Helen Mirren: interview

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From ‘The Long Good Friday’ to ‘The Queen’, Dame Helen Mirren’s acting career has traversed London’s social spectrum

See all Time Out's 40th birthday London heroes

Who are your London heroes?

‘Charles Dickens and Boswell. And I must have some London heroines too. I once played a London heroine, Mary Frith, who was called the “Roaring Girl” at the time. She was a seriously crazy character who hung around Spitalfields in the seventeenth century. The play was a Jacobean comedy, one of the most difficult things to play, and it was based on this real character. She was a wild woman of London, like we don’t have anymore.’

What’s the biggest thing to happen in your field in the past 40 years?

‘Well, the coming of Time Out was quite a big thing. It’s absolutely true. It gave the public access to knowing literally what was on. It was an amazing revolution, certainly for the music, film and theatre scenes. All those smaller venues suddenly had support.’

Do you have a favourite place or thing in London?

‘I’ve got so many. It’s a classic, but it never ceases to blow me away, and that’s standing on the middle of Waterloo Bridge. It’s such an extraordinary vista, at any time of the day, in any weather. I love the Tower of London, too. I happen to live near it now, and before that I didn’t see it for years and years. I love to look at it: the Tower nestles in against the City. It’s such an iconic view of the power and might of London.’

What’s your favourite personal moment in the city?

‘Hampstead Heath figures in mine, somehow or other… I can’t quite remember how or why!’

What’s the future for your field?

‘Whatever the economic developments are and what happens with the digital revolution, what will absolutely be a constant is that London will always attract young, creative people. What’s great in the modern world is that it’s becoming easier and easier for people to create without having access to large sums of money. They need access to certain technologies but the cost is far less than it used to be.’

What does Time Out mean to?

‘Well, Time Out will always mean London to me. I know there are now Time Outs all over the place, but to me Time Out is totally the most iconic London thing. It was the thing I grew up with when I was young and out-and-about in London. It means youth, too. It’s for those people who want to go out all the time.’

Complete the sentence: London is…

‘It just is. That’s it, London is… That’s enough!’
See all Time Out's 40th birthday London heroes

Author: Dave Calhoun



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