| EDITORíS NOTE: The following interview
originally appeared in the July 2nd, 2010 edition of the Santa Monica
Mirror and the edited version is being reprinted as a courtesy of that
A Moment With Helen
Mirren & Sergio Peris-Mencheta
By Beverly Cohn
Helen Mirren as Madam Grace
Bontempo in the film The Love Ranch. Photo Credit:
hen Dame Helen Mirren walked into the pressroom, one was quite tempted
to stand up and courtesy as she is undisputedly one of cinemaís most
gifted actors and is most outspoken. Mirren is currently starring in
"The Love Ranch," the first film she and her husband director
Taylor Hackford worked on together since "White Nights" in
1985. The script by Mark Jacobson is loosely based on the Mustang Ranch,
the first legal brothel in Nevada. Mirren plays the tough madam Grace
Bontempo and Joe Pesci plays her philandering husband Charlie. The following
interview is with Mirren and co-star Sergio Peris-Mencheta, an up-and-coming
star who plays Armando Bruza.
Q: The role of Grace showcased
your sexuality and femininity that obviously is quite different from
playing the Queen. Is that what attracted you to the role?
Mirren: I have to say that you always look for your
next piece of work to be as different from your last piece of work because
that way you keep interested and hopefully keep the audience interested
as well. Its a bit of a poison chalice to be that kind of an actor
because the audience, especially a film audience, really wants you to
be the same character over and over again because thats what theyre
familiar with. The great movie stars are exactly that. If you want to
be a certain kind of an actor, you have to resist that even if sometimes
its not in your own self-interest, but ultimately it is in your
artistic self- interest. Anyway, I looked for something different, and
this was different from the Queen. That said, I dont agree that
its about sexuality or femininity. Its really about a tough
working class woman.
Q: Did you feel good chemistry with Joe Pesci and were
your styles of working compatible?
Mirren: We dont have different styles of working
and I dont know why people keep saying this. We work in exactly
the same way. We look at the script, we learn the line, we hit our marks,
etc. He doesnt like to rehearse and Im in accord with that.
I dont mind running the lines with someone, but I dont want
to rehearse it. You want it to happen in the moment on the set. Joe,
above all, is a professional. Hes been in the business a long
time. He knows whats required and he delivers and I respect that
more than anything. He happens to be a great actor with incredible energy
and its great to work with that Joe thing.
Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci in The Love Ranch. Photo
Credit: Courtesy Photo
Q: You met with a real madam. What was that like?
Mirren: Honestly, the great thing about the work we
do, and the thing that I love most about my job, is that it takes me
into the most unexpected places, places that I would never dream that
I would be, and along comes a role that takes you to that place. One
of the places we visited was a brothel in Nevada and was introduced
to a pretty extraordinary woman, Susan Austin, madam of the Mustang
Ranch. Shes very elegant, very gracious, very smart, very business
like and if you met her on the street, you would think she was the CEO
of a cosmetics company. She was a revelation to me and it was great
to meet her.
New Year's celebration at the Love Ranch. Photo
Credit: Courtesy Photo
Q: Can you both talk about your torrid love scenes?
Was it harder for both of you or for your husband Taylor?
Peris-Mencheta: It was more difficult to do the audition
than the shooting. Two days after I met Helen Mirren, we did the reading
and we had to kiss each other and touch each other. For me it was very
difficult. I got to know her and said to myself shes not Dame
Mirren, shes Helen and I can touch her. After a while, it was
very normal and natural. After all, Im from Spain. (laughter)
Mirren: I have done this quite a few times and I think
in general itís harder for the guy. I know thatís a broad generalization.
Taylor was great because he was incredibly straightforward and practical
about it. He might as well have been shooting a scene about washing
up. He gave us direction about where we should lie down and how he was
going to shoot it, which really helped Sergio and me. I know itís really
hard for people to understand and itís always a question. I can understand
why because kissing and sex are so intimate and something you only do
with a loved one or a drunken night with someone. (laughter.) The thought
of doing it with a complete stranger with whom you are not intimate
is difficult for people to get their heads around it. Iíve often walked
into a room and within ten minutes Iím kissing a complete stranger.
Actors are use to that because thatís what we do. Itís our job. Itís
natural and itís easy. Believe me, itís no big deal unless you choose
to make it so.
Q: Sergio, to prepare for this boxing role, you trained
with hall-of-fame trainer Jimmy Glenn. What was that like?
Peris-Mencheta: I worked out for four months in New
York, training for five hours a day. I ate a lot because I had to gain
35 pounds. I turned into another guy that helped me lot to play this
role. The worst part was to go into the ring to spar. That was tough.
Q: Knowing you were not really a boxer, did they hold
back in their sparring with you?
Peris-Mencheta: At the beginning they were polite, but
after a while, when I learned some moves and tried to punch, sometimes
I would connect and they would want to fight with me, but they did try
to respect my face.
Q: Are you loosing some of those 40 pounds?
Peris-Mencheta: Iím on it. Itís more difficult to gain
weight because you have to eat when youíre not hungry and youíre thinking
about having to lose that weight after the movie. So before and after
dinner every night, I had to drink Haagen Daz ice cream that I microwaved.
Q: Taylor is a boxing fan. Do you have a sport that
Mirren: Ever since I was in my teens I watched boxing and all my boyfriends have been boxing fans, so Iím quite a fan. Three of them boxed themselves, one of them almost professionally. I can certainly watch a boxing match and do love fight night in Vegas.
Q: Do you have a special thing that you like to do?
Mirren: Crocheting. Not! (laughter) My husband, incidentally,
also loves dance and will happily go to the ballet. We enjoy all kinds
of forms of physicality.
Helen brings husband Taylor Hackford a cup of tea
during the press conference.
Photo Credit: Beverly Cohn
Q: One canít imagine you having difficulty doing anything,
but was capturing an American accent a challenge?
Mirren: Someone said that you are good at accents if
you are musical and Iím completely unmusical. I cannot sing in tune
or hear a tune and I do find accents very difficult and have to work
very hard at them. Some people do them very easily and brilliantly,
but I donít. Iím very bad at it. So whenever you see me doing an accent,
believe me, itís a lot of work. Given that Iíve lived in America for
20 years, youíd think it would be easy.
Q: Sergio, youve made your first American film,
directed by Taylor Hackford, co-starring with Helen, love scenes with
Helen. How was this whole experience for you?
Peris-Mencheta: Too much. (laughter) At the beginning
it was too much but they tried to make me feel at home and I think that
was the key, including the make-up guy Luigi Rocchetti who put on my
beard every day. I finally found my place in this big thing. I saw the
movie the other day and thought, I did that!
Q: In the end you go off with the young, gorgeous guy.
What is your feeling about the expression Cougar?
Helen Mirren and Sergio Peris-Mencheta. Photo
Credit: Courtesy Photo
Mirren: I think its offensive. Mind you, a Cougar
is a rather beautiful animal, but its still offensive. Men have
been going off with younger women forever, but theres no special
name for that.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your photo spread
in New York magazine?
Mirren: The photographer is one of the top ten European
photographers. Hes an art photographer. I lived with a photographer
for four years so Im very much into the art of photography and
always give photographers artistic freedom and time, especially if theyre
top notch. I dont try to control what they do.
Q: Thank you so much.
Mirren: Youre welcome. Bye. Bye.