Helen Mirren glittered brighter than gold in a cobalt-blue gown trimmed with sequins at the New York premiere of her new movie, “Woman in Gold,” Monday night at the Museum of Gold. Co-star Katie Holmes was equally glittery in a hot pink cut out dress by Zac Posen.
The actresses embraced and posed for the gauntlet of photographers and video crews. Mirren spoke sparingly on the red carpet to conserve her voice for her strenuous six-days-a-week Broadway performance of “The Audience,” in which she plays Elizabeth II.
In “Woman in Gold,” the 69-year-old Oscar-winning actress plays Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee from a cultured and wealthy Austrian family, who flees from the Nazis with her opera singer husband Fritz, to the sunny climes of Los Angeles.
Sixty years later, Maria Altmann undertook a six-year quest for the return of her family’s stolen paintings, which included five masterpieces by Gustav Klimt.
Newbie lawyer Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), the grandson of her closest friends, accompanied her on this arduous odd-couple road trip. The most famous painting stolen by the Nazis was “The Woman in Gold,” a portrait of Maria Altman’s aunt, Adele Bloch- Bauer, who died tragically at age 43 of meningitis.
The Austrians considered the painting, which hung in their Belvedere Castle Museum, as their Mona Lisa, and they put up every roadblock possible to prevent its return to Maria Altmann, the rightful heir.
Ryan Reynolds couldn’t make it to the screening, although the man he portrayed, lawyer Randol Schoenberg, showed up with his wife and three children. Altmann family members included Maria Altmann’s grandson, Philip Altmann, and her son, Peter.
On the red carpet, I chatted with director Simon Curtis (“My Week With Marilyn”), and cast members Max Irons (Fritz Altmann), Ben Miles (Ronald Lauder), Allan Corduner (Maria Altman’s father) and Katie Holmes (Schoenberg’s wife).
Guests at the premiere included Tony Bennett, Becky Ann Baker (“Girls”), Ivanka Trump, Paul Haggis and Brooke Shields.
After the screening, guests headed to the Neue Galerie on 86th Street and Fifth Avenue for the after party, where they could visit “The Woman in Gold” in person. The painting is the crowning glory of Ronald Lauder’s collection of Austrian and German art and receives a steady crowd of admiring visitors. Lauder purchased “The Woman in Gold” for $135 million in 2006, at the time the highest price ever paid for a painting.
Mirren, one of the few women who can hold their own next to the stunning gold painting, posed for photographers, while her fellow cast members sang her praises.
Ben Miles, who is appearing on Broadway in “Wolf Hall,” told me of his one brief scene in the film as Ronald Lauder, “Helen made me feel so very comfortable. She insisted that they got all my angles right first. She knew I was working hard in the theater at the time playing Thomas Crowell, so she was very conscious of making me feel comfortable. And she’s just a very, very generous actor, and I’ll always be thankful for that.” He added, “Also, she’s brilliant, too. She’s great to play with and play off.”
Max Irons, who plays Maria Altmann’s husband as a young man, had no scenes with Mirren, but was very conscious of her presence on the set. He asked his driver every day if Mirren was there and told her, “You need to tell me, I can’t be surprised by this. I need to know.’ And there was the day she said yes, Helen’s there. ‘Is she in the make up trailer?’ And I was sort of expecting to meet the Queen. I was virtually prepared to curtsy. But then you meet this woman who is kind and warm and self-deprecating, I was so surprised,” said the 29-year-old-actor. “It’s what you hope for with people like that.”
After posing for photographers in front of the dazzling painting, the platinum-hair, husky-voiced actress, who after all had a Broadway performance the next day, made her regal exit.
Photos from the “Woman in Gold” premiere in New York City by Paula Schwartz.