Mirren talks royalty, ‘Doctor Who’

Helen Mirren winner of Best Actress Award for “The Audience” appears in the press room at the 2013 Olivier Awards at the Royal Opera House in London.

Joel Ryan

Helen Mirren is a star of stage and screen — and now stage on-screen.

Mirren’s award-winning performance as Queen Elizabeth II in “The Audience” was beamed last week from London’s Gielgud Theatre to hundreds of movie theaters around the world in a live broadcast.

It’s the latest step in Mirren’s glittering regal procession as the monarch. She won an Academy Award for playing Elizabeth in the 2006 movie “The Queen,” and gained an Olivier stage trophy in April for her reprise in box-office hit “The Audience.”

But the actress, who has made a career of not being typecast, had to be persuaded to wear the crown a second time.

“I really didn’t want to play the role again,” Mirren said in an interview before another evening donning tiara and pearls. “I was very resistant.”

Mirren was won over by the quality of the creative team, which includes director Stephen Daldry, award-winning stage designer Bob Crowley and playwright Peter Morgan, who wrote both “The Queen” and “The Audience.”

“It was just an amazing team, and I thought, ‘If you walk away from this, you’re an idiot.’ ”

She also felt there was more to explore about the queen.

“She’s at the same time completely known and completely unknowable,” Mirren said. “So there’s this extraordinary dichotomy of a very familiar person who is a complete mystery at the same time.”

“The Audience” imagines the private weekly meetings between the monarch and Britain’s prime ministers, 12 in all, over her six-decade reign. Mirren gives a delicately nuanced performance in which she grows from a tentative 20-something to wise octogenarian while retaining a core of solitude.

Mirren is not a monarchist, but says she has come to sympathize with Elizabeth and the burden of her position.

“This is a woman who has lived with nonstop admiration and a lot of sycophancy, but at the same time is a very straightforward, pragmatic, down to earth person, I suspect.”

“It’s a life of incredible luxury in many ways, but I don’t think luxury is her default mode. I don’t think she likes luxury, actually. I think she’d be far happier on a tractor with muddy boots in the kitchen and lots of dogs running around.”

“The Audience” ended its West End run Saturday, but Mirren may not be finished with the queen yet. She says the play may transfer to Broadway, “but not for a while.”

At 67, Mirren is at the top of her game. In a 45-year career, she’s gone from the Royal Shakespeare Company to screen notoriety in the racy “Caligula” to movie classics such as “Excalibur.” Millions know her as steely detective Jane Tennison in the long-running TV series “Prime Suspect,” and she can be heard as the voice of a sinister creature in the animated movie “Monsters University.”

Dame Mirren is as much a national treasure as the queen, though a considerably less buttoned-up one.

She has even been suggested as the next star of “Doctor Who,” the beloved BBC sci-fi series about a space-hopping, time-traveling alien hero. Eleven actors have played the role since the show began in 1963, and a 12th is to be announced soon.

That has sparked intense speculation among the show’s millions of fans, with some wondering whether the role might go to a woman for the first time. One bookmaker is offering 25-1 odds on it being Mirren.

“Oh, please. I would put much longer odds on it than that,” she scoffed.

“But I think it’s absolutely time for a female Doctor Who. I’m so sick of that man with his girl sidekick. I could name at least 10 wonderful British actresses who would absolutely kill in that role.”