The actress on taking up a man’s role in her upcoming war thriller, Eye in the Sky, and what went into it.
Helen Mirren surprised host Stephen Colbert with a kiss on the lips in last week’s The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert. Last month, the English actress cracked a whip and how, while shooting for Vanity Fair’s Hollywood’s Fiercest Women. Clearly, the 70-year-old is game for everything, even a role written for a man. In the upcoming British thriller, Eye in the Sky, the Academy award-winner plays a military intelligence officer, Colonel Katherine Powell, who plans a secret mission to capture terrorists in Nairobi. Read on to find out why she applauds director Gavin Hood and how the cast and crew overcame financial restraints.
Recently we lost a great actor, your co-star in the movie, Alan Rickman. What was it like working with him?
Unfortunately, in this film, Alan and I shot our pieces separately. But I have worked with him on stage. I think he would’ve been proud that this was his last movie. Though we see his intelligence, wit and authority in all the other characters he has played as well, the Alan we see here is closer to the real Alan.
How did this project come together?
When I received the script, I didn’t know it was originally written for a man. I applaud Gavin (Hood) for thinking of casting a woman. I think it makes it universal. It is a great film about the terrible moral decisions of any war. There were a couple of other projects around at the same time, but I said to my agent, “If there are any conflicts, I’m telling you, this is the movie I want to do.”
Can you talk about the research you did for the film?
We had a British military man who was on set all the time. I had long conversations with him about Colonel Powell. So what kind of a girl decides to do that, what abilities have brought her to this position of authority? He gave me guiding points about what he felt the sort of woman she (Powell) would be. Also, he was helpful when it came to things like the way you wear your uniform and behaviour.
What about the still moments in the movie? They are incredibly powerful and intense.
The film happens in real time, over the two-hour period. Certain scenes, for instance with the politicians and drone pilots, had to be shot separately for financial reasons. It was extraordinarily complex. Basically, very roughly, we shot the whole movie, as far as my character was concerned, in one direction. Then, we turned around and shot the whole movie, from beginning to end, in another direction. It was the most economical way of doing it.
In doing this film, what surprised you about drones and fighting?
I had no idea how far technology has gone, and how far it will go. It made me consider the reality of it and the way in which warfare has changed. I do remember my parents, who went through the Blitz in London, said the most terrifying thing about being bombed was the Germans’ new invention back then, the Doodlebug. It made a sound similar to that of a drone. Mother said the terror was when the sound stopped, because it was then that it dropped bombs.
What are you working on next?
I’m about to start working on Collateral Beauty, with Will Smith. We’ll be shooting in New York.
Eye in the Sky releases today.
— Team Indulge