July 12th, 2015
04:10 PM ET

Academy Award-winning actress Dame Helen Mirren on her roles as Queen Elizabeth II: "I'm a queenist. I kind of love the queen."

The following transcript is of an interview with Academy Award-winning actress, Dame Helen Mirren. They discussed how she prepared for her roles as Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II, what Queen Elizabeth II represents and if she believes Queen Elizabeth II will ever abdicate.

MANDATORY CREDIT for reference and usage: “CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS”

VIDEO

Fareed sits down with Mirren, who has played Queen Elizabeth II three times, to learn about getting into character and about the future of the monarchy.

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

Mirren on preparing for her roles as Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II: “…there are two different - for example, playing Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II are two extremely different challenges.  Because Elizabeth II, she’s alive.  Everybody knows that she sounds like, talks like, and walks like.  And so it's incumbent upon me to at least fulfill that - the impersonation side of the role. ...when I came to Elizabeth II—it's actually extremely controlled, all of the images of the queen, including the video.  …so, in a way, looking at the videos didn't really help me much.  …then I thought, you know what, why not go back and look at the portraits, because she has been painted a lot.  …I thought, you know what, I'm just another portraitist, actually, here.  I'm just another portraitist.  My medium is not paint.  It's the spoken word.”

Mirren on what British Queen represents: “...as she says in the play—never underestimate the value of a symbol.  She is a symbol.  But it's a very potent symbol.  It's a symbol that carries the history of Britain with it.  And along with that a certain - a sense of continuity, obviously.  And in her particular case, I think an incredible sense of self-discipline, which I suspect they all had, actually.”

Mirren on if Queen Elizabeth II will ever abdicate and what Prince Charles may do in the meantime: “No.  Absolutely not! Of course not.  …Yes, he (Prince Charles) just has to wait. I'm sure, as she gets frailer, Prince Charles will more and more take over for her, in various official functions.  But she will never abdicate, no. No. It's not on the cards.”

FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FAREED ZAKARIA GPS, CNN HOST:  For the past four months, as many as eight times a week, the Queen of England has graced the boards of Old Broadway right here in New York City.  Not the actual Elizabeth II, of course, but as good an approximation as many people have seen.  A superb performance by Dame Helen Mirren.  Mirren has now embodied the current queen three times: in the film "The Queen," for which she won the Oscar, and now two runs of the play, The Audience, first in London, then the just-ended New York run.

I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Dame Helen recently to talk about the role and how she prepared for it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAKARIA:  Pleasure to have you on.

DAME HELEN MIRREN, ACTRESS:  Thank you.

ZAKARIA:  When you do a portrayal like that of the queen, or some of the other ones you've done, who are historical figures, it's always struck me that, for an actor, this is a different challenge because, if you are doing a character in Harry Potter, it's an imaginary thing, you can make your own version.

MIRREN:  Of course, yes.

ZAKARIA:  Here there is an actual historical truth, as it were.  There is somebody.  Are you trying to get to that truth?

MIRREN:  Well, of course.  Absolutely.  But there are two different - for example, playing Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II are two extremely different challenges.  Because Elizabeth II, she’s alive.  Everybody knows that she sounds like, talks like, walks like.  And so it's incumbent upon me to at least fulfill that - the impersonation side of the role.

It was fascinating playing Elizabeth I because, you know, her image was highly controlled.  You know, she - she would only be painted in a certain way.  She controlled her own image.  She was brilliant at sort of representing herself as a symbol and as a brand, if you like.

And then when I came to Elizabeth II, again, there - now there's a lot of very controlled, actually, sort of documentary, you know - it's actually extremely controlled, all of the images of the queen, including the video.  But - and so, in a way, looking at the videos didn't really help me much.  And then I thought, you know what, why not go back and look at the portraits, because she has been painted a lot.  And I thought, you know what, I'm just another portraitist, actually, here.  I'm just another portraitist.  My medium is not paint.  It's the spoken word.  But I - and that sort of liberated me, because I thought, you know what, you can just do your version of who you feel this - you're painting a portrait.

ZAKARIA:  But you did think, in her case, you had to get the impersonation right, by which you mean things like the accent.

MIRREN:  Oh, yes, of course.  Like the accent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIRREN:  You're ahead of me, prime minister.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA:  (INAUDIBLE) accent, how she goes.  Because in the movies, in the film reels, in the '50s, it's this very upper-class -

MIRREN:  It’s very, very cut-glass accent, absolutely. It's absolutely like that.  It's terribly, terribly sort of exact.  And it's almost impossible to sort of over-do it.  And now her accent is still what we would call in England, posh.  But it's - it's more relaxed.

ZAKARIA:  You talk a lot in the play - there is much talk about the monarchy.  This is - it's an odd role, difficult for Americans and many other people to understand, because she actually has very little power.

MIRREN:  Well, no power really.  At all.

ZAKARIA:  So what is the power?

MIRREN:  Well, as she says in the play - and I think she's sort of talking about herself through the words of Peter Morgan - never underestimate the value of a symbol.  She is a symbol.  But it's a very potent symbol.  It's a symbol that carries the history of Britain with it.  And along with that a certain - a sense of continuity, obviously.  And in her particular case, I think an incredible sense of self-discipline, which I suspect they all had, actually.

ZAKARIA:  So one of the great mysteries for everybody in Britain and really everybody in the world is the queen has this weekly meeting with the Prime Minister.  It is completely private. Even though every Prime Minister - virtually every Prime Minister of the 12 involved have written memoirs, they've never disclosed what happened in those meetings.  So what happens at these meetings?

(LAUGHTER)

MIRREN:  I suspect it's all quite banal, actually.  As in a way we show in the play.  Harold Wilson says, is that it?  A nice cup of tea, a talk about holiday homes and a nice cup of tea.  And I suspect that's kind of it.

ZAKARIA:  Now, you've met her.  How different was she in person from the person you imagined?

MIRREN:  Oh, well, when I first met her, I - that was long before - well, a few years before I did the film, before I had any idea that I was going to have to play her at some time.  No.  She was - I mean, I come from a Republican family.  My parents were vehemently anti-monarchist.  So I was brought up in that -

ZAKARIA:  Are you republican?  Do you think -

MIRREN:  Yes, I think I am really.

ZAKARIA:  You don't think Britain should have a queen even though you've played the queen a three times?

MIRREN:  I'm a queenist.  I kind of love the queen. I wish we could have a queen without the rest of the royal family.  Although I'm not dissing the rest of the royal family because I think as individual people I think they're very decent.  I think they're very hard-working, and I think we got lucky, you know.  There are other wonderful, decent royal families in Europe.

ZAKARIA:  But you would dispense with the institution.

MIRREN:  I would probably dis - because I can't get my head around it.  It doesn't make sense to me that these individuals are looked at in that way.  And the rest of the world is not looked at in the - again, to quote the play, she says, we're not like everybody else.  That's the point of us!

(LAUGHTER)

ZAKARIA:  Knowing her as you do in a sense, do you think she'll ever abdicate?

MIRREN:  No.  Absolutely not! Of course not.

ZAKARIA:  Duty is so important.

MIRREN:  Yes.  Yes.

ZAKARIA:  The poor son Charles -

MIRREN:  Yes, he just has to wait. I'm sure, as she gets frailer, Prince Charles will more and more take over for her, in various official functions.  But she will never abdicate, no.  No.  It's not on the cards.

ZAKARIA:  Helen Mirren, just a pleasure to have you on.

MIRREN:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

END INTERVIEW 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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