Helen Mirren was absolutely gorgeous when she was younger

Dame Helen Mirren is easily one of the most valued actresses in Hollywood. Boasting an acting background from the Royal Shakespeare Company in the United Kingdom, Mirren has been acting since the 1960s and has obtained at least 125 awards for her work. "She's the blueprint for every Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone who came after her, proving that you can be outspoken yet respected by so many disparate groups if you stay wholly true to yourself," explained Allure in a profile on the actress.

Along with being a highly esteemed actress, The Queen starlet is also known for her candid demeanor — something that she wishes she was more comfortable with when she was younger. "Don't be an a**hole," she told Refinery29. "Work toward financial independence, if that's possible, because it gives you a freedom. It's a difficult thing to do, I know, but save your own money. I think that's very important."

Mirren celebrated her 74th birthday in 2019 and seems to be as in-demand as ever in an industry known for casting off actresses as they age. Let's take a moment to revisit Mirren's early days as an actress.

Dame Helen Mirren was insecure when she was younger

With her blonde hair and dazzling eyes, there's no denying Helen Mirren was striking when she was younger. That being said, the actress was quite modest about her appearance. In an interview with Allure, the dame dished, "It was the time of Twiggy, and I did not look like a twig. My cheeks were too fat, legs were too short, breasts too big."

In fact, the beloved celeb still gets nervous to this day — but more so about her profession than her looks. "I'm always very insecure and nervous before I do any job," Mirren told The Guardian in 2015. "It would be so nice not to have to be nervous anymore, not to have to be afraid. But the other thing you learn is that your fear and nervousness and insecurity is your own business, nobody else's."

Looking back at her career, Mirren definitely has some words of wisdom to share with herself and others. She told Allure that she'd stop being so "bloody polite" and start saying "F**k off" more. "It's hard to explain how difficult it is to overcome the culture. You become a voice in the wilderness. No one wants to listen."

Helen Mirren resented being seen as an object

Helen Mirren was an accidental sex symbol in her youth, and she wasn't happy about it. In fact, an interview with The Guardian in the 1960s prompted the actress to hold a "legendary grudge" with the outlet. At the time, the outlet published a piece that dubbed her "The Sex Queen Of Stratford." Unfortunately for Mirren, the nickname stuck, and in 1975 a television interview with Michael Parkinson, he introduced the starlet as "the sex queen," making references to her "physical attributes" and "sluttishness." Yikes! 

Those memories are still front and center in Mirren's mind. "It was infuriating," the Red star told Vogue in 2019. "But I determined quite early on not to be afraid of the press. I understood, intrinsically, that this was going to be part of my life ... I relaxed about being called a sex symbol; I became resigned to it."

Nowadays, Mirren considers herself a feminist, something that wasn't always so easy for her in her youth. "I wasn't into the very didactic feminism of the '60s and '70s because I liked wearing makeup and high heels," the actress told Allure. "That was a no-no. It was sort of 'That's playing to the patriarchy.' I was thinking, Well, I just really like it. Then as feminism developed, they realized you can like nice dresses, high-heeled shoes, and makeup."

Young Helen Mirren inadvertently starred in an adult flick

Another issue that didn't necessarily help Dame Helen Mirren's reputation as a sex symbol? Her role in an accidental adult flick that was considered controversial at the time of its release. So, what was the movie? 

1979's Caligula, produced by Penthouse founder Bob Guccione. The cast included Mirren and Malcolm McDowell — both highly esteemed in the world of acting, yet the movie was considered pure smut back in the day, and according to the Daily Mail, it was banned in England for a whopping 30 years. Mirren discussed the project with the Daily Mail years later. "The film was like being on an acid trip. It has its good moments and it has its bad moments and is a fantastical journey." 

Why did Mirren agree to star in the controversial film, considering she hated being known as a sultry starlet? According to The Guardian, McDowell talked Mirren into it. "The actors knew the film would be explicit — but Mirren and the others had no idea just how gruesomely pornographic Guccione would make the final version," the outlet reported. To this day, Caligula remains a bizarre and fascinating little entry in the world of pop culture.