We look at the Best Director nominee's work on ''The Queen''

By Steve Wulf
Updated January 26, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

”Making a movie about the Queen is almost like making a movie about your mother,” said Stephen Frears. ”So you don’t want to be in any way perceived as unfair or facile. But how do you do that?” Very carefully. In The Queen, Frears, 65, took pains to depict Elizabeth II evenhandedly during the week following Princess Di’s tragic death, sometimes cutting scenes based on fact if they seemed prejudicial, sometimes inserting speculation to enrich the story. The scene in which the Queen’s Land Rover breaks down and she encounters a magnificent stag? Never happened. Answering critics, Frears said, ”I don’t think Richard III appeared on Bosworth Hill saying, ‘A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”’

Frears employed another trick to great effect, shooting the Queen’s scenes in rich 35mm and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s scenes in starker 16mm ”to demonstrate the difference between the two worlds.” As for dealing with Her Majesty of acting, Helen Mirren, he told EW: ”Most of the time, my job was to stay out of the way and keep my mouth shut.” Given Frears’ distinguished career (he earned an Oscar nod for 1990’s The Grifters), the real Elizabeth II might even consider a knighthood for the director. ”I’d probably be rather pleased to be offered it, but my wife would leave me,” Frears told NPR’s Terry Gross. ”She’s quite rightly opposed to the privilege, and I’d rather have my wife than an honor.”