When Dame Helen Mirren read letters written by her émigré grandfather to his family back in revolutionary Russia she wept. Now a screen dramatisation is due to bring the world of those moving documents to the big screen, with the Oscar-winning actress in the lead role as Ilyena, the great aunt after whom she was originally christened.
"(It's) one of the most exciting things I've done – ever," was how Dame Helen summed up the experience. The 62-year-old thesp added that watching another actress playing her as a little girl was "very emotional".
The as-yet-untitled project is based on a BBC radio play The Mironov Legacy by novelist Helen Dunmore, who wrote the script after Helen gave her the letters.
As a slice of personal history, the flick will give fascinating insights into the tumultuous period when the Bolsheviks swept to power in 1917. While her taxi driver grandfather eked out a life for himself in London, his six sisters stayed in Moscow, surviving the Communist plunder of their lands and the harsh conditions during the German invasion of WWII.