Veteran Actress Helen Mirren Reveals Why She Came to America, Reflects on Aging Gracefully

The veteran actress Helen Mirren, who boasts nearly a hundred movie credits, is still acting well into her 70s, appearing in the upcoming Shazam! Fury of the Gods DC movie, as well as the Paramount+ historical fiction TV series, 1923. In a recent interview with AARP, she sat down to talk about how she came to live in Butte, Montana.

“I was in San Francisco with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and our next gig was in Detroit four days later. So a handful of us took the train. The train went through slowly. It didn’t whiz through. That gave me a view and a vision of America which I had never seen. The train would stop in the middle of a town with no train station or anything. I remember stopping in Cheyenne, getting off the train, going into a bar and having a drink with a couple of cowboys, then getting back on the train again.”

While the Rocky Mountains and sleepy cowboy towns are a far cry from the bustling city of London where she was born, it’s no surprise that the actress has a strong familiarity with the U.S. after decades of acting around the world. It wasn’t love at first sight, though. Mirren explains that it was visiting those small towns across the rural United States that changed how she saw the country:

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“I think that experience of going across America by train made me understand how powerful geography is upon American consciousness. When I first came to this country, I couldn’t see what held it together apart from shopping malls.”

Mirren formally gained her U.S. citizenship in 2017, and she also holds the official title of Dame, given to her by Queen Elizabeth II herself. The full title is “Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire”.

Helen Mirren Still Loves Photo Shoots

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When asked if she finds photo shoots “tiresome,” Mirren said she actually sees them as energizing. She’s dressed up as the Queen of England, the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, a military intelligence officer, a demigoddess, an early 1900’s rancher, and almost everything in between. She doesn’t just wear costumes, though. She’s tried her hand at tailoring as well.

“I make clothes myself, extremely badly, and then I hardly ever wear them because they’re so awful. But I like the process of making them… all my boyfriends had to have a shirt made by me.”

Those boyfriends include Liam Neeson, the late Peter O’Toole, and her current partner and husband, Taylor Hackford, who thinks of her as “an American type of dame.” She also reflected on what changes – and what doesn’t, as you age:

“Well, the thoughts that you have when you’re 16, you have exactly the same thoughts when you’re 76, which is very annoying… but in another way, we change totally. I mean, I am a completely different person compared to the person I was at 22 or 23. Even your skin changes. Your body changes. How you think changes.”

Mirren also says that she’s thankful for smartphones, saying she’s “awfully glad for the technology,” although they’re not always easy: “I have got to learn how to work with these damned phones, you know,” she said, not having checked her phone once throughout a nearly hour-long interview.

The academy-award-winning actress, whose career spans several decades of stage, film, and television, is still very active. Mirren portrays the villain Hespera in the upcoming DC film, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, coming to theaters on March 17th, 2023. She also has a leading role in the Yellowstone prequel, 1923, streaming on Paramount+ starting December 18th.