In the last series of Film 2003 we took you behind the scenes of "Calendar Girls". The film is based on the true story of a group of women who made headlines across the world when they took off their clothes to raise money for charity. Guest reporter Gaby Roslin chatted to star Helen Mirren about her role.
Gaby Roslin: Tell us about the character you play...
Helen Mirren: I'm playing a character based on a real person, but it's not a documentary we're making, so we've taken the basic story of the Calendar Girls, a group of women here [in the Yorkshire Dales] who took their tops off and did a calendar for cancer research. [The women disrobed for an "alternative" Women's Institute calendar in aid of the Leukaemia Research Fund.] I play the ringleader of that group of women.
Were you aware of their story already?
I think I read it in the New York Times when I was in America so I was familiar with the story, but I didn't know the ins and outs.
So when they asked you to be in the film did you leap at it?
I was a little resistant because it was a bit "English", but when I read the script... it's just so delightful, funny and moving. It really combines all of those elements and the fact that it was based on a true story... I was really seduced by it.
Why did it worry you that it might be a bit "English"?
I don't know really, I think sometimes that after films like "The Full Monty", which did it so well, I didn't want us to look like "the poor woman's Full Monty". But one would aspire to go at least as far as "The Full Monty" which I thought was a really brilliant film.
And how is the filming going?
I'm really enjoying [filming] and the director [Nigel Cole] is very encouraging. The other ladies are wonderful to be with - as an actress you rarely get the opportunity to be on set with more than one other actress, so to be on set with five or six other actresses is really good fun. [Mirren's co-stars include Julie Walters, Annette Crosbie and Celia Imrie.]
The story has a deep sadness, with your character's best friend's husband dying of cancer. Is this the core of the film?
Absolutely. It's the rod that holds the whole thing together and the core of what holds the women together, and they have not lost sight of this. It's very important to them and it's very important to us. The film is a very gentle comedy but it has a very strong centre to it, and without this it would be much less of a film.
"Calendar Girls" is released in UK cinemas on Friday 5th September 2003.