Helen Mirren on Winning an Oscar: “It’s an indescribable moment”

"It’s hard to say, because you don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t won" - Helen Mirren When Asked If Winning an Oscar Changed Her Career


Each of the four acting Oscar winners at this year’s Academy Awards were first-time winners, so none of them really knew what to expect when they heard their name called at the Dolby Theatre. Hopefully, Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, and JK Simmons had the opportunity to read the Variety interview in which Helen Mirren, who won the Best Actress Oscar in 2007 for her role in The Queen, spoke about what it was like the night she won her Oscar.

Mirren admits that she sat in her seat partially dreading that her name would be called. She recalls, “It’s an indescribable moment. Part of you is terrified they will call your name because the fear of making a fool of yourself is paramount. But then it’s this incredible pleasure, to sort of feel like you haven’t been found out — because as actors, we always think we’re going to be discovered as frauds. It’s joyous, it’s thrilling and there’s a little bit of guilt.”

What she means by “guilt” is that art is subjective. She clarifies, “It’s not a race. It’s very clear in a sprint or a marathon who’s best. But you can never say who is best at acting or painting or writing. You’re all just as good, not only as the people nominated, but a whole community of people who did amazing work and weren’t nominated.

If being onstage isn’t exhilarating enough, the rush continues backstage. Mirren recalls, “When you win, you get rushed around backstage, and you always seem to be walking through a kitchen where people are doing real work. And everyone stops to say congratulations. It’s this wonderfully sweet, communal thing where everyone gets into the excitement.

While Mirren knows that being an Oscar winner has changed her career, she isn’t sure just how much. She says, “It’s hard to say, because you don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t won. It’s a bit like becoming a Dame of the British Empire; once you win the Oscar, it becomes attached to your name. You’re ‘Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren.’ So yes, undoubtedly it raised my profile.”

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