Dame Helen Mirren prefers browsing the aisles of DIY stores to glitzy Hollywood events and rejected pleas to cash in on famous photographs of her wearing a bikini, according to her screenwriter nephew. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Simon Mirren said: “What Helen loves is going to Home Depot [an American DIY chain], where you buy drills, hammers and plants, rather than being seen in posh Hollywood restaurants when you are the talk of the town.
“She has a house here and her gardening is amazing. When I was six, we planted carrots together in Wales and she looked up and said, ‘I don’t think you’ll remember this amazing moment. We are making things grow together and hopefully next Christmas there’ll be vegetables here.’ “That moment stuck in my mind and Helen hasn’t changed with all the fame and success.”
Simon, who co-wrote Versailles, a lavish television costume drama about the construction of the Palace of Versailles that is to be broadcast on BBC2 in April, said his aunt, who also starred in Prime Suspect, refused to profit from images of her looking toned on holiday in Italy in 2008, when she was 63. “I begged her to turn us all into millionaires by marketing bikinis after everyone went wild over her fit bikini body but she said, ‘Absolutely no.’ She’s not interested.
She won’t brand herself like that,” he said. He realised any efforts to cast her in Versailles would also be doomed to failure. “I didn’t cast Helen in this series because she is too expensive,” he said. “With a small budget, we introduced actors just out of college and it was nice to give them a chance. We couldn’t have afforded [Helen]. She wouldn’t give me a discount. We don’t do discounts in our family.”
The screenwriter, whose mother is Helen’s sister Kate, said his aunt had been disappointed at failing to receive an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Hedda Hopper, the Hollywood gossip columnist, in the film Trumbo. “She was nominated for a Golden Globe for best supporting actress and all the indications were that she was in the race for the Oscars …
She is disappointed [that] she’s not being recognised for something she’s done, but it is not a defining disappointment,” he said. The youngest of Simon’s three children, Felix, 12, has caught the acting bug from his great-aunt. “He was in a movie with Helen called Hitchcock and now he wants to be an actor, which is all my aunt’s fault.”