Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen reflect on new film, Broadway and a gondola ride in NYC

On an autumn morning in New York City, actors Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen took their first gondola ride in Central Park. The two icons of British acting, who are appearing together on film for the first time in "The Good Liar," spoke with "CBS This Morning" co-host Anthony Mason about the movie and their careers.

"Well, it's not Venice, but it's — ," Mason said in the gondola.

"It'll do," McKellen said.

"It's almost better than Venice actually," Mirren said.

In "The Good Liar," McKellen, 80, is an elegant con man and Mirren, 74, is a wealthy widow. "The whole point of enjoying the movie is not to see it coming," Mirren said.

The characters meet on an internet dating service, but nothing is quite as it seems. "There's a scene is this movie where the two of you end up on the floor wrestling with each other," Mason said. 

"Yes there is. I have the scars to prove it," McKellen said. 

"There was a lot of, 'Oooh, ooh. Well, I'm down now. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to get up,'" Mirren said.

McKellen and Mirren have only worked together once before. "But what an occasion that was," Mirren said. 

Back in 2001, they co-starred in August Strindberg's "Dance of Death" on Broadway. But opening night almost didn't happen. 

"On the morning of 9/11, you were in rehearsal?" Mason asked.

"We were doing our last run through," Mirren said. "It was such an honor to be in New York at that time, I have to say."

"It didn't slow you down?" Mason asked.

"Well, Ian and I got a little bit, you know, 'Blitzy,'" Mirren said. "We're both children of the Second World War, and the knowledge of how London behaved during The Blitz is sort of part of our DNA. And we sort of both felt, what you do is, you carry on. You do not allow this to stop you."

Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen's gondola ride 01:20

Both Mirren and McKellen are Tony Award winners — McKellen for playing Salieri in "Amadeus" in 1981. "You did enjoy that?" Mason asked. 

"Oh yes, how could you not?" McKellen said.

"Oh there's nothing like being in a hit show on Broadway," Mirren said. "Nothing like it."

Mirren won her Tony in 2015 when she played Queen Elizabeth II in "The Audience." She'd first played Her Majesty in the 2006 film "The Queen." 

Her Oscar win for that role assured she'd remain best known for playing the queen, just as McKellen is best known for his Oscar-nominated performance playing Gandalf in "Lord of the Rings."

"How do you feel about being so closely linked with such large roles?" Mason asked. 

"God Bless, Gandalf," McKellen said. "I ride in his chariot. I remember a friend said to me, 'Do you realize when 'Lord of the Rings' comes out, your life is going to change forever? Didn't know what he meant, but it has. In that, I suddenly got thousands and thousands of friends that I didn't know about."

Both actors got their starts doing Shakespeare. Early on, Mirren's sensual approach to the classics saddled her with the label "sexy." 

"You really didn't like that?" Mason asked.

"Of course not, no. You don't want that. It's like a horrible thing, a horrible backpack you've got to sort of carry through life," Mirren said.

"How did you fight that?" Mason asked.

"You know, I always used to say, just let the work speak for itself. Let it go," Mirren said. "And honestly, that sort of — that worked out in the end, actually." 

Both like where they see Hollywood headed now. "Do you think things have changed substantially in the last five years?" Mason asked.

"From my perspective, absolutely. And certainly from your perspective, I would think as well, Ian, in terms of the gay community," Mirren said. 

"If theater and film weren't concerned with modern movements and concerns, then we wouldn't really be doing our job," McKellen said.

McKellen and Mirren, who called their gondola ride "a treat," are already imagining their next project together.

"Why don't we play Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in an old people's home?" McKellen said.