Leading article: Screen test

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The Independent Online

What a tireless ambassador Helen Mirren is for Britain. First she charmed Hollywood with her portrayal of our sovereign in The Queen. And now she's standing up for the British character abroad too. "We're not snooty, stuck-up, malevolent, malignant creatures as we're often portrayed" Mirren has told an audience in Los Angeles. "We're actually kind of cool and hip."

The reason, according to Mirren, that Americans might have this picked up this less than flattering impression of us lies in Hollywood's notorious habit of casting British actors in the role of the villain.

Yet perhaps Mirren is not doing us the service she imagines by criticising this typecasting. For what do all the famous villains of movieland – from Saruman, to Hannibal Lecter – have in common? Their intelligence. And what is the characteristic that Americans tend to associate most with the British accent? Intelligence.

It is true that, thanks to Hollywood, we are seen as snooty, stuck-up, malevolent and malignant in the eyes of the wider world. But at least we're not the global village dunces.

You can't buy publicity like that. We say: carry on typecasting!

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