This week’s Danger Gal Friday post profiles Victoria from the movie RED portrayed by Dame Helen Mirren.
The movie is based on the cult D.C. Comics graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer. As she has done throughout her career, Dame Mirren once again breaks down barriers for women in film and now she’s breaking down age barriers as well.
Victoria is a trained MI6 assassin who worked with Frank Moses. She comes out of retirement to save Frank from the killers after him.
Of the group in Red, Victoria is the one who has been able to assimilate back into society the best as the owner of a small bed and breakfast — even if that assimilation is only skin deep.
Victoria is in incredibly compartmentalized person totally dedicated to her job. Film School Rejects’ Neil Miller describes her well:
Victoria is a former wet works sniper who has since retired and bought a small town bed and breakfast. But when the Agency comes calling with a hit squad, all the comfort food and frilly tablecloths go out the window, leaving Victoria to defend herself not with a kitchen knife, but a 50 caliber machine gun.
Frank Moses, played by Bruce Willis, marvels at Victoria’s seamless transition to the normal world after a life of killing. In just a few words we see that Victoria knows and accepts herself with a shrug:
Frank: “How did you do it, Victoria? How did you make the transition? You seem so calm and at ease.”
Victoria: “I love it here. I love the baking. I love the flower arranging. I love the routine,” she says, her gaze moving around the meticulously maintained interior, a showpiece of comfortable upscale décor that could have been ripped from the pages of ‘Better Homes and Gardens.’ “I do get a bit restless sometimes,” she confesses. “I take the odd contract on the side. . . you can’t just flip a switch and become someone else.” [Cinemaspy]
Victoria’s character subverts what we think we know about women, about assassins, about domesticity and Mirren embraced that when she built the character:
“I approached it very seriously like I do everything, really,” she says. “It is always great to find someone that you can pin your character on. Obviously, in The Queen it was very easy to find the person to pin the character on—she’s called Queen Elizabeth. But here I was kind of looking for who this woman might be and then I had this flash of inspiration. Martha Stewart came into my mind. I thought, ‘That’s who it is, it’s Martha Stewart.’ And so from that point on I based everything on Martha Stewart: the hair was Martha Stewart’s hair, the color even and the cut; the clothes were Martha Stewart’s. I thought Martha Stewart combines this perfect combination of sweetness and kindness and gentleness and unbelievable efficiency with this laser-like ability to concentrate and get the job done.”
“I thought that was a perfect thing for Victoria. So I had a picture of Martha up on my trailer and in the make up room, so every day I could look at her and be inspired. That was just my secret story. Obviously, I didn’t try and imitate her or impersonate her, that wasn’t the point. It was getting inside of Martha. She’s obviously not a retired assassin, but whatever Martha Stewart does, she does it really, really well. I hope she won’t be insulted by this characterization.”
RED has a love story to tell too, though. Both Frank and Victoria have to deal with their work and love lives colliding. They’ve both done what spies should never do: fall in love. The main story is about Frank’s developing love for Sarah, but Victoria is confronted with her love for KGB agent Ivan Simanov — and he won’t let her go. When their relationship was discovered years prior Victoria had to demonstrate that her loyalty to MI6 hadn’t been compromised. So she shot him. Ivan understood, though, being a spy himself and waited for years until they could be reunited.
Victoria was a standout character in this movie on many levels. If you also enjoyed this movie be sure to check out Warren Ellis’ 2009 blog post on the project. Money quote:
. . . I say to you once again:
Helen Mirren with a sniper rifle.
I mean, if you don’t want to see a film with Helen Mirren with a sniper rifle, I’m not sure I want to know you.