Feature

Helen Mirren’s straight-arrow tendencies

Mirren sees her acting career as an attempt to conquer her prudishness.

Helen Mirren isn’t the libertine she’s cracked up to be, said Andrew Goldman in The New York Times. The legendary actress, 66, has always had a reputation as a risk taker and a free spirit, beginning with her days in the Royal Shakespeare Company in the swinging ’60s, when she earned the nickname “the Sex Queen of Stratford.” “I think that was created independently of what I was doing,” says Mirren. “It wasn’t something that I created or that came from my behavior. I was just a really hardworking, dedicated young Shakespearean actress.”

Director Trevor Dunn has famously said that she showed up to her Royal Shakespeare audition wearing a skimpy black outfit, an assertion she denies. “That was a product of his imagination. I didn’t own anything like that.” She was, briefly, a party girl, but stopped doing cocaine 20 years ago when she realized its production caused violent conflicts. “That’s the issue you forget when you’re having a lovely time at a party,” she says.

The bottom line is that her acting career has been an attempt to conquer her prudishness. “I see myself as a boring person,” says the actress. “I’m constantly searching to liberate myself from my own insecurities and my own uptightness. I think a lot of my work has been a weird attempt to liberate myself, but it’s not altogether successful.”

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