What a gem: Helen Mirren with a diamond and platinum pendant during our interview
Helen Mirren sipped on a flute of Krug champagne as she spoke about love, lust and the aphrodisiac properties of power.
"Power is very attractive," she cut, playing with the Belle Epoque diamonds and platinum pendant around her neck.
We had met to discuss her lively portrait of Catherine the Great in the lush, four-part drama of Sky Atlantic about the Russian empress who enjoyed her military and romantic conquests. (The first episode will be broadcast on Thursday, October 3.)
Director Philip Martin and writer Nigel Williams have shaped the piece as a love story, in which Catherine's affair with Grigory Potemkin, played by Jason Clarke, is charted.
"She was sexy and had a healthy appetite," Mirren said admiringly about her character. She paused and took another sip of Krug. "In my opinion, because I am a child of my own culture, there is always that feeling of" Oh, I'm not entirely sure that that's really the way to behave "- except of course in my own life. that it was my right to have affairs, to fall in love with people and to live with them, I look a bit like Catherine.
Helen Mirren plays as Catherine the Great in Sky Atlantic & # 39; s lush, four-part drama about the Russian empress who enjoyed her conquests, military and romantic
"She was sexy and had a healthy appetite," Mirren said admiringly about her character
"I have probably had three or four serious lovers. I was serially monogamous until I met my husband. And now I'm just monogamous, "said the star, whose lovers were Liam Neeson, before she married the" love of my life "director Taylor Hackford 22 years ago.
"Catherine glanced at a man and said," Maybe I have him. "
& # 39; If Catherine were a man – say Henry VIII – you would definitely not call it. But because it's a woman, she exposes all those prejudices and male hypocrisy. "
There is a scene at the end of the first episode in which the monarch has a chance conquest in her bed. "She used that one and threw it out when she was done," she says. & # 39; As soon as she felt that a relationship was coming to an end, she would give them a palace and send them away. They would be made for the rest of their lives. & # 39;
Mirren said she was always sad when her own business ended. "It's painful, but you get over it and you keep going."
Catharina the Great was baptized Princess Sophie. Her mother Johanna, however, ensured that Sophie came to the attention of Empress Elizabeth of Russia
The actress and I were in the large antique jeweler's showroom, Sandra Cronan, in Mayfair. (They lent her the beautiful diamond pendant.) Previously, a small group of us enjoyed Russian high tea: blinis and caviar, vodka marinated salmon fire wheels, chicken and ballotine with salted ham with black truffle aioli. I skipped the Krug and opted for Fortnum & Mason Russian tea instead.
Then the other guests left and Mirren and I were left alone.
Catherine was not born to rule Russia, she said. She wasn't even born Catherine. The daughter of a small German prince, she was baptized Princess Sophie.
But her mother Johanna made Sophie come to the attention of Empress Elizabeth of Russia, who in turn chose her as the wife of her sickly cousin – and heir – the future Emperor Peter III.
& # 39; Her mother was terrible, & # 39; said Mirren. "A true social climber. She was a classical stage mother; she wanted the reflected glory.
The palace in St. Petersburg was closed to the public. I just walked through the interior and just stood there. I had this somewhat non-physical experience and felt for a moment what it must have been like for her & # 39;
"Sophie didn't know any Russian," she went on. & # 39; But she embraced everything: the culture, the church, the costumes. Everything. She knew she had the ability to do it. "That is something Mirren understands. She was born Ilyena Lydia Mironoff. Her grandfather was a noble Russian and diplomat who was stranded in England when the Russian Revolution started and moved to Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. Before his death in 1955, he would tell young Helen stories about their Russian origins. The Mironoffs became the Mirrens.
Returning to Russia, to some of the palaces where Catherine the Great lived, to film the drama, was an "extraordinary" experience. "In Catharina's palace, being dressed in large costumes, the jewelry is fake! – was extraordinary. The palace in St. Petersburg was closed to the public. I just walked through the interior and just stood there. I had this somewhat extra-physical experience and felt for a moment what it must have been like for her. & # 39;
The 74-year-old actress is no stranger to playing powerful women. She won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her display of Elizabeth I on television; and then won the Oscar, Bafta and Golden Globe for The Queen, in which she played Elizabeth Windsor. She played the same role in Peter Morgan & # 39; s play The Audience – and got a sling with an Olivier in the West End and a Tony on Broadway.
Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke in a scene from the new Catherine the Great series on Sky Atlantic
Mirren believes that all three sovereigns have entered their roles with a full understanding of what was involved. "It was not about posing in large dresses with crowns on them and everyone who looked at it. I think they all knew that behind all that splendor was an incredibly difficult task that needed very specific capabilities.
"Catherine glanced at a man and said," Maybe I have him "
"And I suspect they all had one thing in common, although of course different women come from different moments in history." She said one of the keys to portraying these characters was: "play the person." I never play royal. The regality is made by the people around you.
& # 39; If the queen were to walk through that door, we would all immediately look at her and do what we do to make her the queen. We do that. & # 39;
I asked if she had other royal roles in mind. & # 39; No, & # 39; she said firmly. & # 39; Worker women from now on! & # 39;
She is an admirer of the giant Netflix hit The Crown, also written by Peter Morgan, who played Claire Foy in the first two seasons, and now Olivia Colman has taken over the part of Elizabeth II in seasons three and four. The third episode, of ten episodes, starts in November.
Jason Clarke poses with Helen Mirren for the premiere of Catherine The Great in the Curzon, Mayfair
Netflix is looking for a new actress to play Elizabeth Windsor (as Mirren likes to refer to her) in seasons five and six.
& # 39; Not me! & # 39; She blurted.
"Claire has done absolutely well; and I know that Olivia will do the same. I am an actress and there are other roles. & # 39;
I protested that the public worshiped her as the queen. "I don't think they loved me. They loved her. We all love her. & # 39;
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