Helen Mirren has been in the spotlight for nearly five decades – and that’s exactly how she wants it.
Although the 71-year-old actress admits the thought of aging once made her cringe, she now realizes it’s much better than the alternative.
“The best thing about being over 70 is being over 70,” Mirren says in an interview with AARP The Magazine for its December/January Issue. “Certainly when I was 45, the idea of being 70 was like ‘Arghhh!’ but you only have two options in life: Die young or get old. There is nothing else. The idea of dying young when you’re 25 is kind of cool – a bit romantic, like James Dean. But then you realize that life is too much fun to do that.”
Besides, the Oscar winner has repeatedly proven that young ones don’t have all the fun. Mirren didn’t meet the love of her life, director Taylor Hackford, until she was 38. The couple didn’t marry until she was 52 and have been together for nearly 20 years.
The actress admits she put her acting career ahead of her love life before meeting Hackford, and getting married wasn’t a huge priority.
“We got married in the end because we realized that we were going to be together forever,” she says. “We got married, ultimately, for legal reasons more than anything else. Estate planning and other complicated things like that. And our families, we sensed, wanted us to be married.”
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She continued, “I always said I have nothing against marriage, it just wasn’t to my taste, like turnips. It took me a very long time to come round to acquiring the taste. I just had to meet the right turnip.”
Age has also allowed Mirren certain advantages in her work. In the past decade, she’s racked up awards for playing Queen Elizabeth II, a role that needed an experienced actress. In 2007, Mirren won an Oscar for playing the British monarch in The Queen. She also stepped into the role of the queen for The Audience, a play that earned her an Olivier Award in 2013 for her West End performance, as well as a 2015 Tony when she reprised the role on Broadway.
When asked if she was finished playing queens, Mirren responds, “No, queens are good, it’s good to be queen. I’m preparing to do a piece about Catherine the Great of Russia, an amazing monarch. I mean, the reason certain queens are great to play is because they’re powerful.”