Though she may be an award-winning movie star best known for playing royalty, Helen Mirren isn’t above playing the lottery. “When the lottery gets really big — up to 40 or 50 million — I go out and buy a ticket, because it’s, ‘Maybe I’ll win.’ You fantasize about what it would be like to have millions and millions and millions of dollars,” she says. “And I think we all do that. It’s a fantasy we all carry within us — anyone who’s ever bought a lottery ticket. We’re all dreamers.”
Of course, Mirren herself doesn’t have to dream. While in her latest film, an update of the Dudley Moore classic “Arthur,” Mirren plays the nanny to an extravagantly rich man-child (Russell Brand) prone to outlandish purchases, in real life she’s no stranger to splurging. “My husband and I bought a castle in Puglia,” she says. “It’s like turning on the taps full, and just money pours out. Into the desert. It’s just gone.”
Mirren immediately has second thoughts on the characterization of her new property, which is currently under renovation. “It’s not really a castle. It’s actually a farmhouse,” she insists. “But it’s got a little bit where you can pour boiling oil out of. Because Puglia was being invaded all the time. It had endless invasions, so even the farmhouses are fortified. It’s a fortified farmhouse.”
While “Arthur” marks what Mirren says is first real comedy film in her career, teaming up with Brand helped ease her into the genre. In fact, she may have picked up more than a little of his wit, if her description of Brand’s behavior on set is any indication: “He never came out of his trailer. When he came out, he was always surrounded by minders, he wouldn’t speak to anyone,” she says, barely containing her laughter. “No, he didn’t really. Well actually, I don’t know because I was drunk the whole time.”
But seriously, though, she thinks quite highly of Brand and his charms, explaining that she signed onto the film after the comedian “just totally seduced me the way he does, you know?” she says. “I just defy any male or female or child or ancient person to spend two hours with Russell and not be completely charmed and say, ‘Yeah, fine, I’ll do whatever you want.’”
Immortalized in cement
Helen Mirren has clearly had an impressive career as an actress, but it wasn’t until very recently that she felt she’d truly arrived when she left imprints of her hands and feet in the cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. “Becoming a Dame, fantastic. Winning an Oscar, amazing. Hands and feet? Incredible,” Mirren says, chronicling her career highlights.
“Los Angeles is Hollywood, and Hollywood is Hollywood Boulevard, and Graumann’s Chinese is Hollywood Boulevard,” she says of the landmark, which was the first she visited after arriving in L.A. as a young actress. “You go, and you look at Joan Crawford’s hands and feet, and the whole history of American filmmaking is encapsulated in that one little area, that one street. And that street to me has always been the street of dreams.”
Mirren’s slab was introduced by “Arthur” co-star Russell Brand, who describes the Oscar-winner as an “empress, deity, God’s representative here on Earth.” Mirren kept her high heels on when she stepped in the cement.