Helen Mirren Used a Lifetime Achievement Award to Take a Swipe at AI

Mirren was the recipient of the American Cinematheque Award

Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren doing something unexpected to a speech.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for American Cinematheque

Past recipients of the American Cinematheque Award since its 1986 debut include Robert Downey Jr., Martin Scorsese and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s a striking assemblage of talent, and features a who’s who of great actors and filmmakers. But it’s unlikely that any of them did what the great Helen Mirren did upon receiving the award this week — which is to say, deliver a speech and then tear said speech in half, discarding it on the stage.

No, Mirren isn’t taking a cue from Joaquin Phoenix circa I’m Still Here and parodying the excesses of celebrity. She was certainly parodying something, though — and her target was a frequent one of industry professionals these days: AI.

As IndieWire’s Christian Zilko reported, Mirren took to the stage to receive the award and began to deliver an especially generic acceptance speech. She then shredded the speech, telling the crowd, “That was written by AI!” A rule of thumb: never discount the comic abilities of Helen Mirren. (See also: her narration in Barbie; her introductions for Documentary Now!)

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Questions over the use of AI in upcoming film and television projects were one of the issues central to the recent SAG strike, which was resolved late last year. As Jenelle Riley pointed out at Variety, the award ceremony itself was originally scheduled for last fall before being rescheduled — which might leave you wondering if that delay helped inspire Mirren’s onstage bit.

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