Happy 72nd Birthday To Helen Mirren!
Iconic Actress Hellen Mirren turned 72 on July 26 – and it’s time to celebrate some of her early work in film!
Helen Mirren has become well known for such films as her Oscar-winning turn in “The Queen” and recent hits like “Eye In The Sky” and “RED”. But did you know she got her start in a more “natural” film?
Her breakout role came early: in 1969 she co-starred with James Mason in a film about artistic freedom and rebirth – and the “age of consent”.
Mason plays an Australian artist who wants to regain the edge he had as a young man, so he heads to a small island on the Great Barrier Reef.
There he meets a young Helen Mirren, who ends up becoming his model, and his muse…check out the trailer, which tries a bit too hard to make this movie far more salacious than it is:
Mirren captures the innocence of a young girl who is on the verge of becoming a woman, and the film is clearly “of its time”…legendary Director Michael Powell’s last film.
Mirren went on to co-star in my second favorite film of all time:
The Brilliant “O Lucky Man!”
Mirren co-starred with Malcolm McDowell in an amazing film from 1973 called “O Lucky Man”, which was written by McDowell and directed by Lindsay Anderson.
If you haven’t heard of this movie, check out my story, with the film’s trailer and lots of great trivia about this masterpiece of cinema:
Mirren also starred in one of the best gangster films ever made, the gritty and violent “The Long Good Friday”:
The late Bob Hoskins gave the performance of his career as the gangster who doesn’t see that times are changing in the London underworld…
Mirren is his loyal wife who is trying to keep her husband alive in a rapidly changing world – she is terrific in the movie, one of the best gangster films ever…read more about this great film here:
Mirren has been in more than a hundred films and TV shows in her career, many of them unique, challenging and very adult in theme.
And speaking of that, let’s look at one of the most controversial movies ever made – with an All-Star cast!
This is one of the most notorious films ever released for many reasons, like the fact that an all-star cast finds themselves in a xxx-rated film!
First, let’s look at the trailer, which is for the R-rated version of the film – just one of several cuts that were shown…
Here is the plot: ”
The rise and fall of the notorious Roman Emperor Caligula, showing the violent methods that he employs to gain the throne, and the subsequent insanity of his reign – he gives his horse political office and humiliates and executes anyone who even slightly displeases him. He also sleeps with his sister, organises elaborate orgies and embarks on a fruitless invasion of England before meeting an appropriate end.”
Malcolm McDowell chews up the scenery in the film, which also starred such legendary Actors as Peter O’ Toole an Sir John Gielgud!
Mirren also starred in the film, which was the first mainstream movie produced by the Publisher of Penthouse magazine…
The Many Cuts Of “Caligula!”
Here is where the story of “Caligula” gets even more fascinating: there are various versions of the film, ranging from the “R”-rated version which was heavily edited to remove a lot of sex and graphic violence…
There is also the legendary 160-minute “hardcore” version of the film, where xxx-rated sex scenes were added to the movie long after production had finished!
The film was always intended to be a graphic look at this controversial leader, and the film’s original Director Tinto Brass had a long history making “software” erotica – but this went even too far for him!
What happened was this: Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione added hardcore sex scenes into the movie – long after the original cast had finished filming – they had no idea it was being done!
Acclaimed writer Gore Vidal did not want credit for his work on the screenplay, and legendary Actors Peter O’Toole and John Gielgud claimed to have been unaware hardcore sex footage was being shot for the film.
So, Was The Film “Disowned” By The Creators?
Even though the Actors had no idea what was happening behind-the-scenes, apparently the film’s creative team wasn’t upset because of the sex.
Here is great trivia courtesy of IMDB:
“Despite popular beliefs, Gore Vidal and Tinto Brass did not disown this film because Bob Guccione inserted hardcore sex and graphic violence sequences and changed the point of the film.
In reality, only five or six minutes of the 156-minute version of the film was part of Guccione’s reshoot – that five or six minutes consists of the lesbian tryst in the secret room, and several inserts in the imperial bordello scene.”
“Everything else was shot by Brass. Vidal disowned the film because Brass and lead actor Malcolm McDowell changed the point of view of his screenplay. Brass disowned it because Guccione locked him out of the editing room (some in the industry suspect it was because Brass didn’t want to use Guccione’s hardcore inserts) after assembling the first 40 minutes (which was probably disassembled shortly afterward).
Guccione then proceeded to edit the film himself, but he often chose shots that were never meant to be included (the many zooms, out-of-focus shots, etc.), and also cut up certain scenes and put them in the wrong order.”
Hear The Inside Story!
Now you can hear exactly what happened here, by some of the stars involved!
In 2007, Image Entertainment released a 3-disc special edition known as the Imperial Edition. It features two cuts of the film, the 156-minute print and a new edit created from an alternate pre-release version which re-arranges some scenes and does not include most of the explicit sexual inserts added by Guccione (a few shots were left in by mistake and various outtakes from Brass’ shoot and a handful of 16 mm behind-the-scenes footage were used to fill in for the deleted material).
Both Malcolm McDowell and Helen Mirren take part in a full-length audio commentary, discussing the non-hardcore, pre-release version of the film – the film they THOUGHT they were making…the DVD also includes interviews with Tinto Brass, who discusses the film’s hectic production and botched editing; and Penthouse Pet Lori Wagner, who discusses the addition of the hardcore footage, including the lesbian sex scene in which she participated.
There is also a booklet included with the 3-disc set includes a discussion of the many different versions of the film, and states that a significant amount of footage remains unaccounted for – this movie should be studied in film school as a classic example of “crazy gone wild” – and with so much behind-the-scenes information and commentary, here is a ton to study!
Mirren of course has gone on to make many great movies and TV shows, but these early films showcased her beauty, talent and passion for performance that have stayed with her ever since!
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