The Role That Made Helen Mirren 'Nervous' - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

02/08/07 - Los Angeles, California

The Role That Made Helen Mirren 'Nervous'

Helen Mirren bears little resemblance to Elizabeth II, given the British monarch's prim, carefully weighed responses and slow, proper walk.

Mirren's transformation into "The Queen" was a product of detailed study, a portrayal the actress herself is not even sure she nailed.

"I did a lot of research and thought a lot about her," Mirren, 61, told CNN, describing her preparation for the role. "And then I came to my conclusions about her true psychology and personality, and the person within the monarch, and I tried to portray my understanding of her as truthfully as I could. But I don't know if it's true or not. I don't know."

Few others seem to share Mirren's doubts. Critics have praised "The Queen" in nearly every aspect, from Peter Morgan's screenplay to Stephen Frears' direction to the score, costume design and -- of course -- the performances. The critically acclaimed film has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture and best actress for Mirren.

Much of the credit for the film's success goes to Mirren. By nearly all accounts, she shines in the role of the stoic monarch caught amid the changed obligations and values of the modern world.

"What a masterful performance, built on suggestion, implication and understatement," Roger Ebert wrote in his Chicago Sun-Times review.

"It takes guts to risk our antipathy, to invite us in with brilliant technique rather than bids for empathy," New York Times reviewer Manohla Dargis wrote.

At the film's premiere in September at the Venice Film Festival, where Mirren won best actress, the audience reportedly stood and applauded for five minutes.

Mirren has garnered more than 20 nominations for the role and won several honors already, including a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award. At those two ceremonies, Mirren also picked up awards for playing the "Virgin Queen" in the HBO television miniseries "Elizabeth I."

"Elizabeth I was the most challenging in terms of emotional and intellectual commitment. The lines and the language were very, very challenging," Mirren said. "But Elizabeth II was difficult because before you start you don't know if you are going to get there or not. It was incredibly challenging and very intimidating. I was more nervous about doing that than any role I've ever played."

She added, "But it was a great script. I was confident in the script and the director."

Unlike performers who allow slivers of themselves to seep into their roles, Mirren rarely shows up on screen. In her place are fully formed characters, including several queens, a plucky Yorkshire woman in the movie "Calendar Girls" and an arrogant, alcoholic police detective. Indeed, Mirren is best known for the latter, as Jane Tennison in the long-running PBS series "Prime Suspect."

It is the challenge of taking on these complex characters and nuanced scripts that Mirren said drives her.

"I just think of the daily adventure of doing the work," she said. "I mean how incredible is it to be here on this set of 'Inkheart,' " she said of her current project, a movie based on the fantasy book by Cornelia Funke. "You know look at it, how exciting, how fantastic."

But what of her playing an entirely different type of role, of a Golden Globe award-winning actress giving an acceptance speech?

"I was sitting there," she said, "terrified of forgetting the people you need to mention to say thank you to. And then, I thought the one person you really should thank is the queen, for God's sake, because certainly without her you wouldn't be here."

The actress may get another chance to get that speech right on February 25 -- the night of the Academy Awards.

Story courtesy of CNN Newsource.

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