There are many words that spring to mind when you think of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II crown, throne, corgis but sexy is not among them. Unless, that is, you happen to be Helen Mirren. ''As a young woman she was sexy,'' insists the actress, 61, who plays the monarch in director Stephen Frears' The Queen. ''She had a gorgeous figure, beautiful skin, and much better legs than I've got. Still does. I think there's something genuinely seductive about her.''
While the movie finds Mirren's figure swaddled in padding and rather matronly attire, there is an undeniable hint of the seductress about her characterization, not least in Elizabeth's dealings with Michael Sheen's Tony Blair. ''They do say that all of her prime ministers kind of fall in love with her,'' smiles Mirren. That seductiveness is just one of the ways Mirren makes flesh and blood a woman whose private life we know little about. Set in the week following Princess Diana's 1997 death, the film focuses on the Queen's reluctance to mourn a person who had become a thorn in her side. Mirren's performance has already earned her a Golden Globe and front-runner status for the Oscar, an achievement that eluded her on her previous two nominations.
The actress admits she may deserve at least one prize for her work on The Queen for working with a pack of untrained corgis on the set. ''I said to the first assistant director, 'Just give me five minutes with them and I'm sure it'll be okay.' And that's basically how it was,'' Mirren says of her canine costars. ''He said that I should get all the awards that are going for dog handling.'' Perhaps the Academy will consider adding a new category.