7. No project is beneath her.
She’s classically trained! She’s performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company! She’s played Cleopatra! Phedre! Miss Julie! Lady Macbeth!… and then she’s done films like Teaching Mrs. Tingle and Red. In fact, even though Teaching Mrs. Tingle is probably the worst movie she’s made, Dame Helen still maintains that the evil history teacher is her favorite role that she’s played. While there’s obviously a lot to be said for those films which qualify as Art-with-a-capital-A, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of fun, too!
8. She has a tattoo.
One of the most common questions posed to younger people with tattoos by people without tattoos is whether they’re still going to like having whatever it is inked on their skin when they’re 67. If you have ever found yourself on the receiving end of this question, please refer the asker to Helen Mirren, who has a tattoo on her left hand. True, she’s admitted to disliking the fact that tattoos have become so mainstream—when she got it once upon a time, it was an act of rebellion—but she still likes the tat itself. She hasn’t tried to get it removed or anything, which speaks volumes in and of itself.
9. She doesn’t run from her past.
Obviously she was never a Lindsay Lohan-level addict, but Dame Helen was a little bit of a bad girl when she was younger—she used to like to do coke at parties until the early ‘80s or so, and she’s never tried to hide that fact. What made her stop? Surprisingly, not the dangers inherent in the drug itself; instead, she learned more about the bigger picture of the coke trade and Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie’s involvement in it. After reading a newspaper article about Klaus Barbie and discovering the “full horrifying structure of what brings coke to our parties,” she said, “All the cards fell into place and I saw how my little sniff of cocaine at a party had an absolute direct route to him. And from that day I never touched cocaine again.”
Happy birthday, Dame Helen! Here’s to 67 years of awesomeness—and many more to come!
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.