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Red 2 - Dame Helen Mirren interview

Red 2

Interview by Rob Carnevale

DAME Helen Mirren talks about her pleasure at returning to the world of Red 2 and why she feels the sequel is faster and more furious than the original.

She also talks about playing a tongue in cheek version of the Queen, what she’d like to bid outrageously for on an auction site and which of her characters she’d like to revisit again if given the chance. She was speaking at a UK press conference…

Q. Is it de rigueur to have a regal moment in every movie? And was it ad libbed?
Dame Helen Mirren: I so tried to wriggle out of that particular mantle. I can’t remember how that came about actually, I think the writers had thought it was very funny of course, that I would pretend to be the Queen. I think that I suggested that it should be Elizabeth I, who I have played, I thought that would be a funnier take than playing the present Queen. One forgets how these things come about. But certainly the writers had thought it would be a hysterical scene to play a Queen.

Q. In the movie, a vintage bottle of wine proves a distraction for one villain, who will stop at nothing to bid for it. Is there anything you’d be extravagant for on an auction site?
Dame Helen Mirren: It’s about desire, what’s the thing that you love the most. What would hook you in, I think that’s a great question, and I’m going to have to think about it for a minute or two. It might be a pair of shoes, not a bottle of wine. I think I’m inspired by Mary Louise’s answer, and I think actually a handwritten parchment from Elizabeth I. That would really be great… to own a piece of history like that.

Q. Perhaps a document ordering the death of Mary Queen of Scots?
Dame Helen Mirren: No, I think that was very tough for Elizabeth I. Maybe one of her letters to the ambassadors, rejecting the hand of the King of Spain, or something like that would be great.

Q. It’s quite difficult for more mature women to get roles, so how do you manage it and how would you advise others?
Dame Helen Mirren: I don’t manage it, I’m just very lucky, and from time to time people ask me to do things. I was so absolutely excited, just over the moon, the first time I got offered the role in Red. Actually, that’s a bit of a lie, I was a little bit: “Ooh…are people going to think I’ve sold out?” And then, of course, I realised how utterly stupid that was, and how it was an incredible opportunity to do something I’d never done before. And then once I’d decided [to do] that one I was very excited about this one, and loved every minute of it. I couldn’t wait to come back for the second. That was just luck that they asked me to do it, honestly… it’s so much to do with luck. It’s not like my choice. As far as Red was concerned I realised it was the perfect opportunity for me to mix it up. I was just coming off doing The Queen and it was brilliant just jumping in the opposite direction. So, honestly, just pure luck that I was asked to do it.

Q. What appealed to you most about coming back for Red 2? And did you enjoy being given the chance to revisit your character?
Dame Helen Mirren: You know, this movie has expanded from the first. They go to incredible locations, that they didn’t write me into, like Paris. The film is bigger in a sense. And I think you always learn. That’s the great advantage of coming to a second one, you can learn from the first, and what was so wonderful about the first was these wonderful, fully realised, quirk characters, the comedy and the romance and the action. That’s a very difficult balance, to make a film that has genuine romance in it, that has great comedy and that has a lot of action in it. Those were the balls that we tried to keep in the air in this movie, but at the same time playing it with great seriousness, if you like. It’s not played tongue in cheek, all of these characters are very serious about who they are and what they do, and I think that’s a very important element. It think it’s just faster and funnier and a little bit more furious than the first one, probably.

Q. What’s the most appealing thing about being a part of a franchise?
Dame Helen Mirren: I’ll start with that because it’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like that. It’s fantastic, it’s a wonderful opportunity to come back to a character. There’s always more to discover, you can push a character further. And it’s rare. I know Bruce has obviously done a lot of that, but in general in an actor’s work on film you very, very rarely get to play a character twice. So, it’s fantastic to re-visit it. I would love to do it again.

Q. What other of your characters would you like to revisit?
Dame Helen Mirren: Oh gosh, what a tough question. In a way almost all of them I’d like to revisit. The great thing – and Mary Louise had that experience on Weeds, and mine was on Prime Suspect – it’s great to play a character that can develop with time, in real time in a way. As you get older the character themself gets older, and as the world around you changes the character changes. You can only really do that on television I guess. But there was a character I played many years ago in a film called Cal, a very old movie. It would be kind of fun to revisit that character now, a woman of Italian extraction living in Northern Ireland.

Read our review of Red 2

Read our interview with Bruce Willis