Dame Helen Mirren, who plays a retired Israeli spy and Nazi hunter in her new film, has played strong women in movies in the past but says she ultimately is drawn to "complex" characters with weaknesses.
In her new film, the thriller "The Debt," the 66-year-old plays Rachel Singer, who once worked as a Mossad agent and is haunted by one of her past missions. She and her colleagues were in the 1960s tasked with catching a Nazi war criminal - a doctor who experimented on German concentration camp prisoners during the Holocaust.
"I always look for the vulnerability and the weakness in a character," Mirren told OnTheRedCarpet.com. "That's always what makes a character interesting. It's not their strengths. It's their flaws. It's their weaknesses. It's their flaws that make them interesting and mesmerizing over the ages."
She said she likes playing "complex" characters.
Jessica Chastain, who starred in the recent drama film "The Help," plays a younger version of Mirren's character in scenes set in the 1960s. Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington play her fellow agents. Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds play the characters in 1997 and star alongside Mirren.
"She studied me and took elements from me to make her character work but she basically constructed the character," Mirren said about Chastain. "Then the race was already won when she passed the baton to me and I take over in the film. She has made such a strong character, such a believeble character. My work, in a sense, was done for me. So I am very grateful to her for that."
"The Debt" was released on Wednesday, August 31. It was filmed in London, Budapest and Tel Aviv and is a U.S. adaptation of the 2007 Israeli movie "Ha Hov.
Mirren also played a spy in the 2010 comedy thriller "Red" alongside Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman. Other past roles include Queen Elizabeth II in the 2007 film "The Queen," Queen Elizabeth I in the 2005 mini-series "Elizabeth I" and controversial novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand in the 1999 television film "The Passion of Ayn Rand."
The actress was in 2003 honored with the title Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE), joining the ranks of designer Vivienne Westwood and actress Julie Andrews. Mirren was more recently named "Body of the Year" in a recent British poll, although she laughed off her win, claiming the honor should have gone to her competition -- Jennifer Lopez.
Reporting by George Pennacchio of KABC Television, parent company of OnTheRedCarpet.com that also produces the entertainment show "On The Red Carpet" (check for local TV listings).