Character: Queen Elizabeth II
Directed by: Stephen Frears
Written by: Peter Morgan
Produced by: Andy Harries, Christine Langan, Tracey Seaward
Cast Members: Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Sylvia Syms, Alex Jennings
Released date: September 15, 2006 (Italy)
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
In the wake of a national tragedy, the prime minister and royal family find themselves quietly at odds. The initial reluctance of Buckingham Palace to mourn Diana is seen by the public as a sign of cool emotional distance, but Tony Blair, perceiving a potential public-relations disaster in the making, takes it upon himself to persuade Queen Elizabeth to pay tribute to the dead princess.
→ Tradition Prepared Her. Change Will Define Her.
→ Our Leaders. Ourselves.
→ Queen of a Nation. Queen of Hearts.
→ A Lifetime of Tradition. A World of Change.
♦ Helen Mirren’s performance received a five-minute standing ovation at the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
♦ When she was interviewing people who knew the Queen personally, Helen Mirren discovered that the Queen suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. It was her idea to show the Queen putting pens in order on the table while talking to Tony Blair on speaker phone at Balmoral. Director Stephen Frears was not convinced at first, but thought it worked quite well with the finished film.
♦ Helen Mirren says transforming herself into the Queen came almost naturally after the wig and glasses, especially since she shares a default facial expression, a slightly down turned mouth, with the monarch. She also regularly reviewed film and video footage of Elizabeth and kept photographs in her trailer during production. Writer Peter Morgan said it was convincing enough that, by the end of production, crew members who had been accustomed to slouching or relaxing when they addressed her were standing straight up and respectfully folding their hands behind their backs.
♦ While driving in the SUV at Balmoral, Charles asks the Queen, “Why do they hate us so much?” The original reply from the Queen was to correct Charles by saying, “You.” Helen Mirren asked to cut the line, and it was changed to the more subtle, “Not ‘us,’ dear.”
♦ Helen Mirren arranged for the actors playing members of the Royal family, specifically James Cromwell, Sylvia Syms and Alex Jennings, to spend a lot of time together off camera. This was done so that they would feel comfortable with each other like a real family.
♦ The jewelry Helen Mirren wears is based on actual jewels owned by Elizabeth II. Some pieces shown include: her trademark two or three strands of pearls, Queen Victoria’s bow brooch (at Diana’s funeral), and Queen Mary’s button earrings (the large pearl earrings each topped by a tiny diamond).
♦ Helen Mirren is 11 years younger than Sylvia Syms, who played her mother, and 12 years older than Alex Jennings, who played her son.
♦ Helen Mirren, who played the Queen, is of Russian ancestry. Both Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are connected to Russian royalty.
♦ Helen Mirren was praised by Queen Elizabeth herself and invited for dinner at Buckingham Palace, but could not attend due to other filming commitments at the time.
♦ The film takes place from May to September 1997.
♦ Helen Mirren and Roger Allam adored each other, and got along together quite well on the set.
• Something’s happened. There’s been a change, some shift in values. When you no longer understand your people, mummy, maybe it is time to hand it over to the next generation.
• THEIR grief? If you imagine I’m going to drop everything and come down to London before I attend to my grandchildren who’ve just lost their mother… then you’re mistaken. I doubt there is anyone who knows the British people more than I do, Mr. Blair, nor who has greater faith in their wisdom and judgement. And it is my belief that they will any moment reject this… this “mood”, which is being stirred up by the press, in favor of a period of restrained grief, and sober, private mourning. That’s the way we do things in this country, quietly, with dignity. That’s what the rest of the world has always admired us for.
• Nowadays people want glamor and tears, the grand performance. I’ve never been good at that.
In Helen’s Words…
♥ (on Transforming into the Queen) I have to say even more so when I saw it on the screen. That is when it really came together. Just looking in the mirror, I couldn’t see the physicality in terms of the movement. There’s one shot (where I’m in the) doorway that completely blows me away. I come out and look at the flowers. I’m quite familiar with that piece of film because I watched it a lot to see what the Queen did. You can hardly tell the difference. That’s the most amazing moment. Sadly, I used very little makeup. I didn’t spend hours in the makeup chair with all kinds of magical things being added to my face. I did very little makeup. It had more to do with the set of the face really. The set of the head, the set of the mouth.
♥ (her Thoughts on the Monarchy Before and After Filming The Queen) It did change my feelings, but not profoundly. Im so ambivalent; Id like to see a much more open Monarchy, myself. I used to think they were completely useless and we should get rid of them. I dont necessarily feel that way anymore. Im still ambivalent, I still loathe the British class system, and in many ways in all ways, the royal family are the apex of the British class system, and its a system that I absolutely hate. But, the reality is, the last 40 years of life in Britain have eroded the British class system enormously. It isnt what it was before the second World War or even 10 years after the second World War things have really, really changed. And always in change, there are good elements in change, and there are bad elements in change.
[from “Dame Helen Mirren Discusses ‘The Queen'” – ThoughtCo.]