No Meeting for Helen Mirren and the Real Queen

Helen Mirren | Odds 'n' Ends

No Meeting for Helen Mirren and the Real Queen

There has been no meeting so far for Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren and Queen Elizabeth II, and none planned despite rumors.

So Mirren herself told a small group of heavy-hitters last night at an elegant dinner party served up at their East Side duplex by Harold Evans and Tina Brown.

Mirren was not the only member of the royal family to attend the swanky dinner. The Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson was also there and said during an after-dinner talk among the guests that she cried when she saw Mirren in Stephen Frears' "The Queen." Ferguson would be the most accurate barometer of the film's veracity.

"When I saw it, I thought, I would never betray this woman," Ferguson said. "She's so amazing, as a leader and as a woman."

Ferguson told the guests — at this reporter's suggestion — that Mirren and husband, Taylor Hackford, had done excellent research on the royal family, right down to the way the queen holds her eyeglasses.

"When Helen made her Oscar speech and she said, 'The Oscar goes to the real lady, herself,'" Ferguson recalled, "My daughters jumped up and down. They said, 'Yes, Granny!'"

Ferguson listened intently as Mirren described her research and what she thought now of Elizabeth. She said one book that had done her a world of good was by the nanny who raised the future queen and Princess Margaret.

She said she believed that Elizabeth and Prince Philip are "good friends" when asked about their relationship. She told a story about the two of them picnicking "quite happily" in the rain.

"Yes," Ferguson said, nodding. "They love the rain."

Ferguson remains a steadfast supporter of the royal family. She refers to her daughters as "fifth and sixth in line to the crown." She is nothing if not reverential. Queen Elizabeth is lucky to have such an articulate and loyal observer out in the "real" world.

This little discussion took place as we sat in the Evans' dining room, and the crowd was nothing if not exceptional.

Among them: Hackford; Liz Smith; Dominick Dunne; Charlie Rose; Bette Midler; Ron Silver; Andrew and Nancy Jarecki; Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg; legendary ad man Peter Rogers ("What Becomes a Woman Most?"); journalist Lloyd Grove; Harpers Bazaar's Nancy Collins; former Premiere magazine executive editor Kathy Heintzelman; Sony's Sir Howard Stringer; Carl Bernstein; music exec Danny Goldberg; PR maven Peggy Siegal; literary agent extraordinaire Lynn Nesbitt; and even former New York state first lady Happy Rockefeller.

And, of course, the biggest question was whether Mirren had met with the queen.

"There was some discussion of having lunch with her secretary, but never the queen herself. "And if I did," she added with a laugh, "I wouldn't tell you."

Many guests discussed the effect of the film and how much they enjoyed it. Von Furstenberg signaled husband Diller from her table on the other side of the room.

"What do you call me now in bed?" she asked. "Like in the movie?"

She thought for a minute: "Cabbage!"

Mirren accepted compliments on her Oscar and her performance but said if anything, the praise was really for Elizabeth.

"I think you got to see who she was and how extraordinary she is," Mirren said.

The actress sported an enamel bracelet she had received as a gift earlier in the day. It was inscribed: "Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Queen!"

But fear not: Even Helen Mirren knows she can't rest on the laurels of this character forever. She told me she is going to make a "fun movie" next but wouldn't say what it will be.

"And then I'd like to do some New York theater," she said.

In fact, Mirren has two films in her sights: Iain Softley's "Inkhearts" and Jon Amiel's "Angel Makers." The former, I'm guessing, she considers the fun one.

Meanwhile, husband Hackford is getting back to his own business after acting as chief consort for the last six months. On Friday he's staging a private reading of the Broadway musical he hopes to direct based on the Steve Martin movie "Leap of Faith."

Next month he's helping to produce the memorial at Lincoln Center for Ahmet Ertegun. And there's always a movie cooking.

"I came very close, had everything together, and then my star backed out," he said, declining to name names. "But someone else may come along."

The Hackfords weren't the only ones at dinner who had big projects. Our hosts barely had time to make a dinner, you would think. Harry Evans is writing three books including a memoir and an evaluation of the Clinton presidency.

Our hostess, Ms. Brown, publishes her book about Princess Diana on June 11. Andrew Jarecki is working on a documentary, while wife Nancy is busy with her overnight hit business selling a product called "Betty" — "color for the hair down there."

"My customers range from 16 to 72," she said.

There's no infomercial as yet, but give it time. Jarecki will be announcing a major retail distribution deal shortly for Betty. This is a joke, of course, but Britney Spears comes to mind as a natural celebrity spokesmodel.

Odds 'n' Ends

EMI Music, trading on the London Stock Exchange, has been in a nosedive since Tuesday. On Monday afternoon, this column announced Paul McCartney's complete exit from the company. EMI still has not acknowledged the news, but stockholders are sending them a message: Now at 230 points from 245 and falling.

Is there anyone left at Capitol Records? First 33-year PR veteran Judy Kerr goes, then 43-year artist McCartney. Now it's Buddy Deal, vice president of rock formats, according to Soon the whole company will be at Starbucks, either working behind the counter or in front of it.

I'm told that Regis Philbin's triple-bypass surgery came off beautifully on Wednesday. Philbin is one of our national treasures. We wish him the best recovery, and a speedy one. You can't start a morning properly without him.

The summer blockbuster from Michael Bay and Paramount, "Transformers," got a knockout preview on Monday night at ShoWest in Las Vegas. Bay and star Shia LaBeouf surprised the audience at a showing of "Disturbia," which also stars LaBeouf, with clips from the action-packed thriller.

There is an actual hit single brewing out there: Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," from her album "Back to Black." She sounds like a soul singer, but Winehouse is British and Jewish. Don't miss this CD, whatever you do. It's out now.

The same goes for Ryan Shaw on Columbia/One Haven Records. He's not Jewish, but Shaw is a real soul man. His cover of Wilson Pickett's "I Found a Love" is a treat. Brooklyn-born Shaw is the black Robin Thicke — or something. I cannot stop listening to any of these three artists.

The album "This Is Ryan Shaw" debuts, ironically, on April 17, the day of the Ertegun memorial. It's a sign from above, I think.