Dame Helen Mirren
- Susannah York, Sebastian, 1967. Her outstanding Cleopatra at the Old Vic in 1965, pushed Mirren towards movies, She was among many testing and director David Greene wanted her. Instead, his producer, Michael Powell, decided to launch Helen in his next film, Age of Consent, 1969.
- Patty Duke, Valley of the Dolls, 1967.
- Pamela Stephenson, Virgin Soldiers, 1969. Things were slowing down, internationally, and all London offers wanted her to strip, please. And not always please...
- Anna Calder-Marshall, Wuthering Heights, 1970. Helen refused and was delighted that her friend got it.
- Susan George, Straw Dogs, 1971. Too much woman for Dustin Hoffman’s timorous husband. Helen would have also made mincemeat of Peter Vaughan and his bovver yokels, Ken Hutchison’s rapist… and director Sam Peckinpah! “I don’t basically like American films. I think they’re fairly stupid.” Jacqueline Bisset, Judy Geeson, Hayley Mills, Charlotte Rampling and Diana Rigg were also in the mix for Amy - later the name of George’s production company.
- Jane Seymour, Live and Let Die, 1973.
- Beth Morris, I, Claudius, TV, 1976. Ironically, when BBC directorHerbert Wise asked her to play Caligula’s sister, Drusilla, Helen was shooting The Collection with(her future lover) Malcolm McDowell...When he was Caligula, 1979, she played his wife, Caesonia.
- Linda Bellingham, Confessions of A Taxi Driver, 1976. Helen’s fame for acting in the nude had the main two UK softcore sex-comedy teams chasing her for a quick flash. “The box-office calls for nudity and the public like to see people taking their clothes off. There is no British film industry. So you take what you can get. “ Not always.
- Hilary Pritchard, Adventures of a Private Eye, 1977. Now it was Stanley Long, producer of the Adventures series - rival to the Confessions - trying to go up market with Helen as a housewife-cum-dominatrix called Sally. “It’s rather boring really, being a housewife. How about a bit of Last Tango In Paris? I’ve got loads of butter in the fridge!” Not to mention a whip.
- Sheila Ruskin, Doctor Who #114: The Keeper of the Traken, TV, 1981. She declined The Keeper’s wife Kassia in good company: Glenda Jackson, Helen Mirren, Fiona Walker and two Avengers, Joanna Lumley and Diana Rigg! They all decided against opening Season 18 with Doc4 Tom Baker.
- Lauren Hutton, Tout feu, tout flamme (All Fired Up), France, 1981. “I liked her,” said casting director Dominque Besnehard. “She spoke French very well, she had an air of [his great friend] Nathalie Baye about her. But [director] Jean-Paul Rappeneau didn’t find her sexy.” She later won two Cannes Best Actress awards and, of course, the 2007 Oscar for The Queen.
- Patricia Hodge, Betrayal, 1982. With Julie Christie and Meryl Streep gone (with potential directors Mike Nichols, Louis Malle), Mirren and Hodge entered the list for producer Sam Spiegel’s ill-chosen film… from Harold Pinter’s semi-autobiographical play examining a love affair - in reverse. This being Sam Spiegel’s final production did not improve his manners. Ever the gent, he rejected Helen because “her butt was too big for the part.” Spiegel’s own posterior well nigh covered the waterfront...
- Maggie Smith, The Missionary, 1982. Frequent Terry Gilliam composer, Ray Cooper, suggested Helen or Faye Dunaway as Lady Ames. Writer-star Michael Palin preferred Maggie for what he almost called The Missionary Position. “She knows nothing about me, yet is expected to help create with me the complex relationship... at the heart of the story.” They get on so well, they make Alan Bennett’s A Private Function, 1984. Maggie reminded Palin of his late sister Angela: “Bright, but brittle.”
- Susan Woolridge, The Jewel in the Crown, TV, 1984. Too busy this time, butshe joined Charles Dance two years later on Pascali’s Island.
- Isabella Rossellini, Blue Velvet, 1985. Ironically, the first time auteur David Lyhnch met Rossellini - in a New York restaurant - he asked her to pass on his contact number to Mirren, her recent co-star in White Nights. He also tried Hanna Schygulla, Sissy Spacek. They all refused Lynch's Dorothy (so very different from Judy’s). But when his phone rang it was Rossellini calling. She won the film - and the director. (Just like her mother, Ingrid Begrman, and Italian maestro Roberto Rossellini in 1949).
- Joan Collins, Decadence, 1993. Passed on Steven Berkoff’s play-into-film allowing Joanie to emerge, said Variety, with the greatest credit in a role tailor-made to her talents. “Truth is, she’d be a much bigger star if she’d been attached to an industry which believed in the power of women,” said TV pundit Barry Norman. “The first sin in Hollywood is to be old. The second is to look old. And she still looks terrific!”
- Madge Sinclair, The Lion King, 1993. Also in the mix to voice Queen Sarabi in the 32nd Disney toon - Bambi meets Hamlet in Africa! - were Virginia McKenna and Vanessa Redgrave. Sinclair was also queen to James Earl Jones’ king in Coming To America, 1988. In TV history books as the first woman starship captain in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986, the Jamaican actress died of leukemia in 1995. As a measure of respect, Disney refused to cast another actress and deleted Sarabi from The Lion King sequel.
- Suzanne Pleshette, The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride, 1997. The first triumph was Bambi meets Hamlet in Africa, the sequel turned Kovu and Kiara into Romeo and Juliet. Mirren abd Bette Midler were also seen (heartd?) about voicing Kovu’s vengeful mother, Zira
- Charlotte Rampling, The Cherry Orchard, 1999. Part of the project from the get go, she was in rehearsals when the Greek director, Mivhaerl Cacoyannis, declared no one could leave Bulgaria during the three month shoot. Helen left. Immediately! Ranyevskaya went to Charlotte after Glenn Close passed.
- Isabelle Huppert, La Pianiste (The Piano Teacher), Austria-France-Germany, 2000. Before Michael Haneke won the rights, another Austrian - actor-director Paulus Manker - tried to mount his version of Elfriede Jelinek novel. With Mirren or Kathleen Turner as the titular masochist. Mirren passd. She’d had enough of perversity with The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, 1988. Haneke thought they were both too old. Mirren was 55, Huppert was 47 - a year older than Turner, who, admittedly, has always looked older.
- Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada, 2005. Helen and Kim Basinger (no less!)were on the list to be Miranda Priestly, editor of Runway magazine - a thinly disguised of Vogue’s editor Anna Wintour... aka Nuclear Wintour.
- Lena Olin, Awake, 2006. Score one for Sweden...! Lena beat off two other great dames - one a real Dame,Helen, and Sigourney Weaver - up for Hayden Christensen’s mother.
- Mariah Carey, Precious, 2008. A singing diva to replace a British Dame.. .No one would have suggested that - except director Lee Daniels. When Helen had to withdraw as social worker Mrs Weiss from his emotional heart-breaker, Lee sent for Mariah due to her equally powerful work inhis Tennessee production in 2007.
- Felicity Kendal, Doctor Who #194: The Unicorn and the Wasp, TV, 2008. Lady Eddison was first offered to Helen in the country manor whodunnit. Among the guests… Agatha Christie, herself. When she goes missing, Doc10 David Tennant goes ahunting.