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Dame Helen Mirren Discusses "The Queen"

Mirren Proves Why She's One of the Best Actresses of Our Time in "The Queen"

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Dame Helen Mirren in the movie

Dame Helen Mirren in the movie "The Queen."

© Miramax Films
Director Stephen Frears (Mrs Henderson Presents, Dirty Pretty Things) and writer Peter Morgan examine the behind the scenes events following the tragic death of Princess Diana in The Queen, starring Dame Helen Mirren, James Cromwell, and Michael Sheen.

The Queen provides a unique and enlightening glimpse into the private lives of the Royal Family as it explores Queen Elizabeth II's desire to remain secluded with her family following Diana's death. As the public outpouring of grief swelled by the hour, the Royal Family staunchly remained out of the public eye. The film reveals the struggle between the image-conscious Prime Minister Tony Blair (Sheen) and Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II over how to handle an event which, due to the Royal Family's desire to stick with tradition, threatened to bring down the Monarchy.

Helen Mirren on Transforming into the Queen: Mirren’s a beautiful woman who looks nothing like Queen Elizabeth. But in watching the completed film, the physical resemblance even threw Mirren for a loop. “I have to say even more so when I saw it on the screen. That is when it really came together. Just looking in the mirror, I couldn't see the physicality in terms of the movement. There's one shot (where I'm in the) doorway that completely blows me away. I come out and look at the flowers. I'm quite familiar with that piece of film because I watched it a lot to see what the Queen did. You can hardly tell the difference. That's the most amazing moment. Sadly, I used very little makeup. I didn't spend hours in the makeup chair with all kinds of magical things being added to my face. I did very little makeup. It had more to do with the set of the face really. The set of the head, the set of the mouth.”

Mirren paid particular attention to getting certain aspects of Queen Elizabeth II right. “The voice was terribly important. The voice and the physicality, those two elements in terms of the outward appearance of the Queen. I studied a great deal of film just to watch her: the way she walks, the way she holds her head, what she does with her hands, exactly where the handbag is held. When she wears her glasses and when she doesn't wear her glasses, which is quite interesting. When there's a tension and when there's a relaxation. Obviously, the physicality was very important.”

Having Tea with the Queen: Mirren was glad to have had the opportunity to have tea with the queen and credits that event with providing important insight into Queen Elizabeth II’s true character. “Very much so. Absolutely, because there is a twinkle to her and a relaxation about her that you don't really see in her formal moments, and her formal moments is what we mostly see. 99.9% of the time we see those formal moments and they're very familiar to us. That, to all of us, is ‘The Queen’. But there is another queen/woman/Elizabeth Windsor who is very easy and welcoming and sparkly and with the most lovely smile, and alert and not that sort of reserved and cool gravitas that she normally communicates. So I very much tried to bring that into it. Because the tragedy happened so fast in the film, I only really had a tiny space at the very beginning of the film and then a tiny space at the end of the film to bring that personality into it.”

Helen Mirren Shares Her Thoughts on the Monarchy Before and After Filming The Queen: “It did change my feelings, but not profoundly. I’m so ambivalent; I’d like to see a much more open Monarchy, myself. I used to think they were completely useless and we should get rid of them. I don’t necessarily feel that way anymore. I’m still ambivalent, I still loathe the British class system, and in many ways – in all ways, the royal family are the apex of the British class system, and it’s a system that I absolutely hate. But, the reality is, the last 40 years of life in Britain have eroded the British class system enormously. It isn’t what it was before the second World War – or even 10 years after the second World War – things have really, really changed. And always in change, there are good elements in change, and there are bad elements in change. It’s always a dichotomy, isn’t it?”

Continued on Page 2

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