Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren turned to her filmmaker husband for help after she was cast as Bette Midler's replacement in a new Phil Spector biopic - because he once worked for the disgraced music mogul.

The actress portrays attorney Linda Kenney Baden, who defended Spector throughout his murder trial, in the new TV movie, and admits she studied up on the hitmaker by chatting to her husband Taylor Hackford about the time he spent with him.

She tells WENN, "I've heard so many extraordinary stories about him. My husband actually worked for Phil Spector, so my husband had some incredible stories about him. You get the sense of someone who permanently lived in a dream.

"All of the stories about Phil, you can't exaggerate, it's impossible; they are so extreme, so out there. A man of such incredible contradiction.

"I recently met a youngish woman who had known him very well and said that she had only ever seen the very, very sweet side of him; how incredibly kind he could be.

"He was obviously a schizophrenic character with these real extremes battling it out within him. The stories my husband has of him, it was when he was making his first film, The Idolmaker.

"And Phil originally was going to be the guy writing music for it. So he had a lot of meetings with Phil and some pretty hair raising stories, which I won't go into right now".

But Mirren admits she never got the chance to chat with Baden before starting the film, because she was brought in at the last minute to replace the injured Midler, who had studied the defence attorney at length after signing on to join Al Pacino in the movie, Phil Spector.

Mirren says, "I didn't actually meet Linda before I started the film. I'm sure you all know that Bette Midler originally was playing the role and would have been absolutely brilliant in the role, I might add, but unfortunately had to drop out because she had an injury to her neck. She was in too much pain to continue. So I stepped in very late in the day.

"I didn't get to spend a lot of time with Linda, but, in a funny way, I think that helped - because the film is a strange amalgamation of imagination and reality.

And the imaginative part of the film, I think, is as important as the realistic element in it.

"I didn't feel I had to do the most perfect, immaculate impersonation. It's always a tricky little tightrope that you walk in those areas".