expletives included Dame Helen Mirren shocked the Gotham Awards audience Monday night when she accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award. It was about her Oscar winning performance in “The Queen” as Queen Elizabeth II.
“I’ll have to you a story about ‘The Queen,’” Dame Helen told the audience. “When the film was first screened at Venice, I’d never seen it before nor had my husband, Taylor (Hackford), and the first shot is of me completely in all the regalia and the wig and everything, and I turned to look at the camera, and my husband lets out this huge laugh because he’s never seen me dressed as The Queen before. So I leaned over to him and I said, ‘Darling do you think you’ll ever fuck me again?’”
“Between you and me, “Yes,” Mirren murmured to the audience. “This isn’t on television is it? Are we safe?”
Mirren– in the Oscar race this year for “Woman in Gold” — paid tribute to writers, that her success had everything to do with the words of literary giants, who included Shakespeare, Strindberg, Christopher Hampton, Peter Greenaway, Harold Pinter, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Peter Morgan” and John McNamara, the screenwriter of her recent film, “Trumbo” about Dalton Trumbo.
“Everything you saw up there on that screen just now, everything I’ve done as an actor came from an idea, from a writer, facing a blank page. Writers have opened the door for me, the door from which I’ve had the great opportunity to walk through.”
Mirren then took a dig at Donald Trump. “What a beautiful and terrible things words are, a conveyance for love and hatred and inspiration and stupidity… Donald Trump… meanness and generosity, kindness and cruelty.”
“The blank page can be used for wisdom, poetry, imagination and the wonderful entertainment of storytelling,” but also “for insidious propaganda, for lies and brutality, but let us love our writers and their courage and always stand behind them when they’re threatened with silence by any chicken shit political censorship.” The audience cheered.
She included an appeal for the audience to lobby for the Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, who has been condemned to death on blasphemy charges by the Saudi Arabian government.
In the pressroom, a journalist asked Mirren about her acceptance speech, in which she spoke strongly about political censorship and about the power of words. She had mentioned Trump. As the rhetoric revs up, will thing get better or worse, she was asked?
“I don’t know. I don’t think Americans would give up their freedom of speech too easily. I think that would be a real battle. I think what we have to do is be conscious of other parts of the world,” especially “incredibly brave journalists, writers, poets,” who are “incarcerated and tortured.” She brought up the poet Fayadh again. “This is a really serious, thoughtful, gentle poet.”
When asked about what advice she held onto, Mirren revealed the surprising information that she was nervous. “Beware of fear. Fear is dangerous. I’m so frightened tonight. I’m so nervous. My heart was beating…Oh, my God! You have no idea… It’s such a nerve-wracking moment…Fear is destructive. It’s a terrible thing!”
“Because it’s New York and I’m a little overwhelmed by New York, you know? It’s just so big and sophisticated and hip and cool and everything. You’re a New Yorker, so you’re used to it, and I’m… It’s pretty impressive and also having those sorts of people out there. It’s terrifying!”
How does she cope?
“Like tonight? I just keep breathing and saying, ‘It’s ok, don’t worry, the world’s not going to come to an end if you fuck it up. It doesn’t matter.”
Meanwhile for the last two hours she confessed that she had told her husband she couldn’t wait to get home and into her pj’s.