20 Feb 20–1 Mar 20
Honorary Golden Bear for Helen Mirren
The 70th Berlin International Film Festival will honor Oscar-winner Dame Helen Mirren with its Homage and award her the Honorary Golden Bear for her lifetime achievement. The award ceremony on Thursday, February 27, 2020 at the Berlinale Palast will include a screening of The Queen (GB/F/I 2006, directed by Stephen Frears).
Not only is Helen Mirren one of the world’s most renowned actresses, she was also one of the youngest ever to join the famed Royal Shakespeare Company. Over the decades, her charisma, expressiveness, and range as an actress have been amply demonstrated in a wide variety of genres. Among the many accolades Mirren has received, she won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Actress and Golden Globe for her performance in The Queen. In addition to many international film prizes, her stage work has also been honoured with the leading theatre tributes – the Olivier Award, Tony and Drama Desk Awards. Helen Mirren has a unique acting style that allows her to feel at home in both British and American cinema, making it possible to work with auteur filmmakers, who have clearly defined styles such as Robert Altman or Paul Schrader, and acting in big US action films.
After working mainly in theater, including with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Mirren’s first major film role was in Michael Powell’s 1969 comedy Age of Consent (AUS). She subsequently made her mark in 1980’s The Long Good Friday (GB, directed by John Mackenzie), playing the assertive girlfriend of a top gangster. Her portrayal of Georgina in Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (GB/FR/NL 1989) was also legendary. Beginning in the 1990s, Helen Mirren increasingly expanded and diversified her roles in both film and television, among them Robert Altman’s 2001 Gosford Park (Berlinale 2002). Her flair for comedy was once again in evidence with Calendar Girls (GB/USA 2003, directed by Nigel Cole). Between 1991 and 2006, she headed up the seven instalments of the TV series Prime Suspect (GB) as police superintendent Jane Tennison.
In The Last Station (G/GB/RUS 2009), directed by Michael Hoffmann, she played Leo Tolstoy’s wife Sofya. She was at the Berlinale in 2015, alongside co-star Ryan Reynolds, with Woman in Gold (USA, directed by Simon Curtis). Since then, she has appeared onscreen in Eye in the Sky (GB 2015, directed by Gavin Hood) and The Leisure Seeker (FR/IT 2017, directed by Paolo Virzì) among others. Mirren gives another terrific performance in the thriller The Good Liar (USA, directed by Bill Condon), co-starring with Ian McKellen, which recently opened theatrically in Germany and will also be shown in the Homage section.
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
GB/FR/NL 1989, directed by Peter Greenaway
While a gangster enjoys the delights of the table every evening at a gourmet restaurant, his wife is having a secret affair with one of the regulars. Sex, fine dining, and violence – all artfully directed in the style of an Elizabethan revenge tragedy.
The Good Liar
USA 2019, directed by Bill Condon
An ageing conman sets his sights on swindling a widow out of her fortune. But she is not as naïve as she seems. Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen play a fascinating cat-and-mouse game as pari passu adversaries in this thriller with accents of Hitchcock.
The Last Station
G/GB/RUS 2009, directed by Michael Hoffmann
In the last year of Leo Tolstoy’s life, the writer and his wife Sofya passionately dispute who will inherit the rights to his work. Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer give brilliant turns as the ageing, but spirited couple.
The Long Good Friday
GB 1980, directed by John Mackenzie
Just as a top London gangster is negotiating a cooperative venture with the New York mafia, his organisation is hit with brutal attacks. In this fascinating mob movie, Helen Mirren gives the classic role of the gun moll a new and modern interpretation.
GB/FR/IT 2006, directed by Stephen Frears
Elizabeth II’s silence after Princess Diana’s accidental death leads England to the brink of a national crisis. Helen Mirren brings great sensitivity and understanding to this portrait of a ruler who is equal parts insecurity and sense of responsibility.