Helen Mirren ‘loved’ sniffing cocaine but quit drug over ‘horrible’ Nazi war criminal

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Dame Helen Mirren, 76, returns to the nation’s screens today as she plays Queen Elizabeth II in ‘The Queen’ on ITV3. The broadcast of the British biographical drama is perfectly timed, with Her Majesty’s upcoming Platinum Jubilee to mark her 70-year reign less than a fortnight away. Dame Helen portrays the monarch in 1997 as the Royal Family and the nation struggled to come to terms with the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, who was married to the Queen’s son and heir, Prince Charles.

The veteran English actress’ Oscar-winning performance was critically acclaimed by critics across the globe.

Dame Helen captured the Queen as a steely monarch who proved resistant to Tony Blair’s push to hold a public funeral for Diana, and to respond to the public’s grief over her death in a car crash in Paris.

The former Labour Prime Minister, who dubbed Diana ‘The People’s Princess’, is played by Michael Sheen.

In 2007, Dame Helen bagged the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, for ‘The Queen’.

But just a year after being celebrated for her regal performance, the star admitted that she used to “love” snorting cocaine as she was interviewed by former newspaper editor Piers Morgan for GQ magazine.

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The actress revealed how she quit the class-A substance after learning that Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie had been profiting from selling the illegal stimulant while evading capture in South America.

Speaking in 2008, she told Mr Morgan: “I loved coke. I never did a lot, just a little bit at parties.

“But what ended it for me was when they caught Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, in the early Eighties.

“He was hiding in South America and living off the proceeds of being a cocaine baron.

“And I read that in the paper, and all the cards fell into place and I saw how my little sniff of cocaine at a party had an absolute direct route to this f***ing horrible man in South America.”

The actress confessed that from that point onwards she never used cocaine again, adding: “Until that moment I had never grasped the full horrifying structure of what brings coke to our parties in Britain.”

Dame Helen had discussed her drug use prior to the interview, having previously opened up about a bad acid trip in her early twenties.

The star dropped a tab of LSD in Stratford-upon-Avon during a period of her life when she was still trying to make it as an actress, but reacted badly to the drug.

She told Jonathan Ross in a 2007 interview: “I’d just taken a tab of acid – my first and last tab of acid, I can assure you – and was heading off into the fields and thinking, ‘I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen next’.

“And then, you know, the acid hit shortly after that and it was terrifying.”

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She explained that a friend had reassured her as she started to come up on the psychedelic: “I don’t know how people can take it time after time.

“I had the most wonderful time on it – it was wonderful, partly because my good friend came up to me just as the world was refracting and said, ‘Don’t worry Hel, it’s gonna be fine. Just let go and enjoy it and it’ll be fine,’ and I did.

“He sort of saved me and I had a fantastic time. But it’s too much, it’s too much.”

In her GQ interview, the actress also admitted to smoking weed, but claimed that cannabis left her feeling low.

She said: “I hated it. Dope always made me feel miserable and paranoid and unhappy.

“And I woke up one day and thought, ‘no more of that, thank you’.”

‘The Queen’ airs on ITV3 today from 7pm.

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