Helen Mirren to portray Catherine the Great in TV drama

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Helen Mirren is to portray Catherine the Great in a lavish television drama — adding to the pantheon of royal women the multi-award-winning star has already played during her stellar career.

Mirren confirmed to me that she has joined forces with director Philip Martin (who directed her exit performance as DCI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect: The Final Act) to make a four-part series for HBO on the Russian czarina, who ruled over a vast empire after her idiot, drunkard husband Peter III was assassinated in a coup d’etat just six months after taking the throne.

‘We’re starting to put pieces in place,’ Mirren told me when we spoke at the Golden Globe Awards, where she had been nominated for her performance in the heartbreaking film The Leisure Seekers, alongside Donald Sutherland.

Pictured: Helen Mirren playing Queen Elizabeth I in the 2006 film the Queen. Mirren won an Academy Award for best actress for the role

Pictured: Helen Mirren playing Queen Elizabeth I in the 2006 film the Queen. Mirren won an Academy Award for best actress for the role

Helen Mirren, who has played both Elizabeth I  and Elizabeth II is to portray Catherine the Great in a new  lavish television drama

Helen Mirren, who has played both Elizabeth I  and Elizabeth II is to portray Catherine the Great in a new  lavish television drama

Mirren won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the Queen in 2006

Mirren won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the Queen in 2006

Helen Mirren, who has played both Elizabeth I (left) and Elizabeth II (right)  is to portray Catherine the Great in a new  lavish television drama

Apart from enjoying a good professional relationship with the acting dame, Martin also directed seven episodes of the celebrated Netflix series The Crown (he’s one of its several executive producers). He has a feel for marrying intimate drama with spec- tacular opulence.

The hope is that much of the Catherine the Great footage will be filmed in the lavish imperial palaces in St Petersburg and nearby Tsarskoe Selo, which were built by Peter III’s forebears.

Catherine, who was actually a German princess from a minor noble family, was a lover of literature and great art. She filled the imperial collections with fine works — many from Britain (she had the painter Joshua Reynolds knock her out some treasured canvases).

Mirren confirmed to me that she has joined forces with director Philip Martin to make a four-part series for HBO on the Russian czarina. Pictured here in 2006 playing Queen Elizabeth I

Mirren confirmed to me that she has joined forces with director Philip Martin to make a four-part series for HBO on the Russian czarina. Pictured here in 2006 playing Queen Elizabeth I

Mirren confirmed to me that she has joined forces with director Philip Martin to make a four-part series for HBO on the Russian czarina. Pictured here in 2006 playing Queen Elizabeth I

Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth II a second time, on stage in The Audience (pictured)

Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth II a second time, on stage in The Audience (pictured)

This isn¿t Mirren¿s first stint as a monarch. She famously portrayed Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears¿s The Queen, and again on stage in The Audience, for Stephen Daldry and Peter Morgan

This isn¿t Mirren¿s first stint as a monarch. She famously portrayed Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears¿s The Queen, and again on stage in The Audience, for Stephen Daldry and Peter Morgan

Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth II a second time, on stage in The Audience (pictured)

Filming will likely start later this year or early in 2019; and casting will be extensive. The Empress of Russia had a dozen lovers; plus there are all manner of historical figures involved in her story.

As I mentioned, this isn’t Mirren’s first stint as a monarch. She famously portrayed Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears’s The Queen, and again on stage in The Audience, for Stephen Daldry and Peter Morgan; as well as Elizabeth I in a Channel 4 television series.

And then there’s her Russian ancestry: her grandfather was a Russian aristocrat and before she became Helen Mirren, she was Ilyena Lydia Mironoff.

 I’m going to shoot first and ask questions later, says Charlie

Charlie Murphy will star opposite Aidan Turner in Martin McDonagh¿s  The Lieutenant Of Inishmore

Charlie Murphy will star opposite Aidan Turner in Martin McDonagh¿s  The Lieutenant Of Inishmore

Charlie Murphy will star opposite Aidan Turner in Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant Of Inishmore

Charlie Murphy, who has won acclaim for playing trade union activist Jessie Eden in Peaky Blinders, will star opposite Aidan Turner in a rare revival of Martin McDonagh’s pitch black comedy The Lieutenant Of Inishmore.

Murphy (pictured) is the only woman in the cast. She will play Mairead, described as a force of nature who’s also good with a gun. ‘She shoots first, and asks questions later,’ Murphy said.

The 29-year-old Irish actress described her character as someone who ‘pushes the frustration of youth into politics’.

‘She thinks she knows what she’s talking about — but she hasn’t got a clue,’ said Murphy, who has also appeared as the kidnapped Ann Gallagher in Happy Valley and the Bronte sisters drama To Walk Invisible, which were both written by the great Sally Wainwright.

McDonagh is very much the man of the moment, thanks to the success of his brilliant film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which won big at the Golden Globe Awards and is considered an awards season frontrunner, along with Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water.

The Lieutenant Of Inishmore, which will be directed by Michael Grandage, runs from June 23 at the Noel Coward Theatre, with a company that also includes Denis Conway, Will Irvine, Brian Martin, Daryl McCormack, Julian Moore-Cook and Chris Walley.

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