Helen Mirren: 'I battled crippling stage fright for years'
Helen Mirren has admitted she sees the "abyss" when she treads the boards and has to combat stage fright.
The Oscar-winning actress (69) won her first Olivier Award for her performance in The Audience in 2013 and was dubbed the Queen of Broadway after the play transferred to the US.
But the star told Radio Times magazine she still suffers from nerves and that she intends to retire.
"Theatre is always nerve-racking. I'm afraid of losing my voice, having enough energy, and not getting sick," Helen said.
"Every actor has stage fright, but there are levels, from serious psychotic breakdown, where you lock yourself in your dressing room and refuse to come out. It's happened to a few actors.
"Not me, but when I'm on stage I see the abyss and have to overcome it by telling myself it's only a play," she said.
"I don't know why we should feel like this. If something goes wrong audiences are wonderfully accommodating."
The actress told the magazine she intends to stop working.
"Yes, it would be quite nice. I don't think 'dying on the job' is such a wonderful thing.
"But I'm driven by competitiveness, always thinking I can do better, and the sheer pleasure of earning a living - a fabulous miracle I've never quite got over," she said.
She denied "insanely and outrageously wrong" reports that she is one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, saying: "What else can you do but laugh, so long as the taxman doesn't take it seriously."
Helen said that actresses still find it more difficult to find work in the industry.
"I've been lucky, but if you look at any drama it's still five-to-one men to women," she said.
"There are a few women in main roles and although it's changing it's still difficult for most to earn a living.
"Many I grew up with are immensely talented yet can't. It's much easier for men."
In her new film Woman In Gold, which premiered in New York last night and saw the star joined on the red carpet by the likes of Katie Holmes, the actress plays Austrian Jewish aristocrat Maria Altmann, who fled Vienna during the Second World War and had a long battle to reclaim a Gustav Klimt portrait of her aunt looted by the Nazis.
"I hope films can address ideas and thoughts that seep into the culture and push society forward."