Dame Helen Mirren to star as Catherine the Great: ‘I’m very excited!’

The Oscar-winning actress said she had always wanted to play the Russian empress

The Queen star Dame Helen Mirren has signed up to play another monarch – Catherine the Great.

The Oscar-winning actress came up with the idea for the Sky and HBO drama, saying she had always wanted to play the Russian empress.

The 72-year-old said she was attracted to the idea of playing such a powerful woman.

She said of the mini-series: “I am very excited by the possibility of embodying a woman from history who grabbed and then wielded great power.

“She rewrote the rules of governance by a woman, and succeeded to the extent of having the word Great attached to her name – Catherine the Great.”

The four-part drama, which will begin filming later this year, “delves into the politically tumultuous and sexually charged court of the most powerful female monarch in history”.

The drama will follow Catherine towards the end of her reign and her passionate affair with Grigory Potemkin in a “story of obsessive love”.

David M Thompson, executive producer for Origin Pictures, said: “Helen Mirren came to me with the idea for Catherine the Great when we were working with her on Woman In Gold, saying it’s a part she’s always wanted to play.

“I’m delighted we’re now making the series and indeed we can’t think of anyone better for the role.”

Charlie Pattinson, executive producer for New Pictures, said: “Catherine was one of the most powerful and extraordinary women in history. She deserves to be portrayed by an actress as fiercely intelligent and instinctive as Helen Mirren.”

Sky said the Russian empress was “the definition of the modern woman”, wielding supreme power throughout Russia for nearly half of the 18th century, and for being “strong-minded, independent, brilliantly intelligent and sexually liberated”.

The drama is written by Elizabeth I’s Nigel Williams and directed by Philip Martin, whose credits include Prime Suspect, as well as The Crown.

Dame Helen won a best actress Oscar for her role in The Queen and also played the monarch on stage in The Audience.

Catherine The Great will air on Sky Atlantic and TV streaming service NOW TV in the UK and Ireland next year, and will be broadcast around the world.