DAME Helen Mirren has revealed why she is quitting her role as one of TV’s most popular detectives.
It will be the end of an era next month when the actress is seen on screen investigating her last ever Prime Suspect case.
Retirement looms for Det Supt Jane Tennison in the seventh and final ITV Granada film, amid speculation that the character may be killed off.
I watched the first half of the four-hour film in London yesterday before attending a press conference given by the leading lady.
The final Prime Suspect is one of the TV events of the year and doesn’t disappoint. Helen must get fed up with people saying it, but she proves yet again what an astonishingly good actress she is.
With the iconic police chief advancing in years, Helen, 61, said the decision to bring the award-winning drama to a close had been hers.
“I think it’s time. It’s a great role and I let go of it with great regret, but you have to be realistic. And I’ve always wanted Prime Suspect to be realistic and have its feet in the real world as it is today in Britain,” she explained.
“That was the case for the first one 15 years ago and each one subsequently. It becomes unrealistic if you go on forever. That’s my feeling. Just following my instinct, basically.”
The first five Prime Suspects were made in Manchester before production of the sixth film, screened in 2003, moved to London. It was watched by over 11 million viewers.
Lancashire-raised Stephen Tompkinson co-stars with Dame Helen in her farewell film – The Final Act – as Tennison battles alcoholism, lonelieness and the death of her father.
She probes the killing of a 14-year-old schoolgirl in the two-part story. It also reunites her with her old adversary from the very first film, now retired Det Sgt Bill Otley, played by Tom Bell.
The female detective is seen at her lowest ebb, stinking of booze in a police interview room, dancing in a drunken haze and almost crashing her car when drink driving.
But fans will be kept guessing after Mirren was asked at the press launch to confirm that Tennison would never return.
“Who knows what might happen? She might come back from the dead,” replied Helen, before adding, “Oh, I’m so sorry guys, I shouldn’t have said that. I’m so sorry.”
Refusing to reveal if she had been teasing, she added: “I’m incredibly proud of Prime Suspect. I won’t miss Jane in the short term but probably as more time passes, I will.”
Named Best Actress at the recent Venice Film Festival for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, Helen went on from the launch to attend last night’s London premiere of her royal film, which opens in cinemas tomorrow.
ITV Granada boss Andy Harries spoke before yesterday’s screening and described Dame Helen as “the queen of British drama – she’s someone at the very top of her performance and her career”.
As the credits rolled at the end of the first half of the last Prime Suspect, you’d have been hard pressed to find anyone in the room who disagreed.
There’s a news story in today’s MEN with a feature to follow in tomorrow’s editions.