BAFTAs: Helen Mirren on tribute to the Queen
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Helen Mirren was being honoured for her incredible portrayal of the late Queen Elizabeth II in the 2006 biographical drama The Queen – and, eager to praise the actress, Alison Hammond asserted that the late monarch had thought she was “amazing”. Little did she know that the Queen had never actually commented on it, leaving a flustered Helen to laugh off the blunder with a cry of: “We never knew.”
During the ceremony, in which she tearfully paid tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II’s 50-year-long association with the film academy, she caught up with Alison to discuss what playing the royal figure on screen had been like.
Dame Helen had been discussing the “challenge” of portraying the monarch, who died last year, before it had become commonplace to do so, admitting: “We were stepping into the unknown.”
She added that she had been close to tears while honouring the Queen in front of her grandson Prince William, who was in the audience with his wife Kate at the BAFTAs, confessing: “I was trying not to cry.”
The 77-year-old acting legend added of the movie: “I think [there was] the feeling of not wanting to let her down.”
Alison jumped in to reassure her, exclaiming: “Well, she loved you, didn’t she? She thought you were amazing, didn’t she?”
An embarrassed looking Helen laughed, before breaking it to her: “Well, no, we never knew, we never knew.”
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Helen won both a BAFTA and an Oscar for the film, in which she was a dead ringer for the late matriarch, but never received formal recognition from the late monarch over her portrayal.
In fact, Dame Helen wrote a letter to the Queen to speak of her enormous “respect” for her, in the hope of getting her blessing, but she never received a personal reply.
“She didn’t write back, of course, but her secretary did. You know, ‘Yours sincerely, da di da di da,’ on behalf of the Queen,” she told the Radio Times afterwards.
Helen admitted that at the time, she had been experiencing “self-doubt” and uncertainty about her career, and may have been looking for validation through penning the passionate letter.
“I realised we were investigating a profoundly painful part of her life,” she added, in a further explanation of why she’d written to Queen Elizabeth II.
She’d apologetically told her: “We are investigating a very difficult time in your life. I hope it’s not too awful for you.”
Helen was later invited to have dinner with Her Majesty following the film’s release, but couldn’t attend due to further filming commitments in the USA.
Due to the pair missing each other, she remains genuinely unsure about how the monarch may have reacted to her portrayal.
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However, she was gushing in her praise towards the Queen during tonight’s BAFTAs speech on the topic.
“Bafta’s relationship with Her Majesty was longstanding and Bafta would not be what it is today without her loyal support,” she enthused.
“In 1953, her coronation broadcast had the world watching.”
She continued: “From that time, she was unquestionably the nation’s leading lady but as mysterious as a silent film star.
“Who else could meet the world’s most famous singers, actors and performers and turn them into her supporting cast?
“Throughout her 70-year reign, she met cinema’s greatest icons and witnessed the evolution of Hollywood’s golden age to the birth of the blockbuster.”
Praising her five decades of support for the ceremony, during which she was awarded with an honorary BAFTA herself by Sir Kenneth Branagh back in 2013, she added: “Her Majesty was front row for it all.
“Cinema at its best, does what Her Majesty did effortlessly – bring us together and unite us in a story. Your Majesty, you are our nation’s leading star.”
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