The magnificent Helen Mirren — an Oscar presenter this Sunday– tells me she’s thrilled that American producers have chosen Maria Bello to play Jane Tennison in the new version of “Prime Suspect” headed for NBC as a new series. Helen and her famed director husband Taylor Hackford were first among the guests last night at a Vanity Fair party for “The Fighter”–an event that included Oscar nominee Amy Adams as well as Gerard Butler, Nia Vardalos, Ryan Kwanten of “True Blood,” hot as a pistol Welsh actor Luke Evans, plus director Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland,” “Monster’s Ball”), “Rabbit Hole” co-producer Celine Rattray. But no sign of the rest of “The Fighter” crowd–they are all dispersed to many locales working on movies until Saturday when they fly in for the Oscars.
But back to Helen, Oscar winner for “The Queen,” who at one point was seen carrying a tray of nibbles she’d rounded up at the District club. She brought the tray to Hackford, careful not to drop them as she maneuvered her way through the crowd. So what about Maria? “I think she’s great,” said Mirren. “The right choice. Now they have to be careful to get the right cinematographer, to get the proper mood and look. And of course a wonderful screenwriter. The original Prime Suspects were four hour miniseries,” Mirren observed. “I’m not sure how they’ll capture that in an hour for a series.”
And what of Taylor Hackford? More on this later, but I can tell you he’s developing a miniseries about Ahmet Ertegun and the history of Atlantic Records–a scripted drama, not a documentary. Hackford loves the history of pop music, having directed “Ray” and “Hail Hail Rock and Roll.” This is going to be just great–with actors playing all the Atlantic execs and stars like Aretha Franklin, Sam and Dave, Ruth Brown, Wilson Pickett, etc. And who will play Ray Charles? Hey, why not a cameo from Jamie Foxx, whom Hackford directed to an Oscar in “Ray”?
PS If you’re a Mirren fan, do rent “Red,” now out on DVD. It’s quite the rollercoaster ride, and Helen is a treat as a comic hit woman. Bravo!