Helen Mirren: When we chatted about her role in the holiday film — her portrayal of "death" as a bubbly woman wearing fluffy blue feathers — she assured me that that positive portrayal was on purpose.

This is Mirren's 121st acting project. And has four more are on the way soon, including Fast & Furious 8. With a decade-spanning career that includes Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes, I had to ask Mirren her advice for young women aspiring to lengthy, successful careers. 

In love with Madrid, Mirren reveals that her favorite dish is a famous “platillo” from Spain 

Q: How did you play death?

A: I was determined that it shouldn't be morbid and scary did not want to be play someone serious and threatening or imposing in any way. The first thing I thought is, I want this character to be as alive as I can possibly make her on the screen. 

Q: What is the best advice you have for a new actor?

A: Be on time, be an asshole. Work toward financial independence, if that's possible, because it gives you a freedom. It's a difficult thing to do, I know, but save your own money. I think that's very important. 

Q: I heard you like to go to Madrid?

A: I love Madrid, is one of my favorites cities in the world. I could eat every day huevos rotos, what a delicious dish from your county. 

Q: Do you speak Spanish?

A: Barely, but I love Spain. I think is an amazing culture. I played Lorca in the theater, is a phenomenal writer. 

Q: Have you read The Quixote?

A: Of course, it’s a must for any actor. I believe 

Q:  What made you say yes to this role initially?

A: I thought it was a very wonderful, nuanced, interesting movie. Film gives you a visceral experience of something that you would never otherwise experience. 

Q: How does this film fit in with what you want to be doing in your career overall?

A: It fits in very, very well with what I want to be doing. I want to be making film and theater, but film is particularly relevant. I like it to be serious. Of course, having said that I'm about to do Fast and Furious 8. But that's for the fun of it. So maybe that's what I want as well, some fun and some relevant, serious, important movies. 

Q: So you are confirmed to be in 'Fast 8'?

A: Yes, I am. 

Q: Are you a fan of cars?

A: Well, yes. I've always rather loved driving. I said, 'I'll be in it, but only if I'm allowed to drive if I do drive in it.' But we'll see. We'll see how it transpires. Film is a wonderful thing and it can be so many different things. I don't want to turn my back on any of the different ways movies can be. I love the movies. I love going to the films. I like very serious films, I love foreign films, and I love big, fun movies–as long as they're well made and they've got good scripts. That's the most important thing. 

Q: What do you think about being an actress in your 70s?

A: best thing about being over 70 is being over 70. Certainly when I was 45, the idea of being 70 was like, bff, But you only have two options in life: Die young or get old. There is nothing else. The idea of dying young when you're 25 is kind of cool — a bit romantic, like James Dean. But then you realize that life is too much fun to do that. It's fascinating and wonderful and emotional. So you just have to find a way of negotiating getting old psychologically and physically.

Maria Estévez

Correspondent Writer