​Helen Mirren: Acting royalty


The Oscar-winner for "The Queen" brings another regal portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II to Broadway.

CBS News

Lee Cowan went to London for an audience with the Queen of movies:

Dame Helen Mirren may not always remember being recognized by royalty, but she's certainly recognized as royalty.

"I've been a Dame now for quite a long time, but I still kind of forget," she told Cowan - until, that is, someone addresses her as such. "And I go, 'Oh yes, that's right. I forgot that!'"

Mirren's portrayal of Elizabeth II in "The Queen" earned her a slew of awards, including an Oscar, for Best Actress.

But when it came time to actually meet Her Majesty in person, none of those accolades really mattered.

"I was paralyzed with fear and embarrassment and mortification," she laughed. "I got what we call 'Queenitis,' which is when you see the Queen, you just become this babbling idiot! You just say these ridiculous things!"

She didn't dare ask what the Queen thought of her portrayal. That's just not done. "To this day I don't know if she's ever seen it or what she thought of it, or anything."

Mirren still calls London Home. She lives here with her husband, director Taylor Hackford, and spends her time gardening when she's not on the road.

"Because we move around all the time, I'm forever planting things that I never see flower!" she laughed.

Dame Helen Mirren with correspondent Lee Cowan in London. CBS News

She's away from home again, this time to New York City, bringing Her Majesty to Broadway, in Peter Morgan's "The Audience."

"I think the great thing about this theater is it looks like Buckingham Palace," she told Cowan.

The play goes behind the doors of Buckingham Palace and into the private meetings between Queen Elizabeth and her Prime Ministers.

John Major: 'I only ever wanted to be ordinary."
Her Majesty: "Well, in which way do you consider you have failed in that ambition?"

Mirren has already won the Olivier Award for her sold-out run of the production in London's West End -- and can't wait to see how it plays to her favorite audience: Americans.

"American audiences sit forward, you know -- 'What are you going to do for us?'" she explained. "English audiences sit back - 'What are you going to do for us?'" It's a very different attitude!"

Helen Mirren stars as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Audience." CBS News

Over the course of her 63-year reign, Queen Elizabeth has held the private audiences with her Prime Ministers, once a week. They are purposely very private.

Cowan asked, "Do you feel just your portrayal of her has changed over the years?"

"No, I don't think so, because she hasn't changed," Mirren replied. "That's the point of the Queen, in a way, is this incredible consistency."

Her Majesty: "'What was her achievement?' the historians will ask. Well, she lived long, showed up, cut ribbons, knew when to keep her head down and her mouth shut. A postage stamp with a pulse, ha ha!"

It's not the first Queen Elizabeth Mirren has played. As "Elizabeth I" (in the 2005 TV miniseries), Mirren slipped in character in part by slipping into elaborate period costumes.

"The whole half of my trailer was full of jewelry in the morning, and I'd go, 'I think I'll wear that, that, that, and that. And let's put those on, let's put that in the hair,'" she said. "You could just load yourself up like a Christmas tree!"

Maybe it was her aristocratic roots. Her grandfather was a czarist officer, stranded in England after the Russian Revolution.

She was born lyena Mironov, and grew up in Essex, raised by a butcher's daughter and a taxi driver. She took an early interest in acting, especially Shakespeare.