Helen Mirren: Queen Please

The Last Station's Helen Mirren reigns on a parade of sunny subjects from gay servers to Kyra Sedgwick’s mouth.



She may’ve earned an Academy Award for her chilly portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, but Dame Helen Mirren is no old British bore. The 64-year-old Emmy-winning Prime Suspect star is as celebrated for her nude scenes and bikini bod as she is for her royal résumé. Now being hailed as Leo Tolstoy’s drama queen of a wife in The Last Station, Mirren, who’s married to director Taylor Hackford, reigns on a parade of sunny subjects from gay servers to Kyra Sedgwick’s mouth.

The Advocate: When a woman plays a queen as many times as you have — in The Queen, The Madness of King George and the Elizabeth I miniseries — doesn’t it make her an honorary gay man?
Helen Mirren: Of course it does! [Laughs] I’m also a dame, and in British pantomime the dame is traditionally played by a man and very often by a gay man.

How connected are you to your gay fans?
There is an organization called HMAS, which stands for the Helen Mirren Appreciation Society, and a lot of them are gay — mostly women but also men. It’s a group who got together on the Internet, and they often organize trips and get together from all different countries to come see me in the theater and then see me afterwards. So I appreciate the HMAS.

Jane Tennison, the tough detective you played in Prime Suspect, has become a lesbian icon. Why do you think that is?
Well, the character wasn’t a lesbian, but Jackie Malton, the person she was based on, was a lesbian. She used to say that she came out as a gay woman very early on in her police career because she didn’t want anyone to think that she’d fucked her way to the top. So she was quite a character herself, and it’s interesting that somehow people picked up on that through Jane.

Which of your roles do gay men respond to the most?
Definitely The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover. It came out in New York first, so at that point really nobody had seen it except the whole of the restaurant trade in New York, and a lot of those guys are gay. Suddenly I could get the best table in any restaurant I’d walk into, and I absolutely loved it.

I’ve always had a thing for Teaching Mrs. Tingle.
Oh, that’s funny. I’ve got a demographic of fans who know me only from that movie, and they usually work at the Gap. When I’m in Gap and I go to pay out, the boy or girl will look up at me from the till and say, with a look of absolute horror, “Oh, my God, it’s Mrs. Tingle!” But I’m not nearly as nasty as that. By the way, Kevin Williamson, who directed that, is absolutely adorable.

Kyra Sedgwick once told me that she owes her gay fan base in part to kissing you in the 1996 Showtime movie Losing Chase. What do you recall about those kisses?
Well, just look at Kyra’s mouth — I mean, my God! I wasn’t very well known in America at that point, so that film was actually an amazing start for me here.

Tags: film