CBS Films has released the first photo of Helen Mirren in the upcoming supernatural thriller Winchester. Mirren has been entertaining movie and TV fans for five decades, and her career hit overdrive with her Best Actress Oscar win for her stunning performance as Queen Elizabeth II in the 2006 true-life drama The Queen. Since then, Mirren has played in a variety of genres, including animation with Monsters University, biopics including Hitchcock, and crime comedies like the big screen adaptation of Homage Comics' graphic novel RED and its sequel.
Most recently, Mirren explored the action genre in a small but pivotal role in the worldwide blockbuster The Fate of the Furious.
Next year, Mirren will take on horror when she stars in the titular role of real-life haunted gun heiress Sarah Winchester in Winchester. Along with the first-look image, CBS Films released the film's official synopsis:
"Inspired by true events, Winchester follows the story of firearm heiress Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), who was convinced that she was haunted by the souls killed at the hands of the Winchester Repeating Rifle. After the sudden deaths of her husband and child, she threw herself into the 24-hours a day, seven days a week construction of an enormous mansion designed to keep the evil spirits at bay. But when skeptical San Francisco psychiatrist Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is dispatched to the estate to evaluate her state of mind, he discovers that her obsession may not be so insane after all. The film will take audiences inside the labyrinth-like house that is believed to be one of the most haunted places in the world."
In an exclusive interview with People, Mirren and co-directors/co-writers Michael and Peter Spierig talked about the fascination surrounding the 160-room Winchester mansion – which includes stairs to nowhere and doors that open to walls – as well as the famous person who once occupied it. Mirren says:
“I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe people can be haunted, and Sarah Winchester is a haunted person. That was the appeal in the role.”
While the filmmakers promise a “haunted house scary movie” (part of the movie will be shot at the actual Winchester mansion in San Jose, California), the Spierigs say Winchester tells a different sort of ghost story. Michael Spierig says the heiress, who died in 1922, "was an intelligent woman and a little misunderstood," while Peter Spierig notes:
“Sarah Winchester is quite a remarkable woman, and the idea of her being just a crazy person who was haunted by ghosts is not the full story. Helen Mirren, in particular, I think is great in portraying that ... It’s about a woman who is deeply troubled by the violence of the rifle and what she inherited. She’s trying to come to terms with that.”
It will be interesting to see what sorts of different spins, creatively, the Spierigs – who also are the co-directors of the upcoming Saw: Legacy – put on Winchester. While the filmmakers are clearly trying to tell a compelling true-life ghost story, they're also treading dangerously close to the hot topic debate over gun control, at least judging by their descriptions of the narrative. Winchester may very well attract lots of attention, but not for the reasons the Spierigs are intending – or are they trying stir up the debate?
We'll keep you updated on Winchester as more information becomes available.
Sources: CBS Films, People