Dame Helen Mirren almost turned down another chance to portray Queen Elizabeth II because she was afraid she’d upset the British monarch.
Mirren won an Oscar for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II in the 2006 film The Queen, and has elected to reprise the role for a London theater production called The Audience. However, Mirren came very close to turning down the job completely.
“I knew it was gonna be something I was going to be incredibly attracted by the thought of doing but absolutely didn’t want to do (sic),” Mirren told the BBC. “Because you don’t want to repeat things anyway. I didn’t want to become the actress who plays the queen, if you know what I mean. I don’t think that’s very nice for me, and it’s not very nice for the queen.”
After meeting the crew and doing a read-through, Mirren changed her mind and accepted the part.
“I said I would do a reading of the play, and I went to the reading and there was this lineup of the most effective, successful, nice people working in the British theatre today, so I thought ‘You’re an idiot if you turn away from this. Look, there’s a chance to work with this team, you should be so lucky,’ ” Mirren recalled. “So even before I’d said a word of the read-through I thought, you know what you’re an idiot, do it. And here we are.”
Mirren’s performance in The Queen was almost universally praised, and seemed to leave a pretty good impression on the royal court, as well. Mirren praised Queen Elizabeth II during her Oscars acceptance speech, and was even invited to dinner at Buckingham Palace in 2007, but was forced to decline due to work obligations.
So how does a critically acclaimed actress turn out such a bold performance? “There is a physicality about the Queen that is very distinctive. I watched a lot of film – thank God for YouTube,” The Telegraph reports Mirren as having said.
The Audience officially opens at London’s Gielgud Theatre on Tuesday night. Here’s a clip of Helen Mirren playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen.