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Exclusive Portraits: Helen Mirren & Taylor Hackford Honored at Cinema/Chicago Gala

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CHICAGO – There ain’t nothing like Dame Helen Mirren, international star and Oscar winner for “The Queen.” She, along with her husband Taylor Hackford (director of “Ray” and “An Officer and a Gentleman”), were honored at the Cinema/Chicago Spring Gala on May 24, 2017.

Cinema/Chicago, the presenting organization of the Chicago International Film Festival, is a non-profit arts and education organization dedicated to fostering communication between people of diverse cultures through the art of film and the moving image. Their programs include the Chicago International Film Festival, Chicago International Television Festival, the CineYouth Festival, international screenings, and a year-round education program. Celebrating its 53rd edition October 12-26, 2017, the Chicago International Film Festival is North America’s longest running competitive film fest.

Helen Mirren at the Cinema/Chicago Spring Gala, May 24th, 2017
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Dame Helen Lydia Mirren was born in London, and after attending the New College for Speech and Drama there, was accepted at age 18 in the National Youth Theatre. Through that connection she got a starring role in “Antony and Cleopatra” at the Old Vic, and began a fruitful stage and screen career. She worked through the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s in the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Court Theatre, and made her Broadway debut in 1994 with “A Month in the Country.”

Her film career began in the 1960s with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1968) and the notorious “Age of Consent” (1969), and after doing one-offs in the 1970s, came into her own with roles in “Excalibur” (1981), “White Knights” (1985, where she met husband Taylor Hackford) and “The Mosquito Coast” (1986). She began her royal run as Queen Charlotte in “The Madness of King George” (1994), which of course led up to her Academy Award winning performance as Queen Elizabeth in “The Queen” (2006). She recently played a military officer in “Eye in the Sky” (2015) and had a memorable cameo in “The Fate of the Furious” this year. In 2003, she was named Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, but even that honor cannot encapsulate her eminence as a performer.

HollywoodChicago.com asked her a few questions on the red carpet.

HollywoodChicago.com: You recently portrayed a military officer in ‘Eye in the Sky,’ which was also the last film for the late Alan Rickman. What performance elements did you use in your military portrayal, and what do you remember about Rickman?

Helen Mirren: Well, for a military role it is simply ‘shoulders back.’ I just brought in that bearing and every day I would march to work. [laughs] Although I didn’t appear with him in the film, Alan and I were on stage together in 1998 in ‘Antony and Cleopatra.’ The British theater and acting community misses his great talent.

HollywoodChicago.com: You have been an international sex symbol since you’ve been in your twenties. For the first time here, what is the secret to being an international sex symbol?

Mirren: Ignore it!

Taylor Hackford at the Cinema/Chicago Spring Gala, May 24th, 2017
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Taylor Hackford was born in Santa Barbara, California, and graduated from the University of Southern California in 1968, where he was a pre-law student. While in the Peace Corp he worked with 8mm film, and transitioned into his life’s work. He was producer on his first film, “Bukowski” (1973) and made his directorial debut with “Teenage Father’ (1978), which won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. He shot into prominence with “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) and had a string of hits throughout the 1980s and ‘90s including “Against All Odds” (1984), “White Knights” (1985), “Everybody’s All-American” (1988), “Dolores Claiborne” (1995) and “The Devil’s Advocate” (1997). He scored his second Oscar producing the documentary “When We Were Kings” (1996) and was nominated for Best Director for “Ray.” (2006). His most recent film was the Robert De Niro-featured “The Comedian” (2016).

HollywoodChicago.com: Who was your mentor when you first began as filmmaker and storyteller, and what did that person tell you that has stuck with all these years?

Taylor Hackford: It was a Budd Boetticher, a director most known for his westerns in the 1950s. He showed me what was behind the curtain, and he also told me that if you want to tell the story the way you want to tell it, you cannot take ‘no’ for an answer. I’ve pretty much lived by that advice every since.

For more information on Cinema/Chicago and the Chicago International Film Festival click here.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2017 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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