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Helen Mirren talks 'Hitchcock' and 'The Door'

Speaking in Karlovy Vary, the Oscar winning actress talks about her roles in Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock and Istvan Szabo’s The Door.

Helen Mirren says there were several key reasons she took on the role of Alma Reville in Sacha Gervasi’s forthcoming Hitchcock, which explores the relationship between the filmmaker and his wife and partner during the making of Psycho.

One big reason was the chance to work with Anthony Hopkins (who plays the iconic filmmaker). “We come from similar backgrounds in British theatre and then coming to America and working in film. We’ve followed such a similar trajectory but we’ve actually never worked together again. So it was a great opportunity to work with him,” Mirren said. She also praised the “fabulous script” and said that playing Alma was a meaty role.  “It was a really great role. Alma was one of the great unsung heroines of film. She was extremely proactive in the making of Hitchcock’s masterworks and he himself paid her all the credit in the world. It was great to bring Alma out of the shadows.”

Mirren was speaking at the 47th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, where she accepted the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema, and she will also presenton Sunday The Door, directed by Hungary’s Istvan Szabo. In that film she plays an elderly housekeeper, Emerenc, who works for a younger woman.

Mirren said: “Honestly it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I felt the responsibiltity that it was a Hungarian story, a central eureopan story, havig to do with the history and the second world warm and communision. I felt an enormous weight of responsibility playing that role.

She continued: “Istvan said to me that she was another kind of Queen, and I know what he means.”

She also spoke of the challenge of playing a living monarch, in her Oscar winning role in Stephen Frears’ The Queen in 2006.

“With my country, anything to do with the royal family, you youl’ll have huge attention on you and there will also be huge criticism and huge describtion. With The Queen, I think that relaxed something and it’s now easier [for other projects.]” She said the fact that the Queen has allowed herself to be painted and photographed in many different, diverse portraits freed her to perform. “You’re an artist doing a portrait, it’s not a perfect replica of the queen.”

Mirren, known for her warm, down-to-earth demeanor, rushed in a few minutes late to her press conference, complaining about jetlag and a broken hair dryer in her hotel room, then proceeded to make herself a cup of tea.

She also picked up on the themes of empowering women filmmakers that she had touched on the night before when accepting the Crystal Globe (see opening story here).

“I’d love to see more women writers and directors. I always say to writers, don’t worry about writing a woman’s role, write it as a man and then give it a woman’s name,  that works just as well,” she said, eliciting some laughs.

Mirren added: “I never complain about roles for women in drama, I complain about roles for women in life. Today in 2012 is a very different picture than it was 10 years ago and I hope in another 10 years the picture will change again.”

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