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Helen Mirren Pays Tribute to Late Queen Elizabeth II at 2023 BAFTAs: ‘She Was Unquestionably the Nation’s Leading Lady’

Helen Mirren Pays Tribute to Late Queen Elizabeth II at 2023 BAFTAs - 908
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Paying homage. Helen Mirren paid tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II during the 2023 British Academy Film Awards on Sunday, February 19.

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“BAFTA’s relationship with Her Majesty was longstanding and BAFTA would not be what it is today without her loyal support,” Mirren, 77, said, per the Daily Mail. “In 1953, her coronation broadcast had the world watching. From that time, she was unquestionably the nation’s leading lady but as mysterious as a silent film star. Who else could meet the world’s most famous singers, actors and performers and turn them into her supporting cast? Throughout her 70-year reign, she met cinema’s greatest icons and witnessed the evolution of Hollywood’s golden age to the birth of the blockbuster. Her Majesty was front row for it all.”

Mirren added: “Cinema at its best, does what Her Majesty did effortlessly — bring us together and unite us in a story. Your Majesty, you were our nation’s leading star. On behalf of BAFTA, thank you for all that you have done for our film and television industry.”

Elizabeth’s grandson Prince William was in the audience for Mirren’s tribute on Sunday, attending the BAFTAs with his wife, Princess Kate. Both looked emotional as they applauded Mirren’s speech.

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The 1923 actress has portrayed the late British monarch two times over the course of her career. In 2006, she starred as Elizabeth in the film The Queen, which explored the palace’s response to the 1997 death of Princess Diana. Mirren won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal as well as a BAFTA, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award.

During her Oscars acceptance speech, the Prime Suspect alum thanked the real Elizabeth, then 80. “For 50 years and more Elizabeth Windsor has maintained her dignity, her sense of duty and her hairstyle,” Mirren said in February 2007. “She’s had her feet planted firmly on the ground, her hat on her head, her handbag on her arm and she’s weathered many, many storms. And I salute her courage and her consistency and I thank her, because if it wasn’t for her, I most, most certainly would not be here.”

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The Woman in Gold actress played Elizabeth again in 2013, starring in Peter Morgan‘s play The Audience, which premiered in London’s West End before moving to Broadway in 2015. Mirren won a Tony Award for her performance in June 2015. (Morgan later drew inspiration from The Audience for episodes of The Crown where Elizabeth meets with various U.K. prime ministers.)

Helen Mirren Pays Tribute to Late Queen Elizabeth II at 2023 BAFTAs - 909
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After the queen’s death at age 96 in September 2022, Mirren paid tribute to the former sovereign in a statement. “I’m mourning along with the rest of my country, the passing of a great Queen,” the Red star said at the time. “I’m proud to call myself of the Elizabethan age. If there was a definition of nobility, Elizabeth Windsor embodied it.”

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The Duke of Cambridge, 40, has been the president of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts since 2010, taking over the role from the late Richard Attenborough.

The queen’s husband, Prince Philip — who died in April 2021 at age 99 — was the first president of the organization, holding the post from 1959 to 1965. Elizabeth’s daughter, Princess Anne, later took the reins, presiding over the Academy from 1973 to 2001.

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