Leading actress, The Last Station

The Last Station

The British actress gains her fourth Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Tolstoy’s wife Sofya in Michael Hoffman’s tale of the final months in the Russian novelist’s life. 

Mirren — who has Russian roots and whose great-great-great grandfather was mentioned in War And Peace — relished the opportunity to appear in the period piece. “What was extraordinary to me is that the pictures, certainly of Tolstoy and his wife and the pictures that we recreated on the screen were identical to the pictures of my family in Russia. You know, my Russian family came from a very, very similar economic status, background to Tolstoy and the Countess Sofya… When I walked onto the set in the costume I just suddenly felt I was in a photograph of my grandparents. That was an amazing feeling.”

To prepare, Mirren read about Sofya and read some of her diaries but says her inspiration was the screenplay and Jay Parini’s book, on which the film is based. “I read her diaries to a certain extent but in the end I was making the film that Michael wrote and Jay Parini who wrote the book wrote so that really was my inspiration rather than the real, real, real person. I felt I had to interpret their work as opposed to trying to recreate Sofya perfectly, and the character that was on the page was such a wonderful character.”

Mirren is full of praise for her co-star Christopher Plummer, who is also nominated in the supporting actor category. “I recognise him as one of the great living actors in film or theatre and there’s not many of those around… so it was quite intimidating for me to work with him,” she says. “But always with actors of that stature they’re incredibly generous and giving and warm and easy.”

Mike Goodridge