Not only has Dame Helen Mirren been awarded an actual title from the real Queen, she famously portrayed her in Stephen Frears’ The Queen back in 2006. Charting the annus horriblis when Elizabeth and the Windsor’s retreated from the public gaze to her Scottish retreat, Balmoral Castle, in the immediate aftermath of the death of former Princess Diana in a Parisian car crash, it was a huge box office hit. Full of stately grace, Mirren’s understated performance hooked in even the most devout of republicans, sealing the deal with a rare moment of warmth as the monarch allows a great stag to flee her hunting buddies. Clearly, the real Queen would have blown its brains out. Having picked up the role again in London’s National Theatre production of The Audience, there are rumours she’s set for another reprisal, this time on the small screen for a mooted Netflix series about the monarch’s eventful life. Mirren is also the only actor to have portrayed both QEII and Elizabeth I, depicting the latter’s later years in the eponymous two-part TV miniseries of the same name in 2005.
Until her retirement this year, accidental movie star and Essex resident Jeanette Charles had been impersonating the Queen for four decades. Initially spotted by a painter who commented on her uncanny resemblance to the monarch, she rapidly graduated from TV spots, of which there are many, to her silver screen debut in Frank Agrama’s seriously dodgy King Kong spoof Queen Kong (1976). Well, sort of. That film never got a wide public release due to legal wrangling with John Guillermin over his straight remake of the Empire State-climbing giant ape that same year. Her fist Hollywood gig was in Amy Heckerling’s National Lampoon: European Vacation (1985) starring Chevy Chase, which led to her hilarious turn as Queenie alongside Leslie Nielsen in David Zucker’s The Naked Gun: From The Files of the Police Squad! (1988), where the hapless Frank Drebin ends up rugby tackling her into a grand slam the length of a stately dining table, leading to an unfortunate news splash on the front pages the next day. She even gets to knight Mike Myers in 2002’s Austin Powers in Goldmember, also starring Michael Caine and the self-titled Queen Bey, Beyoncé.
In what may well be a case of passing the crown jewels baton, there’s a new go-to girl in Hollywood for portrayals of Her Royal Highness. We suspect it might be a stage name, but Elizabeth Richard has so far portrayed the British monarch in several TV movies and had her big screen debut in the forgettable American teen comedy What a Girl Wants (2003), starring Amanda Bynes and Colin Firth. Richard’s crowing glory so far, however, is a brief but memorable cameo in the blockbuster disaster movie 2012 (actually released in 2009, which seems like a major missed publicity stunt). Queenie and her corgis abandon the doomed British Isles for one of the monstrous arks designed to preserve the human race as biblical floods swallow what’s left of a shattered Earth. So much for Queen and country: Only one survives this onslaught.
Scream queen Neve Campbell portrayed a younger Princess Elizabeth in Peter Richardson’s somewhat ridiculous, high-camp spoof Churchill: The Hollywood Years, rewriting WWII history to see Hitler personally infiltrating Buckingham Palace, intending to force himself into the Windsors via marriage. (The stinky whiff of Nazism has dogged the family ever since the abdicated King Edward VII and Wallis Simpson got overly cosy with the party.) It’s all very silly, with Harry Enfield hamming it up as King George, Christian Slater as a seriously unlikely Churchill and Jessica Oyelowo as a permanently wasted Princes Margaret. They may not have bothered to make Campbell look even vaguely like Queenie, but it’s worth the ticket price alone just to see her mangling the posh third person while totting a machine gun aimed directly at Hitler, who has Margaret in his grasp, demanding, “Let her go, or I’ll blow your other ball off.”
Staying in spoof territory, her majesty, this time portrayed by Janette Vane, has an unfortunate run-in with Sacha Baron Cohen’s fictional rapper Ali G, decked in a full-on gold outfit in his cinematic outing Ali G Indahouse: The Movie (2002). Introduced by Michael Gambon’s Prime Minister as the MP for Staines, the town west of London where Ali G supposedly hails from, the always inappropriate supposed gang member proceeds to lasciviously kiss the Queen’s outstretched hand and then licks her digits, before offering, “Hello cheeky, you is much fitter than you look in them coins. Ah tell you, next time I put a 50 pence piece in ma pocket, me feel honoured having your head so close to me nuts.” What is it about the Queen and crown jewels?
It seems appropriate that someone whose surname is an anagram of throne lent her mellifluous tones to one of the most memorable portrayals of the head of state. Angela Thorne voiced the Queen in the 1989 animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG. The monarch wakes from a “frightful” nightmare that the children of Britain are being eaten by big scary giants, only to be informed by her chambermaid that it’s already happened and is splashed across the paper’s front pages. The Queen also dreams about the arrival of our plucky young heroine Sophie, who’s already hiding behind the curtains. The two hit it off immediately, while the bumbling BFG reveals himself in the gardens outside Buckingham Palace. Queenie requests Sophie and her oversized protector’s aid in combatting the nasty giants. “Your majesty, I is your humbug servant,” he fluffs.