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Dame Helen Mirren triumphs in Venice

Dame Helen Mirren as The Queen

Feature by Lizzie Guilfoyle

BRITISH actress Dame Helen Mirren was named Best Actress at the 2006 Venice Film Festival for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears’ film, The Queen.

The film portrays the Royal Family’s struggle to come to terms with the public reaction to the death of Princess Diana in 1997 and includes demands for a show of mourning from the monarchy.

Accepting her award, the 61 year old actress said: “It’s always terrifying seeing your movie take its first steps, but it’s an incredible honour for our film to take them at the Venice festival.”

And she insisted that she was “just a bit of the DNA of the film” and described Frears and scriptwriter Peter Morgan as the film’s “father and mother”.

The film also won Best Screenplay for Morgan who based his script on a range of sources, including friends of the Royal Family and former Downing Street staff.

The Queen also features James Cromwell as Prince Philip and Michael Sheen as Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Just two weeks ago, Mirren, who has also been tipped for an Oscar nomination for her performance, won an Emmy for her portrayal of the first Queen Elizabeth.

Although The Queen was among the favourites to take the coveted Golden Lion for Best Film, it lost out to Jia Zhang-Ke’s Still Life, a surprise contender about Chinese villagers who return to homes that are being submerged by the construction of The Three Gorges Dam.

In all, a total of 22 films competed for the award which last year, went to Brokeback Mountain and two years ago, to Mike Leigh’s acclaimed Vera Drake. This year, The Queen was the only British entry.

The Best Actor Award went to Ben Affleck for his portrayal of the late George Reeves – 1950 TV’s Superman – in Hollywoodland.

While Frenchman Alain Resnais took the Best Director award for Private Fears in Public Places; with Chad’s first entry in the competition, Daratt, winning the special jury prize.