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Helen Mirren interview

Helen Mirren has had a long and distinguished career, and she discusses it along with her new film “Hitchcock” in an excellent interview with The Daily Beast.

Earlier in her career, however, Mirren wasn’t treated so regally. After causing waves as a lascivious muse to an older painter in 1969’s Age of Consent, she was cruelly objectified by the British press for her looks and sensual onscreen persona. The coup de grâce came in 1975 when, during a TV interview with famed British host Michael Parkinson, she was subjected to a barrage of sexist comments and even told she projected a “sluttish eroticism.”

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” she says. “You just had to put up with it. It was tough when I was younger; it was like an albatross on my back but I just found a way to navigate it. I thought, ‘They can think what they like and I’ll show them through the work that I do,’ which is what I did.”

Check out the video above and you’ll get a feel for her early career.

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A roundtable chat with director Stephen Frears of “Tamara Drewe”

Stephen Frears on location for Anyone who thinks that the only interesting directors are the ones with obvious personal styles needs to take a long, hard long at the filmography of Stephen Frears. Something of a contemporary, English throwback to such versatile craftsmen of pre-auteur theory Hollywood as William Wyler, George Stevens, Robert Wise, and Michael Curtiz, the Cambridge-educated Frears began his career neck deep in the English New Wave cinema of the 1960s as an assistant director on Karel Riesz’s “Morgan!,” and Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 surreal youth revolt drama, “If…” Later moving on to directing for the BBC, his second theatrical feature, 1984′s “The Hit,” was mostly ignored despite an all-star cast, but did gain a cult following of which I am a proud member. Frears’ follow up collaboration with writer Hanif Kureishi, a then-bold cross-racial same-sex romance, “My Beautiful Laundrette,” co-starred a young Daniel Day Lewis and got more immediate results. It was a hit in arthouses on both sides of the Atlantic and helped make Lewis a star; it also paved the way for Frears’ smashing mainstream Hollywood debut, 1988′s Oscar-winning “Dangerous Liaisons.”

Since then, Frears has enjoyed success both here in the U.S. and at home in England with numerous BAFTAs and films as diverse as “High Fidelity” and “The Grifters” — for which he was nominated for an Oscar — as well as the ultra-English “The Queen” and “Mrs. Henderson Presents.” He’s dealt with modern-day cowboys (1998′s “The Hi-Lo Country”), English fascism (2000′s “Liam”), the monarchy (2006′s “The Queen”), and the illegal trade of human organs (2002′s “Dirty Pretty Things”). When George Clooney decided he wanted to try a live television remake of “Fail Safe” back in 2000, Frears handled the chore to no shortage of acclaim.

Frear’s latest, “Tamara Drewe,” has fared reasonably well with critics on the whole, though not so much with this particular longtime admirer. An adaptation of a graphic novel originally serialized in England’s The Guardian by cartoonist and children’s book author Posy Simmonds, the tale is a comic, modern-day homage to Thomas Hardy’s tragic 1874 novel, Far From the Madding Crowd starring Gemma Arterton as a formerly large nosed “ugly duckling” whose swannish post-operative return to her family’s estate sparks chaos at a writer’s retreat in ultra-picturesque rural England.

Apparently taking the casualness of California fully to heart, the 69-year-old Frears, who bears some resemblance to the late Rodney Dangerfield, arrived unshaven and in a t-shirt that had seen better days. If the “just rolled out of bed” look was disconcerting, however, we needn’t have worried. Frears was in good spirits and clearly enjoys sharing his views with the press.

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Trailer: “The Tourist” — because you can only watch “North by Northwest” and “Charade” so many times

Not much time for long and newsy posts this week, but there’s always time for a cool trailer. “The Tourist,” this is one megastar vehicle I think I may already be sold on seeing. A remake of a French thriller starring Sophie Marceau that flew completely under most American radars, myself definitely included, “Anthony Zimmer,” “The Tourist” appears to be a rather jolly tale of intrigue along the lines of the more lighthearted Hitchcock and Hitchcockian international spy and crime tales like the ones alluded to above. Check it out.

In a movie world where acting modes lean to grim seriousness, leavened by the occasional out-and-out parody, it’s nice to see Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp channeling the gently tongue-in-cheek approach of folks like Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. What’s more impressive is that the director is the multisyllabic German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. His first-rate Oscar winner, “The Lives of Others” had its humorous moments, but it was heavy-duty stuff, pretty much the opposite of this kind of cinema souffle. Very interesting. The script is credited to a trio of writers, including Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”) and Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”).

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Midweek movie news, and then…

After tonight, I’ll be taking a break from the daily blogging grind for just a bit. That means I’ll be out completely for a couple of days at least and then you may see a post here and there and then, suddenly, I’ll be back like I was never gone in the first place, probably towards the tail end of the month. So, this will have to hold you for a little while.

* As of tonight, corporate raider Carl Icahn appears to be a majority stockholder in Lionsgate.

* I’ve never been a fan of the seventies movie of the silly seventies film version of “Logan’s Run,” but with Carl Erik Rinsch directing, my interest in the new film perked up considerably. Now, Alex Garland — who wrote and produced the not-entirely-unrelated upcoming version of “Never Let Me Go” which I discussed yesterday — has jumped on board, making it even more interesting. Better, they’re approaching it as a new version of the book, not a remake of the film. In the 1976 film, by the way, no one in the futuristic society was permitted to live past 30. In the novel, it was 21.

* Sam Raimi has been confirmed as the director of “Oz: The Great and Powerful.” Apparently Robert Downey, Jr., who just formed a new company with his producer wife, Susan Downey, is the most likely Oz at this point.

* Be sure and check out Will Harris’s terrific interview with one of the best, Isabella Rossellini. Easily one of the most fascinating  actresses of the last thirty years or so, with quite a backstory behind her. Don’t miss it.

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*Though Ms. Rossellini seems perfectly at home in a very humorous way with her fifty-something status, that is not really always the case for actresses. This month’s conversation between Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard at the House Next Door underlines that point as the cinephile thinkers discuss two of Hollywood’s greatest show-biz based films, “Sunset Boulevard” and “All About Eve,” both released in 1950 and both dealing with actresses who struggling with this whole passage of time thing.

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