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People in Film | Helen Mirren

Updated July 11, 2011

From playing a conflicted ex-Mossad agent in The Debt to the Queen of England, Helen Mirren pushes her craft. But rather than rest on her laurels, this grand dame of theater and cinema is, as fortune predicted, just reaching her prime.

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Helen Mirren | The Right Actress for Any Role

Helen Mirren | The Right Actress for Any Role

In John Madden’s The Debt, Mossad agents David Peretz, Rachel Singer and Stephan Gold embark on a covert mission in the 1960s to kidnap a Nazi war criminal living in East Berlin. Only when we revisit the same trio 30 years later do we come to understand that the present owes more to the past than anyone suspects. And while this story shuttles between two time periods and among three different characters, the older Rachel Singer – who is played by Helen Mirren – is, in many ways, the film’s moral center. As Madden, who previously directed Mirren in an episode of the gritty detective miniseries Prime Suspect, explains, “Here’s a role which required her to intimate the wounds and the corrosive effect of events suppressed over 30 years. The tension and pain of a decision made long ago are evident; she literally bears a scar from what happened back then. All this has to come across amidst the pace and excitement of a thriller.” Of course, considering Mirren’s remarkable career, it’s impossible to image a role she could not shine in.