Triple crowned actor Helen Mirren has earned an Academy Award, a Tony and an Olivier. And, she dazzles the media as a stunning fashion icon at the glitziest red carpet events. But… she shines as an even brighter star in person.
Shortly after Dame Mirren graced the stage as a presenter at this year’s Hollywood Awards, the 2007 Oscar winner (best actress) shed her ethereal pink Schiaparelli gown for more comfortable airplane garb and then jetted off to New York for another presentation– to a smaller audience in a synagogue auditorium.
The Great Dame made her entrance at an educational forum hosted by Israeli Ambassador Ido Aharoni in a chic ensemble befitting a self-confident top executive with the guts to show plenty of leg and equal brainpower. She moved seamlessly into a cerebral discussion about her life, her work, and her high respect for professional excellence–no matter the endeavor.
The sailors in the musical South Pacific, who said there is nothing like a dame, might have in mind women like Helen Mirren and many of the unique characters she has played! Beyond her award-winning portrayals of Queen Elizabeth 2 in The Queen and The Audience, Dame Mirren’s entire body of work is quite remarkable.
She is beyond funny and active as Victoria Winslow in Red, doggedly determined as a Jewish refugee, Maria Altmann, who fought the Austrian government to retrieve a Gustav Klmpt painting of her aunt, in a Woman in Gold, and keenly resourceful as a criminal lawyer (Linda Kenney Baden) in the Phil Specter Story. Helen Mirren succeeds in being her best self, through full immersion into the mindset of the character she plays.
As the Dame acknowledges on stage, to a predominantly Jewish audience, the upcoming made for television mini-series, Catherine the Great will provide complicated challenges, requiring her to assume the role of a “woman who rewrote the rules of governance by a woman and succeeded to the extent of having the word “Great” attached to her name.”
Dame Mirren mentions, not as an afterthought, that Catherine the Great “was not very nice to the Jews,” but decides not to elaborate on her apparent real-life disdain for this Russian leader who was responsible for the creation of the “Pale of Settlement” that fostered anti-Semitism.
Tonight Dame Mirren draws an audience that revels as much in her unabashed candor as her panache. She brings us to our feet for a standing ovation after declaring bountiful love for Israel, while holding tightly her commitment to atheism. She embraces her beauty but is not owned by it. After all, she is known to be happiest on a beach–in the nude –with others of like mind. And, while she is full of talent, she is not full of herself. She is by all appearances thoroughly comfortable in her own skin.
A dominant presence in the branding of beauty products by L’Oreal, for years, Dame Mirren’s star power emanates from deep within. She tells us she breathes from the diaphragm and has perfected her posture. She walks with her spine is straight as an arrow. Her confidence is on autopilot. And, she pivots, seamlessly, from a starlet making small talk on a grand stage to a humble public speaker on a bare stage with a powerful voice in support of her craft and her belief systems.
Helen Mirren is known as a champ at carefully assessing her options on film roles, and for a personal temperament that allows for going with the flow. She causes giggles at home with do-it-herself haircuts and hair color, generally, but she prefers to take on these tasks out of the spotlight, most of the time. But make no mistake, Dame Mirren still makes the most of the power and perks that suit her fancy and or optimize safety in her highly elevated position. A fine looking bodyguard never strays far from her side.
Dame Mirren disarms with honesty. She also provokes much curiosity about what makes her tick. She is a striking presence. She radiates empathy, maturity, and passion rolled into one mesmerizing image. As the famous organizer and 2019 Oscar attendee, Marie Kondo might say, Dame Mirren’s talent “sparks joy.”The Interview with the Great Dame hit all of the high notes about her career.
Can you blame me for wanting to meet her–one-on-one? In passing, I whispered to my longtime acquaintance, the Good Israeli Ambassador, that I would like to chat with the Great Dame at the reception we were all scheduled to attend later in the evening. He demurred, ever so politely, as only an exprienced ambassador could. So, I quickly gave up any hope of a private tete a tete. I would settle for a handshake–I suggested.
And then it seemed that serendipity intervened. The gracious Dame began walking in my direction. She strolled over to the chair where I was parked–with my ankle encased in an icepack–propped up on another chair. Suddenly, people emerged out of the woodwork. They were clearly frustrated that they had missed Dame Mirren while she was holding court at a nearby table. She had been stationed midway between the chocolate-covered strawberries on one side and the miniature lemon meringue tarts on the other.
The Great Dame approached me, directly. She caught my eye and smiled broadly as if she was honored to make my acquaintance. It was at this moment that Helen Mirren leaned in and insisted she needed a short rest from the crowd. She suggested that I allow her to tend to the ice pack and offered to take a video and photographs of our spontaneous duet. Instead, I insisted on rising from my perch to shake her hand. I then leaned against the wall and paid rapt attention.
We engaged in one of the fastest-paced 10- minute chats I’ve ever had. It covered the world of government, business, the arts, healthcare, the Holocaust, her upcoming projects and our respective medical nuisances. And we laughed. I thanked her for her compassion and she clapped with approval as I walked, on my own, back to the chair and the tepid ice pack.
Ambassador Aharoni came over to say, “Good night,” and thanked me for helping him to give the Great Dame Helen Mirren a short respite before making her way back to another world of fans. So much for my reliance on serendipity!