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Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen act the hell out of Trump’s guilty phone call

Photo: Scott Kowalchyk (CBS)

It’s tempting to say that Stephen Colbert geeked out over Wednesday Late Show guests Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen, but noted Tolkien geek Colbert didn’t ask one single Gandalf question of Sir Ian, somehow. Instead Colbert simply basked in the radiance of the binary star of his thespian guests, there to promote their upcoming drama-thriller The Good Liar, noting at the outset, “I feel like I should be wearing a sunscreen of something, because of your incandescence.” A little much? Hell no, as the two stage and screen legends proceeded to justify Colbert’s cheeky adulation by basically being adorable, wonderful, and plenty cheeky themselves.

Colbert, promising not to ask any questions about the twisty-turny plot of The Good Liar, instead asked his guests what Shakespeare roles they’re disappointed they never got to play. (Juliet for both, all the cool male parts for Helen, although she was happy she got to play a gender-swapped Prospero-Prospera in Julie Taymor’s The Tempest.) Colbert then segued into asking the two renowned pretenders if they are also good liars, to which the pair responded with a shared reminiscence that is so juicy and so nimbly pulled off that you really owe it to yourself to watch them play Colbert like a fiddle.

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After that, it was essentially just the starstruck Colbert fanning out, asking Mirren about her recent turn as yet another queenly historical figure (on HBO’s Catherine The Great), a personage she says she’s excited to take back from the misogynist sniggering of history. (That thing is not true. You know which thing.) As Mirren put it, such scurrilous denigration of powerful women’s achievements is the historical standard, and Dame Helen Mirren isn’t bloody standing for it. As for Sir Ian, he was, dare we say, catty and adorable in discussing his own upcoming turn as a cat in, well, Cats. After Colbert revealed that recent guest and Cats co-star Idris Elba confessed to going to “cat school” to learn how to get more feline-like, McKellen confessed that he’d skipped school and relied on finding “his inner pussy,” because he’s Ian McKellen and he says stuff like that and is delightful.

And then, just because, Colbert got Mirren and McKellen to do a little world-class Donald Trump impersonation, the both of them gamely switching up deliveries of Trump’s Ukraine extortion phone call in an Oscar-caliber attempt to make that traitorous bullshit sound remotely innocent. They failed, through no fault of their own, with Mirren tossing in one last regal slap to Trump sycophant Lindsey Graham (R-SC), explaining that she knew there would be no way to make that infamous phone call sound like anything but the grimy mob boss treason it is because, unlike the see-no-evil Graham, “I have read the transcript.”

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About the author

Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.