Actress Helen Mirren began her career with the National Youth Theater in Great Britain in 1965, and four decades later is still packing in audiences at cinemas and playhouses around the world. Best known to American audiences for her Academy Award-winning turn as Queen Elizabeth II in the 2006 feature film "The Queen," Mirren is out with a new autobiography entitled "In The Frame: My Life In Words And Pictures" (Atria Books 2008). Packed full of scrapbook photos from Mirren's personal collection, "In The Frame" traces the twists and turns of her life from her childhood in Essex to her self-described "amazing year" playing the British Monarch and wrapping a successful run on the detective series "Prime Suspect." Mirren spoke to The Huffington Post about her book, and a selection of her observations are below:
On why she decided to write an autobiography at this point in her career:
Well really it was encouragement by a friend of mine. I had been approached to write an autobiography over the last ten years probably. Various publishers had approached me and I had always had it in the back of my mind. But I was rather intimidated by the idea of it. I knew that I wanted to write it myself. I didn't want to work with a ghostwriter. But at the same time I felt that I wasn't capable. As I describe in the beginning of the book I'm not a diarist; I get bored with myself very quickly. And I had been mulling over the idea of how I'd do it. I felt it would be kind of fun to write an autobiography like a collection of short stories. And that was the way I was thinking I would do it. And then my friend suggested the idea of a scrapbook and writing around the pictures. I'm a very visual person, I respond a lot to visual images. And I think that was an easy way in for me.
On balancing work and writing the book:
I had to write it when I was working pretty hard doing various acting projects. in fact I was sent the advance check and I kept the check - I didn't cash it for about three months - because I was sure I wasn't going to have the time to do it and I was going to have to return the advance. But eventually a little bit of time opened up and I started. And I just absolutely flew away with it. Originally I was only supposed to write, really, just little captions for the pictures, and I was supposed to write about 15,000 words. And I finished up writing about 56,000 words. The publisher in the end wrote and said "Stop! Stop! We've got far too many words it is getting too long." Once I started I really loved it. It came incredibly easy. I really didn't edit it at all.
On the writing process:
It came very organically. I saw a collection of pictures and I began thinking about a certain time in my life and it just sort of flew away. I think the hardest thing was segueing from one relationship to another elegantly and without anyone really noticing in the book. How do I deal with the beginning of relationships and the end of the relationships and sometimes the untidy middle bits?
On whether it was difficult to convey such personal memories as discovering sex, or starting new relationships:
There's a whole other book I could write if you know what I mean that goes into those things in far more detail. And maybe far more painfully and far more shockingly, if you like, but that wasn't the book I wanted to write at this point. I wanted to write a book that was, you know, about love. And I think that comes out of the pictures. You know there are no pictures in the book of "he done me wrong" kind of things. No People who were cruel or horrible. The pictures that you keep, after all, are the pictures of your loved ones, even if they have passed on or away from your life. So I wanted it to be benign and loving basically.
Interview conducted, edited and condensed by Max Follmer.