Classifieds | Archives | Jobs | About TGT | Contact | Subscribe
 | 
Last updated 3 hours, 56 minutes ago
Printer Friendly Version | TGT@Twitter | RSS Feed |
HOME LOCAL MIDEAST ASIA WORLD BUSINESS SPORT OPINION WRITERS
Throwing light on the dark
by Jen Yamato February 09, 2018
 Print    Send to Friend

On a bright Los Angeles morning a few days after the Golden Globes, Helen Mirren — dressed impeccably in black while discussing her latest film, the haunted-house tale Winchester — arrived at an unexpected concern: the fate of all those poor Stormtroopers in the Star Wars movies.

“I saw (The Force Awakens) and I thought they made a terrible mistake because they took the Stormtrooper’s hat off,” the Oscar-winning star of The Queen and British national treasure said, feigning shock.

“There was this lovely young actor (John Boyega) — which means one of the Stormtroopers is a human being. And if he’s a human, they’re all human. And you have been indiscriminately killing Stormtroopers for the last (six) Star Wars movies without any consideration to their humanity!”

Themes of violence, death and how those in the world of the living come to terms with their role in it all run throughout the otherwise titillating frights of Winchester, a supernatural horror film based on the real widowed heir to the Winchester rifle fortune. Released on Feb.8, the CBS Films/Lionsgate release is directed by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig, whose cult-favourite genre work includes Daybreakers and Predestination.

A cult figure of her own among haunted-house enthusiasts, Sarah Winchester spent 38 years and millions of dollars building her famously bizarre Victorian mansion in San Jose at the turn of the 20th century. Urban legend says she was guided in her blueprints by spirits who spoke to her from the beyond.

As Winchester, who lost her husband and young child at an early age, Mirren spends the film in black widow’s lace. It’s an intriguing turn for a grand dame of stage and screen — and also perfectly fitting given the ways Mirren has sought to defy expectations over a five-decade career.

Few moviegoers would expect to see Helen Mirren possessed by malevolent ghosts in a mainstream PG-13 horror movie. Co-star Jason Clarke, who plays a (fictional) doctor hired by the Winchester board to declare Sarah Winchester unfit to hold her shares in the company, certainly didn’t.

“But,” he said, “I was happy to be there to see it. There’s this sense of exploration and play in how she plays a scene and a character and the choices that she makes. There’s nothing scared about Helen Mirren, and you see that in the way she goes about her life.”

In one action-packed scene in which their characters face off against dark forces inside Winchester’s sprawling, forbidding home, the actors agreed to go for it and play it big.

“We were both nervous about whether it was too over the top, but then she grabbed me by the arm and said, ‘I didn’t play Phedre three times for nothing, dear.’

“She is Helen Mirren. She was Cleopatra. She was Phedre. And that was how she characterised it,” Clarke said with a laugh. “We were in a ghost story acting big and pretending to hear spirits and voices and she just goes — ‘We’re doing Shakespeare.’ Right on, Helen.”

That confidence wasn’t always so rock-solid, Mirren revealed.

In her 20s, she visited a psychic in the hopes of learning about her future. He instructed her to write down everything he said as he read her palm. Writing so fast the words barely registered, she walked away holding her own fortunes foretold in her hands.

“I looked at the sheaf of papers and realised that I didn’t want to know what’s in my future. I want it to be an adventure and a mystery. I went up to the first rubbish bin I could find,” she said with a smile, “and I threw my future away.”

The one prediction she remembered him sharing was that she wouldn’t find success until her later years. “Of course, when you’re 22 you so don’t want to hear that,” she said with a grin. “But you know, he was absolutely correct.”

Mirren might not believe in the supernatural, but she did find herself communing with the late Winchester while gazing upon one of the estate’s most intriguing pieces.

“In the house are these two beautiful stained glass panels with quotes from Shakespeare on them,” she said of the twin windows inscribed with lines from Troilus and Cressida and Richard II. “‘Wide unclasp the tables of their thoughts’ and ‘These same thoughts people this little world.’”

She leaned back, marvelling. “Two quotes from two different plays that fit together, but the meaning is so mysterious. I looked at that endlessly trying to think, ‘What is she saying?’ And I think she’s talking about freedom of thought, that people should be able to think whatever they want.”

As for what attracted her to a film in the horror genre — at a time before the mega-success of Get Out and It re-popularised the medium with audiences — Mirren pointed to the conscience behind Winchester’s tragic obsession.

“I think it is legitimate to say that there was a sensitivity to the deaths of the people who died by the Winchester gun,” mused Mirren. “The world is a terrifying place, and a lot of the terror in the world comes from arms in one sort or another, and the sale of arms. And that’s what I really like about the underlying story of the film — her guilt and her pain.”

Mirren cited a moment where Winchester slams the most “unconscionable” part of the gun trade. “She’s not talking about people who use them,” said Mirren. “She’s talking about the people who make and sell them. Every country is culpable in that.”

The actress also considered her own culpability in the glamorisation of violence.

“It’s always worried me,” she admitted. “In Red I played a sniper. I fired every kind of gun on the planet including a Gatling. The thing that upsets me in movies is when the baddies all just get slaughtered. I always watch going, ‘He’s got children! Maybe he’s only there because he’s got a second mortgage and his wife’s got a terrible disease and he’s trying to pay her medical bills!’”

Which is what brought her to the aforementioned subject of Stormtroopers and moral interrogations in the Star Wars galaxy.

“Who are they? Why are they there?” Mirren considered, half-joking, of the dark side’s most expendable minions. “We only know that we’re on the light side if we win. Everybody thinks they’re the hero of their own story. But, also: History says the winner gets to write the history.”

TNS

Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Comments
 
Post a comment
 
Name:
Country:
City:
Email:
Comment:
 
    
    
FRONTPAGE
 
GALLERY
 
PANORAMA
 
TIME OUT
 
SPORT
 
 
Advertise | Copyright