The M Interview: Mirren goes to war
Helen Mirren plays tough military officer in latest flick
The best thing about playing someone in the military is that "it takes you about five minutes to get ready in the morning".
That is according to Dame Helen Mirren, weighing in on her latest role as a colonel in Gavin Hood's war thriller, Eye In The Sky, which opened here.
IN THE HOT SEAT: Mirren exchanging her glamorous get-up for army garb in Eye In The Sky. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION
"You don't have to do hair or make-up, you put your camouflage on, and you're good to go. But one had to let go of a certain level of vanity. Camouflage is not the most flattering on me," the English actress tells M playfully at the Four Seasons hotel.
Mirren, who launched her career on the London stage, a career made all the more interesting by her uninhibited doffing of clothes, which led one critic to dub her the "Sex Queen of Stratford", is one of the rare mature actresses who always seems to be employed.
Now 70, she is just coming off awards season with yet another Golden Globe nomination for her supporting role in Trumbo.
In Eye In The Sky, she plays Katherine Powell, a British colonel in charge of a drone operation in Kenya. Tasked with combating a suicide bombing, she changes the order from "capture" to "kill", only to be faced with a predicament as a child wanders into the kill zone.
On the research involved in playing the character, there was a military adviser on set to help, and Mirren went to a military club in London to get a sense of the hierarchy of the system.
"The interesting thing about my character was that she would have gone into the military in an era when it was very difficult for women even to enter the military, let alone succeed in it. So that was sort of relevant that she had not only entered, but she had also succeeded and gone up through the ranks," she says.
On a sad note, we talk about the late English actor Alan Rickman, her friend and co-star in Eye In The Sky, which turned out to be his last live-action film. He died of pancreatic cancer in January at the age of 69.
FAREWELL: (Above) Mirran's friend and co-star Alan Rickman, who died of cancer in January. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION
They did not share any scenes together as he played a lieutenant-general supervising the mission from London, but they had worked together many times in the past.
Mirren, who has been married to US director-husband Taylor Hackford for almost 20 years, says: "Oh, my lovely Alan. Isn't he wonderful in this movie? It's classic Alan because he plays it so full of intelligence and character and yet so minimal. He was an absolute genius, and we've lost him far too early.
"He was a wonderful guy. A really extraordinary, committed and thoroughly decent person. I'm still in a state of shock about it."
Mirren has successfully maintained her own thriving career.
She says: "I'm very lucky... I've watched brilliant actresses as they reach their late 40s, find it difficult to work, really unfairly.
"I've watched not-so-great actors have a long and successful career because there are so many more roles (made) available to them. It's pure numbers really. Just feeling profound anger and pissed-off-ness at the unfairness of it."
Any roles still on her bucket list?
"The best roles are the ones that you just have no idea about. In this movie, it's not so much the role as the movie. That was why I signed up. Because I thought it was saying something important about war.
"Incidentally, it turned out to be a really interesting role, but one that I would never have imagined before I was offered it," she says.