Nothing like a Dame

Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Getty Images

Dame Helen Mirren rarely divulges much about her personal life, but here she talks candidly to Suellen Dainty about her grand passion, why she's terrified all the time and never needs to diet, and reveals the truth behind that red bikini.

See Dame Helen Mirren throughout her career

Stars ageing gracefully — in pictures

Dame Helen Mirren is hungry. She's not just a tiny bit peckish. She is starving. "I'm absolutely ravenous," she says in that famous regal voice. "I have to eat something."

She missed lunch and it’s now late afternoon, but one advantage of portraying so many commanding monarchs throughout her career is that room service arrives immediately. In minutes, an omelette appears. Seconds later, she is tearing into it.

"It's so good," she says between mouthfuls. "Cheese and mushrooms, too...fantastic." The plate is soon clean and she apologises for the interruption. "Now, where are we?"

We are in a private room of a London hotel and Helen Mirren is leaning back on an oversized sofa talking about her latest project, her autobiography, In the Frame. It's a candid and self-deprecating story of her family told as much through pictures as words. "I'm not really that much of a writer. So when I decided to do the book, I wanted to include as many photographs as possible. I like photographs, don't you?"

In real life, Helen Mirren, 63, is smaller, younger looking and finer boned than her screen persona, where her life has been a succession of queens, regal consorts, or in the case of TV, the feisty police commander Jane Tennison in the Prime Suspect series.

She is prettier, too, with her fine silver hair chopped into a modern bob and that wonderfully mobile face creasing into a wide smile. The smile is a surprise, but then her roles don’t often call for a grin. She is friendly — also a surprise — and down to earth. In London, she always hops on a bus. "No one recognises me and it's much faster than a taxi."

She looks svelte in a black cardigan edged with beads, black jeans and brown suede high heels, which brings us to the subject of that photograph in a red bikini and the subsequent headlines. Six months later, she still finds the furore ridiculous.

"It was completely mad what happened. I certainly don't look like that," she says. "I was lucky. It was a very flattering angle."

To read the full story pick up a copy of the December issue of The Weekly

YOUR SAY: What is your favourite Helen Mirren performance? Tell us below.

See Dame Helen Mirren throughout her career

Stars ageing gracefully — in pictures

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