Helen Mirren: Queen Please
BY Brandon Voss
February 10 2010 9:00 AM ET
Has Chase in Losing Chase been your only lesbian role?
Yes, I think so. But I think the most interesting actors are the ones who bring a mixed sexuality to the table — the male actors who have a lot of femininity in them and the actresses who have a lot of masculinity. That’s the nature of acting, in a sense: to fall somewhere in between the sexes in general.
If you do play a lesbian again, whom would you pick to play your love interest?
I would just want a wonderful actress, gay or straight, but I certainly wouldn’t say no to Ellen DeGeneres. I’m such a huge fan of hers and I’ve loved her from a distance for such a long time, so it was quite a moment for me this year to do her show, stand on her set, and see her right there in front of me.
Out of the many actors you’ve worked with, which one have you found the most distractingly handsome?
Well, Liam Neeson in Excalibur was a big one. He was pretty distracting, but it worked out, luckily, because I subsequently dated him for four years. And if I were to work with Leonardo DiCaprio, I think I would find him quite distracting as well.
You passed on Mariah Carey’s role in Precious, but you did work with Lee Daniels in his directorial debut, Shadowboxer. Were you drawn to his “gay sensibility,” as he calls it?
Yes, totally. He’s wildly spirited, very open, and his emotions are very close to the surface, and maybe that comes from his gay sensibility. There’s a freedom about him through his gayness, his race, and everything else. You know, I said in my acceptance speech for the Career Achievement Award at the Palm Springs Film Festival that in particular I wanted to thank the gay men and women I’ve worked with. In every single profession within my profession of filmmaking and theater — writing, directing, costumes, hair and makeup — gay people have meant so much to me and my career, and I’m extremely grateful. And when I think of the contribution gay people have made historically to our culture throughout the centuries, it’s incomprehensible to me that these people are still going through discrimination.
In her acceptance speech at the Palm Springs Film Festival, Mariah rambled on about meeting you that night. Have you ever had one too many before accepting an award?
Oh, yes, I have, and it’s a terrible mistake! [Laughs] But I thought she was so sweet and lovely — and blasted, yes, but why not? It was her night to celebrate. It wasn’t officially televised, so she should’ve been free to be whatever she wanted to be, but the trouble nowadays with YouTube is that everyone records everything. I thought she accepted her award with great charm.
Is there anyone you’re still dying to meet?
I love Lady Gaga because she’s such a great, edgy performance artist, but really I’d like to meet Michelle Obama.
When you look at today’s young actresses, are you glad you’re past all the late-night boozing and partying, or do you miss it?
I don’t miss it, but when I was enjoying my life in that way there were no iPhones or Flip Video cameras to record you, so one was much, much freer then. The constant attention that these kids get today must be horrible but also seductive, because it makes you feel more important than you really are.
You and Dame Judi Dench, with whom you’ve only appeared in 1968’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, both got Oscars for playing Queen Elizabeths. When you won for The Queen, you beat Dame Judi, who was nominated for Notes on a Scandal. Forgive my gay propensity for celebrity feuds, but is there any rivalry between you two?
No, I wouldn’t say so. Like her, I work in film, television, and theater — which is a very British attitude — but she came ahead of me, so I’ve always been following in her footsteps in many ways. Certainly, I’m an incredible admirer of hers, and I aspire to work the way she works. So no, Brandon, we don’t arm-wrestle.