Helen Mirren interview

by Gaby Huddart on Sunday, 26 September 2010

I'm just like everyone else - I have days when I feel great and days when I don't feel so good. I'm not a terminally confident person.

I think the best piece of advice I've ever had was from my headmistress at convent school. She looked at me with her drooping old eyes and said, "Don't be afraid of fear". I've tried to follow that throughout my life.

I'm often thrown into situations where I don't feel confident and I've had to learn how to pretend to be. It's a funny thing, but when you start acting confident, then you start to feel it.

I'm fortunate in that I can step out in the world knowing I have the support of my husband. He's so loyal and strong, I feel lucky he's there... though it's luck and choice because, if he wasn't those things, I wouldn't choose to be with him. It must be terrible to be with someone who undermines you all the time.

The support of my immediate close family is also so important, especially my sister Kate. A sibling knows you better than anyone – my sister is the only person who's known me my whole life.

I do have some personal secret weapons for giving me a confidence boost when I need it. Four-inch platforms give you great height and make your legs look unbelievably long. I used only to be able to get them in stripper shops, but now you can buy them everywhere – although, unfortunately, that means everyone else has discovered the trick too!


Learning how to smile is important. I didn't know how to do that for a long time, but being able to smile is a great short cut to confidence – it helps you have a good time.

Holding your tummy in is another trick for making you look and feel good. I do, by nature, hold my tummy in. I think it comes from being on stage. Posture is something I've had to be aware of for years.

A lot of looking good is simply down to good make-up. Wait until you see me in The Tempest – you won't be saying I look good then. Everyone will be saying, "Oh, my God, what the hell happened to Helen Mirren?"

As you get older, there's more you want to cover up. My big complaint is – Why aren't more dresses made with sleeves? If you think of Elizabethan dresses or turn-of-the-century fashions, there are some amazing things you can do with sleeves, so why do so few designers put them on their dresses?

I cut my own hair in my bathroom and colour it myself too. For the last 20 to 30 years, I've only ever been to the hairdressers if I've had to go for a part I've been playing. I simply put my hair in a ponytail and cut across the top – it creates natural layers and just falls right.

Of all the people who inspire me it's Emma Thompson, who is everything that I'd love to be. She's beautiful, a brilliant actress and very clever. She can write and she speaks out for what she believes in.

The fun thing at this end of my life is that, in the roles I play, glamour doesn't matter any more. There's less pressure now as not everyone is looking at me and expecting something. I always felt I fell short – I wasn't pretty enough or glamorous enough – and that makes you feel rubbish. 

Red is in cinemas from 22 October

You can read the full interview in the November issue of Woman and Home, on sale 30 September 2010




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