Helen Mirren Will Play Catherine the Great In New HBO Miniseries


Oscar winner Helen Mirren, who’s previously played Queen Elizabeth I, will now take on the role o Catherine the Great in a new HBO miniseries, The Hollywood Reporter confirms. The news comes hours after another major HBO casting has been announced: Meryl Streep’s role on Big Little Lies season 2.

Catherine the Great will follow the final years in office of the most powerful female monarch in history, focusing particularly on her tumultuous affair with Grigory Potemkin. The story is reportedly being described as one of “obsessive love.” Banned from being able to get married, the promiscuous pair defied convention and were able to greatly shape the face of modern Russia.

Mirren will be reunited with writer Nigel Williams, who penned HBO’s 2005 miniseries Elizabeth I (he was nominated for an Emmy for his work on that show, and Mirren won). In the director’s chair is Philip Martin, who picked up an Emmy for directing Mirren in Prime Suspect. 

“I am very excited by the possibility of embodying a woman from history who grabbed and then wielded great power,” Mirren said in THR‘s report. “She rewrote the rules of governance by a woman, and succeeded to the extent of having the word ‘Great’ attached to her name.”

With Big Little Lies moving to the Drama category for season 2, Catherine the Great now becomes poised to sweep in the Limited Series category.

Watch the Intense Trailer for Will Smith’s ‘Collateral Beauty’

The trailer for Will Smith’s new drama, Collateral Beauty, has arrived, and between the mournful piano in the background and dramatic shots of dominoes cascading along a tabletop, we’ve got serious chills.

The film follows Howard Inlet, who, after losing his child, begins writing letters to the universe, begging for answers and an escape. The world responds in the best way we can think of, by sending such divine creatures as Helen Mirren and Keira Knightley to aid in the process of his grief. The movie is directed by David Frankel and the cast rounded out by such stars as Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Naomie Harris, and Michael Peña.

In the video, Smith twirls his deceased child around at a park, stands solemnly in an elevator, and yells at Keira Knightley. If this isn’t Oscar fodder, we don’t know what is.

Collateral Beauty comes to theaters December 16.

A Love Letter To Young Helen Mirren

Dear Young Helen Mirren,

I have to tell you, I don’t really go in for those “see how celebrities looked when they were younger” slideshows: what kind of a person is it who finds these photo collections meaningful, anyway? But this morning I was feeling foggy, willing to click on anything. That’s when I saw you—Helen Mirren, aged 25—and my heart tripped over itself. I knew at once from the look on your face that this was no accident. How else can it be said? We had a connection.  

Look, I know this is crazy, and happening really fast. I’m scared too. But it would be so wrong to deny the chemistry between us, so wrong I doubt I could live with myself if I did, so I won’t: Young Helen Mirren, we were meant to be together. I don’t care that we’re both already married, I don’t care that I’m usually not one for blondes, and I don’t care that you’re the photographic representation of a person who is now 43 years older and has no idea who I am in any case. Love isn’t always simple.  

Yes, Young Helen Mirren, I said it: Love. Come away with me to a little beachy paradise between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and we’ll forget the rest of the world exists, just listen to the crash of blue waves and the cry of tropical birds and the mingled beat of our hearts as we roll and kiss in the sand. At night we’ll go into town and eat the best ceviche and dance like we’ll never have to stop. People will wonder at my profound luck, to have found you, and I will have to wonder myself.  

Yours forever in inconsistent chronology,  


Image via 

HBO’s ‘Phil Spector’: Eh, Mamet’s Done Worse

Last month we were all aflutter about the potential for HBO’s Phil Spector, starring Al Pacino as the bizarre music legend and Helen Mirren as the ailing attorney defending him on a murder charge, to be something so ridiculous that we couldn’t look away. Actually, it’s an okay if surprisingly unambitious film—and certainly not the worst thing for which writer/director David Mamet can claim credit.

Sorry, I think I’m still just angry about the politics of Wag the Dog. What were we saying? Oh yeah. Phil Spector suffers from that problem playwrights have where they film things that probably belong onstage: Mirren following a ranty Pacino around his castle and occasionally provoking the next riff with a plain statement of fact or bluntly phrased question. Drama!

Seriously it’s like, Pacino: [lengthy diatribe about “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” being the “best song ever released,” even though it was more than four minutes long]. Mirren: “Did you kill that woman, Philip?” Pacino: “THEY HATE ME BECAUSE I’M ESSENTIALLY JESUS CHRIST.” Pretty entertaining at first and then, wait, isn’t this just The Devil’s Advocate, somehow?

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Helen Mirren Calls Out Sam Mendes and Hollywood’s Boys Club

Yesterday, Empire magazine held its annual Empire Awards in London, handing out honors for last year’s crop of movies. It was a typical British affair, with Skyfall winning Best Picture, Martin Freeman winning Best Actor for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (that’s a burn, Daniel Day-Lewis), and Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook The Hunger Games. (Ha ha, what? Alright, sure. Whatever.) And it seems that two winners sparked some controversy. First, Sam Mendes picked up Best Director for Skyfall, and in his acceptance speech he gave a short list of his cinematic inspirations. Helen Mirren, who received the Empire Legend award (code for: "You’re old"), blasted Mendes and his list, complaining that he forgot to mention any women.

