As Academy Award winner Helen Mirren walked the red carpet Wednesday night at the Chicago International Film Festival’s summer gala at the Loews Hotel in Streeterville, it was clear her thoughts were far away with the residents of Manchester in her English homeland.
When asked for her thoughts on the terrorist attack on people at the Ariana Grande concert, the actress said, “I know Manchester very well. My very first job was in Manchester — in the theater. I long did a television show, ‘Prime Suspect,’ which was completely shot shot in Manchester. So I personally owe Manchester, the city, a great debt.
“It’s a great city. It’s an ancient city. It’s a powerful city. The people from Manchester are extraordinarily resilient and are a strong people. This is a city that won’t be cowed or live in fear. As we all know, that sort of terrorism aimed at innocent people — in this case young girls, children really — is horrible. It’s beyond comprehension. All I can say is this: Manchester is a great city filled with great people, and in their pain and their suffering they will overcome it.”
Turning to the career achievement award from the festival, being presented jointly to Mirren and her husband and fellow Oscar winner, director Taylor Hackford, Mirren smiled .
“Tonight, obviously, will be reflective, of course. I’ll be very reflective tonight, as I’m up there [on the dais] watching my younger self, doing her thing. However, in our business, we tend to live in the moment, or slightly in the future, thinking about the next gig.
“So we don’t dwell on the past, frankly. Once you’ve done something, that’s it. My husband is very similar,” said Mirren, as Hackford nodded in agreement. “We don’t watch our old movies, or things like that. I’m not like Norma Desmond [Gloria Swanson’s famed character in ‘Sunset Boulevard’] up her hill, watching her old movies endlessly. You know, you move on.”
Asked her first thoughts about the city hosting her, Mirren said, “That’s simple. Architecture. I first came to Chicago in the late ’60s on a theater tour. I took a train from San Francisco to Chicago — the most amazing train journey. When I arrived, Chicago was the first time I saw a high-rise American city. I hadn’t yet been to New York or anywhere else really. I was blown away by the architecture of Chicago.”