'1923' star Helen Mirren: 'I could never be a pioneer woman'

"I want my electric blanket at night," the Oscar winner laughed.

"1923," starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren, premieres Sunday. Photo courtesy of Paramount+
1 of 5 | "1923," starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren, premieres Sunday. Photo courtesy of Paramount+

NEW YORK, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren says 1923 shows the Yellowstone prequel's central family putting the needs of their livestock before those of their kin.

Mirren's matriarch character, Cara Dutton, is seen in the first episode of 1923 explaining to her nephew Jack's fiancée, Elizabeth, why her wedding must be postponed while the men tend to important cattle ranching business.


Cara gently warns the young woman that this will not be the last time her plans get scuttled if she joins the family, but the older woman emphasizes the life Elizabeth will receive in return is worth it.

"I'm not a farmer's daughter and I've never worked on a farm, but I know that when you work on any type of a farm, you are a slave to the environment, the climate, whether it rains or not, whether it's too sunny," Mirren told reporters in a recent Zoom roundtable interview.


"You cannot put those things aside and say, 'Well, I'm going to go on holiday for a couple of weeks.' There's a constant demand," she added. "On that level, I certainly understand what Cara says."

The Queen and Prime Suspect actress admitted she never could be a pioneer woman.

"I like my comfort too much," Mirren laughed. "I want my electric blanket at night."

But that doesn't mean she isn't similar to Cara in other ways.

"[Series creator] Taylor Sheridan likes to write for the personality of the actor who is going to play the role," Mirren said.

"As Jacob is constructed around Harrison and Harrison's personal qualities, Cara is constructed around me: I would hope the sense of humor, the stoicism, the professionality that Cara carries with her, the love that is tough love; it's not sentimental love -- I think all of those elements are [things we share.]"

Unlike British Mirren, Cara is Irish Catholic.

"She has carried her faith with her. She doesn't advertise it. It is not a big thing. I wanted to have a crucifix on the set," Mirren said.


"I said, 'It has got to be really small so you notice it if you notice it and if you don't notice it, it's fine.' It's just a little indication of where Cara's faith is. At the same time, she is practical, down-to-earth and realistic."

Although trailers for 1923 prominently feature Cara fatally shooting a dangerous man, Mirren isn't a fan of firearms in real life.

"I don't like guns. I find them frightening. It's so easy to cause such incredible damage with a gun," she said.

Cara is forced to use a rifle because her family has been ambushed and she is trying to protect them.

"She's just witnessed her friends and relatives shot down in front of her," Mirren said of her character. "She's in a very heightened state when she takes that act."

Harrison Ford plays Cara's husband Jacob Dutton, ancestor of formidable cattle rancher John Dutton, played in the contemporary chapter of the saga, Yellowstone, by Kevin Costner.

Set to premiere Sunday on Paramount+, 1923 explores the titular year -- plagued by pandemics, droughts, land grabs, the end of Prohibition and the advent of the Great Depression -- through the eyes of the Dutton family.

"There are a lot of forces coming in upon them that, in the future, they will be struggling against," Mirren said, adding that Sheridan is a master of authentically portraying this time and place in history.


"The American West, as it was conquered and created, had a huge amount of violence connected to it and we were protected from that for many years, watching westerns that had gun shootouts, but had a more romantic vision of American history," she said.

"The great thing that Taylor Sheridan is doing is casting a very cold and piercing eye upon American history in a very dramatic form. There was certainly an element of romance involved in it because they are real people who fall in love and argue and fight."

Mirren said she thinks Cara fits in well with the Dutton pantheon of fierce females Sheridan has created, such as Beth (Kelly Reilly) in Yellowstone and Elsa (Isbael May) and Margaret (Faith Hill) in 1883.

"What an incredible gift Taylor Sheridan has given to actresses," Mirren said, explaining she sees 1923 as a "second volume" to 1883, a show she studied closely because its timeline was relatively close to her own story.

"That extraordinary march west across America was so full of courage and pain and suffering and desperation and creativity," she added.

"That period of American history has always fascinated me and I watched 1883 with great, great interest. That journey was revealed so viscerally. It was utterly real, everything that the cast and crew did.


"There was no blue screen or digital effects. I think they wanted to have as close to the real experience as possible."

Cara and Jacob have no biological children, but raised John and Spencer, the two sons of Jacob's brother, James, as their own.

"One of the things I love about the series is that we have a lot of young actors in it and a lot of young characters," Mirren noted. "But each character is very clearly defined."

The ensemble of 1923 also features Timothy Dalton, Darren Mann, Michelle Randolph, James Badge Dale, Marley Shelton, Brian Geraghty, Aminah Nieves and Jerome Flynn.

Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren attend '1923' premiere in LA

Helen Mirren (L) and Harrison Ford attend the premiere of Paramount+'s western drama "1923" at the Hollywood American Legion Post 43 theater in Los Angeles on December 2, 2022. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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