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Mirren turns Prospero into Prospera


Dame Helen Mirren stars in The Tempest

Dame Helen Mirren stars in The Tempest

Dame Helen Mirren stars in The Tempest

Dame Helen Mirren changes the gender of one of Shakespeare's most famous characters in her latest film - and the actress reveals that it was the Bard's work that made her want to be an actress.

In Julie Taymor's interpretation of The Tempest, she switches the sex of the traditionally male sorcerer role, Prospero, to a female sorceress, Prospera, for the Oscar-winner.

Mirren said it was her love of Shakespeare that drew her to acting.

"I never wanted to be a movie star or on TV, I wanted to be a classical Shakespearean actress," she told reporters.

She recalled how while she was watching the play in a theatre a few years ago: "I thought this could be played as a woman without changing dialogue, and very few of (Shakespeare's) plays allow for that.

"Then a year or two later Julie and I met."

The two decided to work together and when Taymor asked her what role she'd like to play, Mirren told her Prospero, and the director replied that she always thought the role could be played by a woman.

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"I let my instinct take over and I knew I was with a great, great visionary director and could just go with the flow," the actress said.

The film features the original score of Oscar-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal, and includes performances by Oscar-winner Chris Cooper and Oscar nominees Tom Conti and David Strathairn. It was unveiled out of competition in the final hours of the Venice Film Festival.

The director called Shakespeare's last play the Bard's "most visual", lending itself to adaptation on the big screen. Taymor has also has adapted Shakespeare's Titus for film.

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