According to The Guardian, Mendes name-dropped four big names: Paul Thomas Anderson, François Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, and Ingmar Bergman. Mirren wasn’t too pleased that those names all belong to men. 

"I don’t want to unduly pick on Sam Mendes, but when he spoke about his inspirations earlier this evening, I’m afraid not a single one of the people he mentioned was a woman," said Mirren, to cheers from the audience. "Hopefully in five or 10 years, when Sam’s successor is collecting their Inspiration award, the list will be slightly more balanced in terms of its sexual make-up. In the meantime, this one is for the girls."

OH YEAH, HELEN MIRREN? NAME SOME GIRLS, THEN! Just kidding: making lists of women who should be honored isn’t the right response, because, come on, there are plenty of female filmmakers who are responsible for great movies. Of course, they tend to be overlooked for several reasons, which is a shame, especially since one could argue that Kathryn Bigelow’s work on Zero Dark Thirty was probably better than Mendes’s direction in Skyfall. Having said that: good for Helen MIrren for making a statement. Calling out the rampant sexism in Hollywood is surely seen as, well, complaining, but it’s at the same time encouraging to the women who are working hard to make excellent films and not getting the recognition they deserve.

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Naughty Corgi Fired From The London Stage For Disobeying Helen Mirren

Don’t cross Helen Mirren or its curtains for you, doggie.

Lizzy, a seven-year-old corgi cast in The Audience on the West End, has made an earlier retirement from the stage after repeatedly failing to make her cues. Mirren is starring as Queen Elizabeth II in a play about her relationships with the many Prime Ministers of Britain and the pup was playing one of her beloved corgis.

But Lizzy failed to understand the gravitas of the costar and failed to make her mark in "16 consecutive preview performance nights," the UK’s Telegraph reports. Now she’s back home with her owner while another corgi is enjoying the air-conditioned dressing room just down the hall from Helen Mirren’s.  Animal Actors, the agency which supplied Lizzy, suggested she might have been resentful of her (canine) costar Rocky, who is younger, more spritely and always reached the doggie treats waiting offstage before she did. 

Director Stephen Daldry was all too happy to be rid of the actors’ cat– er, dogfight. “[Lizzy] was excited the first three times, and then I think she decided she didn’t want to be an actress any more. She decided to retire from the British stage," said Daldry joked. "Now she’s back home, a resting actress, resting by the fire." 

Lizzy has been released by another corgi named Coco, age five. A younger rival!  

Email me at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter

Helen Mirren Play ‘The Audience’ Broadcast Around The World On June 13

The Audience, a West End play starring Helen Mirren as the Queen of England II, will be broadcast live in theaters around the world on June 13.

In the play, Mirren appears as the Queen meeting with some of the 12 prime ministers to serve during reign, including Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, the Guardian explains. "[It is] a meeting like no other in British public life – it is private," the play’s web site says. "Both parties have an unspoken agreement never to repeat what is said. Not even to their spouses." 

The event is part of National Theater Live, which has worked with Mirren before; the actress starred in the title role of Phedre, its very first show in 2009. Most shows first appear in the National Theater, but The Audience is the third production not to be: it will be broadcast live from the Geilgud Theater in London.

 The Audience is written by Peter Morgan and directed by Stephen Daldry of Billy Elliot and The Hours. The show is currently in previews, running until June 15.You can sign up on the National Theater Live web site for more details about theaters hosting screenings. 

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

The Poster for ‘Phil Spector’ Was ‘Shopped in Ten Minutes

Hey, y’all guys like my Photoshop skills? HBO called and were like, "Hey man, we’re in a bind, can you whip up a poster real quick for the new Phil Spector movie?" And I said, "Dude, I am slammed with work, but gimme fifteen minutes. By the way, how much is in your budget?" And my man over at HBO was all, "Uhhh, I can pay you seventy bucks." And I said, "SIGH. But deal. Need the cash. But throw in a signed Al Pacino headshot, will ya?" "Sure," my bud said, "but we’re all out of the Scarface ones."

[via Yahoo]

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Al Pacino’s Hair Reaches New Heights as Phil Spector

"He’s a freak. They’re gonna convict him of I-just-don’t-like you." So begins the first teaser for HBO’s Phil Spector, the David Mamet-helmed-and-written film about one of the most influential and successful music producers in history and his 2003 murder trial. And indeed, said trial, during which Spector was found guilty of the murder of Lana Clarkson (for which he is serving 19 years to life), transformed him in the public eye from one of the music industry’s most celebrated figures to one of it’s most reviled, a symbol of the dark side of the music world. The trial photos became a topic of conversation, in part due to Spector’s distinctive hairstyles.

Now, a teaser and press photos for the film, which premieres March 24th, have been released, and star Al Pacino seems pretty committed to the role. Pacino dons a number of Spector’s signature coifs, most notably his towering curly mop, which creates an eerie resemblance. And it doesn’t stop at the hair—he shouts all over the place, shoots guns in the studio and asserts himself as a musical genius. Alongside him is Helen Mirren, who plays his defense attorney and appears decidedly more composed. Watch.