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Mirren dedicates her Oscar to Britain's queen

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Britain’s Helen Mirren won the best actress Oscar on Sunday and dedicated her award to Queen Elizabeth, the monarch she portrayed in the royal drama “The Queen”.

Helen Mirren shows her Oscar for best actress for her role in 'The Queen' at the 79th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, February 25, 2007. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

It was the first Oscar for Mirren, 61, who has already swept up more than 20 major awards for her portrayal of the reserved Elizabeth II in the days after the sudden death in 1997 of Princess Diana.

Saluting the “courage and consistency” of Queen Elizabeth, Mirren raised her golden statuette and told the audience: “I thank her because if it wasn’t for her I most certainly would not be here. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Queen!”

The Oscar crowned a sensational 12 months for Mirren who demonstrated her range and won critical acclaim for playing an earlier British queen in the television series “Elizabeth 1” and a hard-bitten, alcoholic detective in television’s “Prime Suspect”.

The silver-haired actress, a 40-year veteran of stage, screen and television, won universal praise for her nuanced portrayal of Queen Elizabeth, whose traditional stiff upper lip was challenged and misunderstood by an emotional public grieving for the popular and glamorous Diana.

DIGNITY, DUTY

“For 50 years and more, Elizabeth Windsor has maintained her dignity, her sense of duty and her hairstyle. She’s had her feet planted firmly on the ground, her hat on her head, her handbag on her arm and she has weathered many, many storms,” Mirren said while accepting the Oscar.

It is unknown if the real queen has seen the movie since Buckingham Palace has a policy of never revealing her personal preferences in books or movies.

Mirren told reporters on the red carpet on Sunday: “I can’t imagine the Queen has not seen it, but I will never officially know.”

Mirren studied hours of tapes and aged 20 years for the role, which confounded her previous image as a mature yet sultry actress who has appeared nude in more than a dozen movies, including at age 58 in “The Calendar Girls.”

Mirren became one of the oldest women to win an acting Oscar, joining Katharine Hepburn, Jessica Tandy and fellow Briton Judi Dench among the handful of females over 60 to get the honor in Hollywood where youthful beauty is worshiped.

In a category dominated by Britons, Mirren beat Dench and Kate Winslet, Spain’s Penelope Cruz and perennial U.S. favorite Meryl Streep to win Sunday’s Oscar.

She paid tribute to her fellow nominees, as well as the cast and crew of “The Queen”. Both the movie and its director were also Oscar nominated but failed to win in those categories.

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