Helen Mirren Talks 'Winchester' Film, Effects of Gun Deaths on the Living

03 February, 2018

Actor Helen Mirren says her new film Winchester is not a horror movie, but a ghost story. She says the film has foreign roots and also something very American: an understanding of the emotional suffering caused by gun deaths.

Mirren plays Sarah Winchester, a real-life 19th-century woman. She became very rich from the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Her husband set up the company in 1866.

The business manufactured the Winchester repeating rifle. It enabled users to fire at a target more rapidly than other weapons.

In the film, Sarah Winchester believes she is frightened by the spirits of those killed by the powerful guns.

"It's a ghost story, hopefully in the tradition, the very grand tradition, of Japanese ghost stories, ghost films," Mirren told the Associated Press. "You know, the Japanese love ghost stories and have great belief in the power of the ancestor spirits, of the ancestors, as many cultures do."

Part of the film was shot at Winchester's mansion in San Jose, California. She moved there after the death of her husband in 1881. Now known as the "Winchester Mystery House," it is a popular stop for visitors. The house has more than 160 rooms, 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors and 40 staircases.

Winchester Mystery home-2
Winchester Mystery home-2

Winchester was said to continually add rooms to the home to try to trick the ghosts she believed were haunting her.

"There are many theories why she did this,'' Mirren said. "And one of the theories we explore in the film. She was trying to placate the ghosts of the people who'd been killed by the Winchester rifle. She felt their deaths very strongly. She felt responsible."

However, Mirren said the film is not trying to make any general statements about whether individuals should own guns.

She suggested the movie is more about the moral responsibility business owners might face.

"The issue is more putting the question mark or the weight of moral decision upon the people who make a fortune from making arms — whether they're guns, bombs, grenades ... or whatever it is," Mirren said.

Winchester opened February 2 in the United States. Starring opposite Mirren is actor Jason Clarke as Doctor Eric Price. Price is a specialist in treating mental disorders.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Caty Weaver adapted this story for Learning English based on AP news reports. ­­George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

ghost n. the soul of a dead person thought of as living in an unseen world or as appearing to living people

rapidly – adv. happening in a short amount of time : happening quickly

mansion n. a large and impressive house: the large house of a wealthy person

placate v. to cause (someone) to feel less angry about something

fortune n. a great amount of money or possessions