In HBO’s “Catherine the Great,” Mirren portrays the 18th-century Russian empress at the height of her powers.
In the first episode of the HBO mini-series “Catherine the Great,” the empress of Russia is hunched over her desk writing about her political ambitions while her jealous lover stares into a hand mirror, primping for a cross-dressing masquerade at the palace.
“It just feels like something has changed between us,” he says, wearing a golden scoop-neck gown, his makeup half-done. Catherine (Helen Mirren) wears a man’s suit with a tricorn hat that makes her look like an American revolutionary.
She rises from her desk, strides over to her male companion and, in a few succinct sentences, puts an end to their yearslong romance.
“You want something I cannot give you,” Mirren says simply. “You want power.”
Her lover, Count Orlov, who helped engineer the coup that unseated her husband, Peter III, thinks it is time to marry her and take on a more powerful role in her regime. But Catherine sees an army of men encircling her, plotting ways to co-opt her authority, and she has no intention of giving it up.
“They totally underestimated her,” Mirren said in an interview, “From that moment on, she knew she had to control the male aristocrats around her. And she did. She did by outsmarting them.”
The life of Catherine the Great has long been fodder for cinematic period dramas. But in the past, filmmakers chose to center the story on Catherine’s early life — how she came to rule an empire rather than the three and a half decades she spent ruling it. In one of the most prominent films about her life, “The Scarlet Empress” (1934), Marlene Dietrich played a young, wide-eyed German princess who is summoned to Russia to marry the future monarch. In 1991, Julia Ormond played a similar character in the mini-series “Young Catherine,” and four years later, so did Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Read the full article/interview in our press library.
Helen Mirren has learned much in her 74 years. But recently the Oscar-, Tony-, and Emmy-winning actor discovered something that, frankly, pissed her off.
“I was just reading about an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite paintings,” Mirren told Vanity Fair last Sunday by phone, audibly irked. “I didn’t know there were these incredible women Pre-Raphaelite painters. Why have I never heard of these painters? Their paintings are spectacular and beautiful.… Isn’t it amazing how women have been either erased out of history or else have had calumnies thrown at them?”
She pointed out Cleopatra as an example—one of the most powerful women in history whose significant accomplishments are popularly overshadowed by inaccurate descriptions of her appearance. “She was incredibly intelligent, not very beautiful, but with an amazing character,” Mirren pointed out. “But, you know, history really doesn’t want women to be successful. And if they are, they have to have gotten their success through sex, basically. That’s the male perception of history, I believe, to a certain extent.” She took a deep breath. “It pisses me off. I’m telling you.”
Beginning this Monday, Mirren will embark on a mission to correct this male perception of history with Catherine the Great—a sumptuous four-part HBO miniseries that Mirren essentially willed into existence based on her interest in the Russian ruler. According to Mirren (whose father is Russian), Catherine was an intelligent, witty, strong-willed, ahead-of-her-time woman who had a fire burning inside that wouldn’t let her succumb to societal expectations or norms. Sadly memory of Catherine’s reign was muddled by stories launched by jealous men like Frederick the Great, who ruled Prussia while Catherine was on the throne, and Paul I, Catherine’s own inept son. (Think 18th-century “fake news.”) Like the best women, Catherine was full of contradictions: A steely and solid ruler, she was also sensual, enjoying passionate affairs with lovers including Russian military leader Grigory Potemkin (played in the miniseries by Jason Clarke). Her sensuality was the springboard for certain smear campaigns against her—with one popular rumor alleging that she was a nymphomaniac.
Read the full article/interview in our press library.
It’s no secret that Dame Helen Mirren has a knack for nailing regal roles.
Following her Oscar-winning on-screen reign as Queen Elizabeth II back in 2006, the thespian brings yet another powerful ruler to life in HBO’s limited mini-series “Catherine the Great.”
Just as she does on the small screen as Russian Empress Catherine II, Mirren commanded all attention as she walked into the show’s Los Angeles premiere on Thursday night. Although Mirren left behind the sedan chair and all-male entourage who carried her into the show’s London premiere last month, the actress made just as big of a splash as she strolled into the Hammer Museum in a regal blue Badgley Mischka gown and coordinating silk opera coat as if she were walking through the halls of a palace.
“I felt like I should up the ante if as I’m representing the Empress of Russia,” Mirren said with a smile. The billowy look was an homage to the intricate 18th century costuming in the TV series, which Mirren described as “incredible, very heavy, beautiful, all hand-embroidered extraordinary museum pieces.” But the stunning designs did not come without their challenges.
I added to the gallery a few photos from promoshoots and stills of Helen Mirren in Catherine the Great, take a look and enjoy!
Vogue Spain and L’Oreal Paris worked together for a special issue (as read on Vogue’s instagram account) to honor the silver generation, placing Helen on their cover. Hopefully I’ll find the scans to add soon. Stay tuned!
The gallery has been updated with a few covers and magazine featuring Helen Mirren on them. Enjoy!