'National Treasure's' Royal Invasion

How does one readjust to the lowly status of being just another working actress after winning worldwide accolades and an Academy Award for playing the queen of England?

For Helen Mirren, the answer, naturally, was to star in the action-thriller sequel "National Treasure: Book of Secrets."

"I was thinking, I'm ready for a bit of fun," Mirren admits. "And I was thinking, what will nobody expect me to do? And I was thinking, I expect that's what they won't expect me to do! So that's what I'm going to do, and of course, I loved every minute."

"National Treasure: Book of Secrets" (produced by the Walt Disney Company, parent company of ABC) is the second installment of producer Jerry Bruckheimer's action series that follows a Holy Grail-type treasure hunt. Mirren, who captured the best actress Oscar earlier this year for her star turn in "The Queen," says she was excited about the role of Emily Appleton as soon as she read the script.

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"I loved the way it brought history alive for kids in obviously complete fantasy. But at the same time, with enough nuggets of true history to engage," she says.

Mirren stars alongside Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger as the estranged wife of Patrick Gates, played by Jon Voight.

"They obviously hated having me around," Mirren says, joking about the difficulties of being the newcomer to the cast's inner circle. "But they never showed it."

In reality, Mirren and Voight hit it off instantly through their mutual love of amusement parks. While filming at Universal Studios, they capitalized on the location.

"The first thing that John Voight and I did when we were at Universal was that we went on all the rides. It was fabulous!"

But it was not all play and no work. Mirren performed most of the film's stunts herself, admitting, "I'm an action babe. I love it."

Helen adds that the action side of the film likely helped the group develop a special chemistry,

"We had to spend hours in the water together," she says. "When you spend days in the water like that all together it's a very specific bonding kind of relationship."

Yet in spite of these unusual conditions, Mirren feels no need to be polite on the set.

"I've got an Oscar, so I can behave how I like," she jokes.

Up next for Mirren is yet another new challenge. She will star opposite Joe Pesci in husband Taylor Hackman's upcoming film "Love Ranch." The film takes place in a Reno, Nev., brothel, worlds away from the halls of Buckingham Palace she inhabited in "The Queen."

To prepare for the role, Mirren says she did extensive research.

"A couple of weeks ago, I spent the night in a brothel in Reno … the Mustang Ranch."

She admits that she brings all of herself into the process of becoming a role.

"There's a bit of me in all that I've played," Mirren says. Yet she reflects that her approach was different for her Academy Award-winning role.

"Elizabeth II was different because I was very much playing someone I am not. But maybe even there I brought some of myself to it. I saw myself as a portrait painter of Elizabeth II instantly."

Mirren hopes to participate in any future installations of the the series:

"If they'll have me back. I have actually sent Jerry Bruckheimer $20 in the post with a begging letter," she says. "Do you think that'll be enough?"

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