Dame Helen Mirren, who plays a retired Israeli spy and Nazi hunter in her new film, says she was drawn to the role primarily because there is a lack of "proactive" roles for women in Hollywood.
"I think the fact that it was a proactive role for a woman my age. Really proactive roles are comparatively rare for me," Mirren said at the premiere of "The Debt," in an interview provided by Focus Features. "I've been very lucky, I got to do 'Red' and the Tolstoy film and this and all of those roles have been very proactive, but all very different from each other. That was a good couple of years for me."
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.
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.
"We only got to be together for an afternoon, but Jessica had already done a lot of work and she told me about habits that I have that I didn't even realize myself that I have!" Mirren continued. "She said, 'You know how you always bite your lip like that?' and I said 'Do I? I didn't know that' and she said, 'Yes, yes you do a lot - I've watched all this tape of you.' So, we found little habits that we could share."
Mirren had nice things to say about Chastain, who has appeared in three films this summer, including "The Help" and "The Tree of Life."
"You know what I saw in her, was the way she approached her work," Mirren said of Chastain. "She was much more beautiful than I was at her age and much more poised, but what I did recognize was the work ethic, the attitude towards her work - really serious, really earnest, very dedicated. It was great to see 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.
Watch a trailer for "The Debt" below.