Leisure Seeker: Interview with Helen Mirren

The Leisure Seeker, which world premiered at the 2017 Venice Film Fest and is playing now at Toronto Film Fest, will be released theatrically by Sony Pictures Classic.

Being a Leisure Seeker?

Helen Mirren: I’ve never had a camper van.  I’ve always wanted one.  My sister has a caravan she goes to every weekend.  I’ve always had a hankering to get in a van and have a little place to make a cup of tea and travel but my husband and I did take a road trip.  We didn’t sleep in the car, we slept in bed and breakfasts but we did drive from New Orleans across the South to the East Coast to Charleston and Savannah and I loved our road trip.  We had a dog and we bought furniture on the way and it wasn’t a van and we just had a wonderful time.  America is a very good country for a road trip.

Donald Sutherland

HM: When I first met him, he was a very big star, and I certainly wasn’t. I was an experienced actress.  I had done a lot of work.  I’ve worked all my life and but in terms of success I wasn’t internationally known, particularly at that point so I was just a hard-working actress so it was a very different experience.  He was very generous to me then but this time obviously I come into the work on an equal, if you like an equal level with him, and also it’s a very different piece.  We spent hours all day together in that camper van and so it was a much different working experience this time round.

Knowing your partner

 HM: I think it’s important not to know everything.  It’s important for people to have their privacy.  I am not a believer in telling your partner everything about you. Secrecy is not the right word but privacy is.  We’re all individuals and we can make wonderful partnerships with other individuals but it doesn’t stop you from being an individual. I think that’s a little part of what this movie is about that people are not necessarily defined and they become defined by their family and their children or grandchildren. We’re all individual personalities, with our own identities. That’s what this movie is about.

Marriage

HM: My marriage with Taylor (Hackford) is very different in the sense that we don’t have children together. That obviously brings a whole other thing into the relationship.  It’s the partnership level of your relationship that has longevity.  If you can find a way of becoming equal partners in whatever the decisions are, whether it’s decorating a house or where you go on holiday or what you order for dinner at night or what kind of a restaurant you go to, or what TV program to watch, it becomes a respectful partnership, and that doesn’t work unless it’s equal. It has to be an equal partnership.

Politics

HM: That’s an incredibly important question and it was an extraordinary experience for me.  I’d never been to Ypres before.  For the people who don’t know it’s the location of one of the most brutal, devastating battles of Passchendaele in the First World War where almost half a million men from German and Italian and British, French were killed so it was a devastating battle for basically half a mile of territory so it was very, very affecting to be there and we forget at our peril we forget and I feel that at this moment in time the world, at least the western world has forgotten how devastatingly cruel and destructive human beings can be and I think that we must remember.  I’m a great believer in remembering history.  I’m going round saying everyone right now should have a copy of “The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich” with them because that is an amazing book to study how the dangers of the rise of those sorts of attitudes, those sorts of thinking can be and certainly I feel in the world at large at this moment in time there is a rise of that kind of thinking abroad in general

Ideal last trip?

HM: I’ve never been to India and I have a feeling that maybe traveling across India because the Indian culture has such an understanding of the transitory nature of life, of spiritualism, of searching the best way to be as a human being on this planet so maybe a trip across India.

Golden Globes Memories

HM: My most memorable and this is why I’ve always been grateful to you guys was because it was the Golden Globes who recognized my work in a TV, a little piece I did for TV with Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, her husband directed it, called “Losing Chase” and it was a little, you know, just a little low budget piece and I think it was on Showtime Television and you guys were the ones who kind of noticed it and nominated me for a Golden Globe.  I think you gave me a Golden Globe for my work in it actually and I’ve always been grateful for that because it was below the radar and you guys are brilliant at that.   You find these little gems that are very much below the radar, not big marketing budgets, nothing like that so that for me was very memorable and also being nominated for “Elizabeth I” and “Elisabeth 2” in the same year. That was pretty cool too.

Celebrating:

HM: Luckily at the Golden Globes you don’t have to go far to celebrate.  You celebrate right there and then and you celebrate both your successes and your failures, I’ve often been at the Golden Globes and obviously not won anything, but always happy to be there and share in the unbelievable sort of there’s nothing like the Golden Globes.  It’s a very special evening.  It’s so intimate and yet so glamorous.  It’s amazing and I feel very privileged that I’ve had the luck to be there a few times.

Helen Mirren Is?

HM: Frightened.  Frightened.  I’m permanently frightened.  I mean, I found ways of dealing with it but I’m permanently frightened.  It’s ridiculous.  You know, of everything really.  Coming to talk to you guys.  Omigod what am I going to do like.  So frightened I would say.  I don’t look it.  I know I don’t look it but I actually I am and I always think, you know, I do a thing with L’Oreal about self-worth and I try to say and L’Oreal are doing work with young people in England to encourage them to find self-worth and, you know, just feeling good about themselves and I try to say to them listen everybody is kind of insecure.  I bet all of you guys in this room are insecure in one way or another, you know.  I’m very suspicious of people who are not insecure.  I think they have no imagination is their problem but anyway probably.

Impactful work of art

I’m very receptive to painting, to fine art.  In pure visceral terms I would say shooting the scene in “Woman In Gold” where I see the Woman In Gold painting for the first time which I didn’t look at at all until the shot.  I deliberately didn’t look at it and I walked round and there was the painting.  That was a pretty powerful moment. I do respond very profoundly to the visual arts.

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