Helen Mirren The Queen
6. Looking at painting of Elizabeth II and footage from her childhood helped her inhabit the role of “The Queen."
“Compared to the first Elizabeth, who really controlled her image, Elizabeth II has been extremely liberal. She allows many portraits, and she allows the portraitists to do anything they want -- for example she was recently painted I think with her eyes closed -- and it’s like your portrait of the Queen, it’s not a perfect replica, it’s your impression. The minute I thought of my work as a portrait -- my personal portrait, there’s a lot of me in it, like there’s a lot of the painter in a portrait -- it freed me from the terror.”

Here Hackford chimes in with the complementary story of Mirren’s research approach to the role, saying that despite the wealth of more recent material available to her, she kept watching the footage of the Queen as a young girl, and ignoring the videos where she was at the age Mirren would be playing her. “I said ‘We’re running out of time and you’re not going to have a chance to look at the meat of this role.' And she said ‘Once she puts the crown on her head she becomes THE QUEEN. If I want to know who she was, I look at her as a little girl.’”

Helen Mirren Hitchcock small
7. She had myriad reasons for taking the role of Alma in the upcoming “Hitchcock.”
“It was a fabulous script. And I got to work with Anthony Hopkins. And to do a film in Los Angeles, it was shot in Los Angeles which is very rare nowadays, so I could be at home with my husband. And speaking of women in film, Alma [Reville, Hitchcock’s wife and the character Mirren plays] was one of the great unsung heroines of film. She was extremely productive in making Hitchock’s masterworks and he himself gave her all the credit in the world for her contribution. So it was a great chance to bring Alma out of the shadows.”

“Hitchock” is slated for a 2013 release, so she may be beaten to the Alma Reville punch by the formidable Imelda Staunton, who portrays her in the similarly themed HBO/BBC production “The Girl,” due to air this year. But we’d lay money that Mirren will not be outshone, in a bet that pretty much no one will take.