along with Paul Barclay, as winners of the Robert H. Aldrich Service Award.

The duo has spearheaded the political action activities of the Guild. “We have led the charge for getting Federal bills passed” — including those giving incentives to bring film production back to the U.S.

Forty-three lunches were held in the past year with Congressional members and the Guild’s Leadership Council in continuing efforts to protect artistic freedom. Directors including Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, Barbra Streisand plus new, young directors were involved in the Guild’s PAC stepped-up activities.

“The MPAA may be focused on the business end for the business but the Directors Guild is the creative leadership,” emphasized Hackford.  He’s readying two films —- “always about working class people.” And a new challenge — a Broadway musical, “Leap of Faith,” with Alan Mencken.