NEW YORK — In 2010's surprise action-comedy hit “Red,” Helen Mirren elegantly embodied one of the most startling femmes fatale in recent film history in Victoria, the demure, apron-clad, bed-and-breakfast maven trying to leave behind her past life as a dead-eyed British black-ops assassin.
The role was a complete lark for the refined and articulate Mirren, who'd earned an Oscar in 2006 for her regal performance as Britain's reigning monarch in “The Queen,” and who herself was named a Dame of the British Empire for her services to drama.
In press interviews at that time, Mirren said she modeled the “Red” character on America's prim, efficient queen of domestic engineering Martha Stewart (albeit Martha Stewart packing heat). Now, with “Red 2,” Mirren again dons apron and combat boots and takes up her high-tech sniper rifle to rejoin the troupe of over-the-hill spies (Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Mary-Louise Parker, joined by new players Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins) for a globe-hopping new adventure.
“People really seemed to enjoy the first one, and I'm thrilled we got to do a second one,” said Mirren, resplendent in a hot pink dress, during a news conference hosted by Summit Entertainment at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. “It's lovely to reprise a character in action as well, because the character takes on a different kind of life when you come back to it.
“It's like when I did ‘Prime Suspect,' coming back to Jane Tennison,” she said. “It's funny, because these characters become a part of your personal life. I feel that way about Victoria. She's just a great, funny, surprising sort of character to see on screen, and actually, one someone hasn't seen on screen before. It's always a bit of a miracle when you can do something that hasn't been seen before — that sort of very refined character who has this other secret life.”
In the sequel, Victoria is given a very sinister assignment to take down her former buddy, Willis' retired CIA spook Frank Moses, who, along with his paranoid pal Marvin (Malkovich), is implicated in the pilfering of a missing Cold War nuclear weapon dubbed “Night Shade.”