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Stars & the City: Dame Helen Mirren

Category Stars and the City

|by Jeryl Brunner |

Academy Award winner Helen Mirren shares all about her favorite neighborhood in New York City, her new film and more!

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we present Dame Helen Mirren, who stars as firecracker Ella in the new film The Leisure Seeker. Mirren joins Donald Sutherland to star as an aging couple on a great odyssey heading across the country on a final road trip. The dynamic duo last starred together nearly three decades ago in Bethune: The Making of a Hero. In addition to her film legacy, Helen Mirren has impressive Broadway credits, and was most recently nominated for a Tony for her role in The Audience.

Helen Mirren stars in ‘The Leisure Seeker' (Photo: Dave Allocca/Starpix)

Helen Mirren stars in ‘The Leisure Seeker' (Photo: Dave Allocca/Starpix)

Your character Ella in The Leisure Seeker is so passionate about life and experiencing all she can. What do you adore about her? 
Helen Mirren: I love her liveliness, her ability to go out. She is constantly engaging with the people and life around her. She's an outward-looking person, not an inward-looking person.

What do you love to do in New York City? 
Helen Mirren: I love to walk. I often walk in the East Village – I love the neighborhood and that is where I hang out.

Leisure Seekers centers around road trips. Have you done a memorable road trip in an RV? 
Helen Mirren: I have, but not in an RV. I would have loved to have done an RV. But I went on a road trip in a van with my husband, driving across the south of America from Natchez to Charleston. It was a wonderful trip. I've always been fascinated by the southern states. And I really wanted to experience that, which we did. We went to all-you-can-eat buffets, which you can find all through the South. $6.99, all you can eat. It's probably more like $15 now. This was a while ago. I appreciated the bargain but also appreciated the brilliantly fabulous food. I got to understand collard greens, black-eyed peas and mac n’ cheese and all the elements of American dining at their very best.

In the film Donald Sutherland’s character is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Do you worry about that at all?
Helen Mirren: No. What's the point in worrying? I mean that is just a waste of time, worrying.You can worry about it when you're 16 or when you're 18 or when you're 25 or when you're 35 or 55 or 65 or 75. Don't worry. I'll tell you the thing I really worry about is the use of plastics on this planet. Plastics are throttling this planet. That, I worry about. That is devastating. And I can't believe that the plastics industry is allowed to continue operating like this. I don't use plastic bags. I never buy water in a plastic bottle unless I'm unbelievably thirsty. 

For Italian director Paolo Virzì, Leisure Seeker is his first English-language feature film. Was it like making an Italian film?
Helen Mirren: It was an extraordinary experience making an Italian film. It had all the qualities of an Italian film because Paolo had his main Italian crew with him. So the essential crew of the film were all Italians, speaking Italian. It had a real sense of being in a true Italian film, which could have been shot in Tuscany or in Rome. But instead we're on the highways and byways of Georgia and South Carolina. 

It was actually like making a road movie. Everything that you see in the film, all the driving is actually driving. We were never pulled anywhere. The Italian crew was squashed in the back of the camper van, a real very old camper van with very bad brakes and hardly any steering. But we were in the hands of the brilliant Donald Sutherland, who kept us all safe.  

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