She's the undisputed queen of film, having been at the top of her game for the last few decades. But Helen Mirren's latest movie sees a slight departure from her usual type of roles: In Fast & Furious 8 (titled The Fate of the Furious in the US), she plays the matriarch of the villainous Shaw family – Jason Statham's mum – in the eighth outing of the franchise.
BuzzFeed UK was lucky enough to sit down with Dame Helen in London recently for a world exclusive chat about the movie, where she told us she "begged" for the role because she wanted to work with Vin Diesel so much. That, and the fact she's a huge lover of fast cars and was hoping she'd get to drive one. (Alas, she "didn't see any bloody cars" on set). We learned a lot about Helen's role in the film, but we also decided to get to know the actress herself some more. Here are her honest, funny, and enlightening answers...
1. Are you more fast or furious?
Helen Mirren: I'm definitely more fast than furious. I'm not a very furious person. I'm very patient and sweet. YEAH!
2. Do you prefer driving or being driven?
HM: I love driving. But I also love being driven. I love being driven through London and looking out at all the sights and not having to worry about the traffic and just kind of chilling in the back of a car or the front of a car. But I do also love driving and I always make sure wherever I am I've got my own wheels, sort of thing.
3. Best road trip you've ever been on?
HM: I think the best road trip I ever took was when I drove with my now-husband basically from New Orleans, Natchez, all the way across America to North Carolina. That was an amazing road trip. Fantastic.
4. Do you have a favourite road trip song?
HM: [bursts out laughing] No, and I can't sing so I'm not going to give you the pain of listening to me sing.
5. Puppies or kittens?
6. What animal would you say you’re most like?
HM: Ooh [thinks]...probably a sloth actually. [laughs] I'm incredibly lazy. I've got a penchant for rhinoceroses – although I'm not as thick-skinned as a rhinoceros, I've actually got quite a thin skin. A sort of a rather delicate rhinoceros.
7. Favourite pizza topping?
HM: There's a great pizza place in Baton Rouge in Louisiana called the Fleur de Lis and they just do the most... it's the best pizza probably in the world. It's amazing pizza. And I've had pizza all over the world. Oh, what's their signature dish? [thinks] It's clam! They do a clam pizza and that's pretty amazing.
8. What is your drink of choice?
HM: A nice little vodka. You know, straight up, or vodka gimlet straight up, or vodka, or vodka... or maybe a vodka [laughs].
9. Favourite drunk food?
HM: Oh, drunk food... that's a really good one. Of course it's got to be chips. But a nice, chunky Indian is a pretty good drunk food too, isn't it? It's our British tradition to have an Indian after getting blasted. Yep. [nods her head, sips her tea]
10. Favourite curse word?
HM: [laughs] I think I say bugger it quite a lot: Oh, bugger it!
11. What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
HM: Learn how to say "fuck off" more often.
12. Do you have a secret talent and if so, what is it?
HM: I can paint a little bit. I'm a very good haircutter. I think I'm a good haircutter. The people whose hair I cut don't think I'm a good haircutter [laughs], but I think I'm a brilliant haircutter.
13. What's the last movie you cried at?
HM: I do cry at movies quite a lot actually. Moonlight made me cry. Absolutely.
14. And what’s your favourite movie?
HM: Well, one of my favourite movies is a pretty obscure French movie called L’Atalante, which is a great movie. I do advise you guys to go out there and have a look at it.
15. What’s your advice to empower women?
HM: Say "fuck off" more often [laughs]. Same advice really. My generic advice for everything.
16. Can you laugh without smiling?
HM: I don't think so but I'll try. [gives it a go] It's rather sort of scary isn't it? Laughing without smiling. [tries it again at a higher pitch but then ends up breaking into a big smile]
I was always quite good at laughing on stage. You have to laugh up and down the scale. [she shows us how to laugh up and down the scale]
17. What would you be if you weren't an actor?
HM: Probably a hairdresser. Or an architect. [thinks] I'm not clever enough to be an architect – I think I'd probably have to be a hairdresser.
18. Favourite dance move?
HM: [dances in her chair with her fingers pointing] Anything where you wiggle. Anything that's below your waist is my favourite dance move.
19. What are your hopes for 2017?
HM: That the world stops being so... I mean, people within the world... I think there's a very scary movement towards nationalism all over the world. I find that very frightening. And I would like to see the world at large retreat from that tendency.
20. What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
HM: Well, maybe not surprised, but I absolutely cannot sing. But I don't think that's very surprising.
21. Anything else you'd like us to know about FF8?
HM: Well, you know what? I haven't seen it. So I don't know. It's going to be a mystery to me. I'm very excited to see whether I'm still in it! I hope I am [chuckles].