Helen Mirren on Iconic Female Characters and Her Delightful New Crime Caper, ‘The Duke’

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It’s incredible that you and Jim Broadbent had never been onscreen together. What was it like getting to join forces after, I imagine, running in the same circles for such a long time?

We’ve been in the same film before, Jim and I, but we were never actually onscreen together. Very often you can be in a movie with someone and never actually get to meet them, which was the case with Jim. But the fact that Jim was playing this role—I have to say, he is brilliant in the role. It’s custom-made for Jim, and knowing that he was playing the role was very much part of why I wanted to be a part of the whole project.

And this was, very sadly, Roger Michell’s last film. How was it working with him?

It was such a devastating tragedy for all of us, losing Roger, and a great sadness for the British film industry. He’d made such iconic films. He had such a wonderful light touch, and this film is very much a manifestation of his touch, his wit, and his masterful filmmaking. And personally, I’m just so sad that I lost him as soon as I got to work with him. I would’ve loved to have worked with him again. And also our great sadness is that he didn’t see the film. He saw it play at festivals, and it was extremely well received, but he never experienced it now going out into the wider world. And I think that would’ve been just a lovely experience for him, because I know how much people enjoy the film.

Finally…if you could borrow a great work of art—from the National Gallery or anywhere else—for a good cause, what would it be? And what would the cause be?

Oh, what a great question. I would borrow a Kandinsky. [Wassily] Kandinsky is my favorite artist…either a Kandinsky or a Goya, but probably a Kandinsky—the biggest Kandinsky I could get my hands on. And with the funds from borrowing my Kandinsky, well, there’s so much serious need for funds, but I would say I would probably give it to refugee women escaping violence.

The Duke is in select theaters in New York and Los Angeles on April 22. 

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