Helen Mirren has been in the business for a long time. But there are many things that fans still do not know about her. From having been arrested to acting in risky movies, these are just a few fun facts that might surprise you…
1. Her great-grandfather was a butcher for Queen Victoria
According to her profile, Helen’s mother “was the thirteenth of fourteen children, a butcher’s daughter whose grandfather had been the butcher to Queen Victoria.” And while Mirren has never played Queen Victoria, she has played two characters named Victoria — in 1980’s The Long Good Friday, and more recently, in the two Red movies, reports Thrillist.
2. She used to be called “Popper”
Did you know that Helen’s early acting nickname was “Little Mother Russia”? Apparently it’s because of her heritage, but her family had a much weirder nickname – Popper, or Pop, “because she would pop off into dreams,” which sounds both too specific to be untrue and too bizarre to be real.
3. She was in an erotic film
Yes, but she’s always been very professional. In 1979, she appeared in various states of undress throughout Caligula, an over-the-top erotic historical drama written by the novelist Gore Vidal and produced by Bob Guccione, the gold-chain-and-dog-loving mind behind the dude mag Penthouse. “Everyone was naked in that,” Mirren later told People. “It was like showing up for a nudist camp every day. You felt embarrassed if you had your clothes on in that movie.”
4. She got arrested for smuggling
In 1980, Mirren had a starring role in Peter Sellers’ last film, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, and as production wrapped up, the Pink Panther comedian gifted her a watch with her character’s name inscribed on the back. But the watch got her into trouble. “Wearing it on my wrist while traveling back from Paris, this watch caused me to be arrested for smuggling and questioned for over five hours at the airport,” she writes in her memoir. “I’d had no idea that the watch was solid gold. To escape jail time I had to pay virtually my entire salary in Customs duty.”
5. She loved cocaine but gave it up
Like all cool people in the ’70s, Helen Mirren dabbled in cocaine. “I loved coke,” she told GQ. “I never did a lot, just a little bit at parties.” But she stopped doing it after reading an article that said Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie was profiting from it in South America. And that’s the amazing Helen that we know.
6. She got a tattoo while drunk
Helen Mirren is not one to play by society’s rules! Not only will she get drunk with an American theatre troupe at an Indian reservation in Minnesota, she’ll also commemorate the occasion by getting a tattoo on her hand with a safety pin. She later told the Daily Mail the tattoo means “love thy neighbour,” but, on a larger metaphoric level, it just means YOLO.