Helen Mirren talks ‘Fast & Furious,’ sexism and the royal family

Helen Mirren can check something off her bucket list.

After two “Fast & Furious” movies, she finally gets behind the wheel in “F9” (in theaters Friday), which follows Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and crew as they battle to stop a plot by a highly skilled assassin and driver — who is also Dom’s estranged brother.

The British-born star, 75, who publicly lobbied for a part in the action franchise, jokes that it felt like a “cruel hoax” to secure a role only to be told that she wouldn’t be putting her foot on the pedal.

The acclaimed actress — whose career spans decades in movies like “The Good Liar,” “Gosford Park” and “Hitchcock” — appeared in an uncredited role in 2017’s “The Fate of the Furious” as Magdalene “Queenie” Shaw, mom to badass siblings Deckard (Jason Statham), Owen (Luke Evans) and Hattie (Vanessa Kirby).

“I was so excited when they first said, ‘You’ve been [cast] in the ‘Fast & Furious’ movie,” she told The Post. “Fantastic. Finally, all my whining and moaning and begging worked. And then, of course, I was in the back of an ambulance in the first one.”

Helen Mirren and Vin Diesel behind the wheel in "F9."
Helen Mirren and Vin Diesel behind the wheel in “F9.”
©Universal/Courtesy Everett Col

Mirren then popped up briefly in 2019’s spinoff flick “Hobbs & Shaw,” which saw Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham reprise their “Fast & Furious” roles and team up to battle a cyber-savvy terrorist threatening the world with a deadly virus. Alas, no driving was required.

“The second one came. ‘Oh, brilliant. Finally now, now I’ll get to drive one of those super cool cars.’ ‘Oh, no, you’re in jail. So I’m afraid. No, you’re not going to be driving anywhere,’” she said, sounding a tad miffed.

But three times was finally the charm for the acclaimed actress, who crowed that it was worth the wait.

“Because not only am I driving, I’m driving down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace,” she said. “It’s amazing. I mean, the last time I went to Buckingham Palace, I went to get my dame[hood]. I went in the back of a very smelly taxi. So it was astounding. It was just so exciting.”

Helen Mirren as Queenie Shaw in "F9."
Helen Mirren was thrilled that her character Queenie finally gets to drive in “F9.”
Giles Keyte

And speaking of the palace, Mirren — who won an Oscar for her 2006 performance as Queen Elizabeth II in “The Queen” — said she feels sorry for the 95-year-old reigning monarch.

“She’s had drama all of her life,” Mirren said of the royal, who recently lost her husband, Prince Philip, and has also been the subject of scathing criticism by her grandson Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle. (Mirren has previously expressed support for the couple and particularly for Markle, whom she called “a fantastic addition to the royal family.”)

Dame Helen Mirren shakes hands with Queen Elizabeth II at an event at Buckingham Palace.
Mirren, who played Queen Elizabeth II in 2006’s “The Queen,” shook hands with the monarch (left) at an event at Buckingham Palace in 2011.
PA Images via Getty Images

“[The queen] had huge drama all of her life. When you think that when she was in her early teens [it] was the second World War … what could be more dramatic than that? I mean, what would have happened to that family if the Nazis, if Germany, had won that war?”

Mirren said she believes the queen’s considerable life experience will help her weather this difficult time.

“Yeah, it really, really looked as if Germany was going to win that war. So, you know, this is a woman who’s been through an extraordinary life of change, of drama, of tragedy, of triumph … She’s a survivor.”

Recently the “Prime Suspect” star went viral for the resurfacing of an infamous 1975 interview she did with British then-talk show host Michael Parkinson, who asked her if her “equipment” or “physical attributes” prevented her from becoming a serious actress and whether her breast size would “detract from the performance[s]” she gave.

Mirren noted that after the interview — in which she pushed back on the sexist questions — it was she who was “criticized for being argumentative, you know, being a bit bolshie [British slang for uncooperative]. You know, you weren’t supposed to do that.”

“Until the culture changes you are absolutely in a straitjacket. You cannot get out,” she said of the criticism. “And then you have a moment like the #MeToo movement when really the pressure was building up behind the dam for so long that the dam kind of breaks in one big break. But that takes an awfully long time. You know, that almost takes generations.”

She firmly believes that real change for women can only happen if we “get as many women into politics as possible.”

Mirren, who has become an icon both for her outspokenness and for aging gracefully in the spotlight, credits her glam squad for her gorgeous look.

Helen Mirren in a red gown and jeweled earrings.
Mirren is known for her ageless beauty.
Chelsea Lauren/for SAG Awards/Sh

“That’s the secret, honestly,” she said modestly.

As for exercising her brain, she says learning lines is helpful, as well as studying a foreign language.

“I’ve been trying to learn Italian … tiny bit by tiny bit, poco poco,” she said.


New York Post

The New York Post is a daily tabloid newspaper in New York City. The Post also operates NYPost.com, the celebrity gossip site PageSix.com and the entertainment site Decider.com.

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