NEW YORK – It’s not every day that the Queen comes to Sotheby’s. While she may not wear the actual royal crown, after playing the monarch three times, and receiving an Oscar in the process, the inimitable Helen Mirren holds court like a pro – fresh off her IFP Gotham Independent Film Awards career tribute, the radiant actress came to Sotheby’s on 1 December as part of the TimesTalks and BAFTA New York conversation series. New York Times contributor Cara Buckley and Mirren discussed everything from British history and Mirren’s family to her trailblazing career and latest film Trumbo.
While Mirren’s acceptance speech for the IFP Gotham award– and Robert De Niro’s uninhibited admiration for her – rapidly made headlines earlier this week, Mirren’s TimesTalks interview proves the actress isn’t running out of cheeky one-liners anytime soon. Here are ten of Mirren’s boldest moments from the evening, sure to surprise even her biggest fans.
BAFTA AND ACADEMY AWARD WINNER HELEN MIRREN. PHOTO: MATTEO PRANDONI/BFA.COM.
1. As for what caused Mirren, trained to be a teacher, to delve into acting, the Academy Award winner did not hold back. “It was sort of an uncomfortable mix of unbelievable vanity…and a righteous love of literature and storytelling and the world of the imagination.” Mirren also cited early memories experiencing Shakespeare plays, specifically her first time seeing Hamlet. “Can you imagine watching Hamlet not knowing what happens in the end?”
2. Mirren was not always as confident and successful as she is today. In her early twenties, she visited a palm reader who had her furiously write down his every word. As soon as she left, she threw away the thick pile of papers and decided to embrace life’s adventures. One thing has always stuck with her though: that she will not be truly successful until she’s in her forties. Mirren believes this was true – she claims she received her most interesting roles after age 40.
3. A staunch supporter of gender equality, women in the film industry was a topic that Mirren returned to throughout the evening. Reflecting on the business's evolution, Mirren also pointed out an unexpected benefit to aging: A “great reason to grow older” is “to get your prejudice revealed.”
4. Playing some of the most complex characters and leading women, Mirren picks her roles “with great trepidation.” She added that the character should appear on the last page of the script.
5. After The Queen premiered at the International Venice Film Festival, Mirren finally had her “Evita” moment. Smiling with arms spread and chin up as the audience applauded, she noted, “It went on and on and on, so, you know, I had to give them something!”
MIRREN SPARKLED IN A PAIR OF 18 KARAT WHITE GOLD AND DIAMOND EARRINGS FROM SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK MAGNIFICENT JEWELS SALE
ON 9 DECEMBER. ESTIMATE: $28,000–32,000. PHOTO: MATTEO PRANDONI/BFA.COM.
6. Mirren admitted, “film always loves beauty.” But, the one thing that annoys her? Seeing an actress who is supposed to be a master of neurology when she is 25.
7. After winning a Tony, Oscar and Emmy, Mirren has already thought about how to get the Grammy. She would like to create a record of great lyrics read as poetry. Mirren gave the audience a taste, reciting The Beatles’ “Yesterday.”
8. Queen Mirren did meet the Queen after the movie was released. The two met for a lovely tea during Ascot, but the film was never mentioned.
9. One character Mirren would love to play is Catherine the Great of Russia. The role, another powerful, intelligent woman who assumed the throne, would pay homage to Mirren’s Russian heritage.
10. When asked how she wanted to be remembered, Mirren gave a “very British” answer. She wittily retorted that she wanted people to think “she did her best.”
Lead image: New York Times contributor Cara Buckley interviewing Helen Mirren. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com.