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Helen Mirren: Unlikely superstar and forever glamour

Helen Mirren: Unlikely superstar, forever glamour

British born of Russian descent, Helen Lydia Mironoff (better known as Dame Helen Mirren) is a Hollywood walk of fame sovereign holding the class of Meryl Streep or Sally Field, a master of all genres.

Making an impression in BBC material and later in ongoing series Prime Suspect, it was only a matter of time before this risk-taking actor made the silver screen her own. Four time Academy Award nominee, best actress winner for her immaculate portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in The Queen (2006), she is currently headlining a new film sure to raise more than a few eyebrows.

Military drama Eye in the Sky has Mirren playing out of character as a Command Officer watching over an operation in Kenya to capture terrorists that leads to a pinnacle of possibly sacrificing one innocent life to save hundreds. Originally written for a male in the role of a no-nonsense Colonel, she makes it her own demonstrating the authority in acting ability and divine screen presence. In what is one of the final roles for the late Alan Rickman, Eye in the Sky touches on serious subjects stirring emotions within our current world climate.

No stranger to controversial characters garnering around her whole career, it is no surprise at 71 years of age she is still voted one of the world’s sexiest women. Uninhibited nudity was obviously never a problem, an early role touched on it in the appropriately titled Age of Consent (1969) made in Australia but the most extreme was yet to come. Four years in the making Caligula (1979) was historical erotica that crossed over into mainstream cinema largely due to the all-star cast including Shakespearean thespians Peter O’Toole and John Gielgud. Publicly banned in multiple countries or heavily cut when released, it remains a notorious film where a young Mirren shines.

High profile follow ups Excalibur, 2001 A Space Odyssey sequel, 2010 (using her Russian ancestry to advantage as a cosmonaut) and The Mosquito Coast opposite Harrison Ford and River Phoenix, were solid displaying her talent among esteemed co-stars.

Meeting her future husband Taylor Hackford while he directed her in ballet drama White Nights (1985), they are still married to this day often seen sitting lovingly together at award ceremonies. It was the role of tormented wife Georgina in the contentious 1989 cult, The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover, an underground hit covering forbidden romance of adultery, murder, literature and food just to name a few of the bizarre story arcs. Full frontal nudity is at a premium tastefully displayed around the mayhem within a restaurant like no other.

Doing movies for reasons other than creative ones were not beyond Helen Mirren such as being quoted as saying she did the reasonably received dark comedy Teaching Mrs Tingle (1999) because of the ridiculous amount of money offered. On the other end of the spectrum, ultra low-budget beauty and the beast tale No Such Thing (2001) took a small appearance into an unforgettable one. Nudity of a different kind for a cause in true story Calendar Girls (2003), the global hit of a bunch of women of a certain age posing in the flesh for charity.

Over her entire career, period films have always been a highlight including an Oscar nomination for Madness of King George (1995) although Where Angels Fear to Tread (1991) then later within the huge European ensemble of Gosford Park (2001) are almost perfect films that Helen acts as a kind of effortless acting muse to those around her.

An unlikely friendship bond presented itself between Russell Brand and his co-star on set of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (2010) that continued on when the Dame accepted the invitation to play his butler in the remake of Arthur (2011). Although a flop, it certainly displayed rare rapport between these two opposites.

Obviously Helen Mirren in The Queen was an historic role she was born to play while more recently, her film selection continues to be diverse, putting a sparkling stamp on real life people of history in Hitchcock (2012), Phil Spector (2013), Trumbo and Woman in Gold (both 2015).

As wonderful as Mirren is in everything, one of her most triumphant unheralded roles to date comes in the form of an icy French chef proprietress in the modern culinary classic Hundred Foot Journey (2014). The redefined uplifting feel-good material has everything for all ages that demands to be seen, avoid only on an empty stomach.

Eye in The Sky takes audiences into a new Mirren realm. Sure she has completed pure popcorn gun-toting action previously in the duo of forgettable RED films. However here as the ambitious officer in charge of a capture mission turning into a kill order is a riveting simmering drama. Her facial expressions alone build tension in this sharply observed war-as-bureaucracy thriller.

EYE IN THE SKY: Rated M 102 min. Now Showing Tower Cinemas.

Shane A. Bassett

Sydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.