British actress Helen Mirren with her husband, an American film director and producer Taylor Hackford at the 78 Venice International Film Festival 2021. Madres Paralelas red carpet and Opening ceremony. Venice (Italy), September 1st, 2021
Photo by Marilla Sicilia/Archivio Marilla Sicilia/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Inside '1923' Star Helen Mirren's 36-Year Love Story With Film Director Husband

Paramount Network's hit western Yellowstone is airing its fifth season, leaving viewers with yet another installment of dark revenge plots and twisted family dynamics. And since fans just can't get enough of the Dutton family drama and picturesque mountain scenes, the network expanded the Yellowstone universe with a prequel, 1883

And now, the universe is expanding yet again with a sequel to that prequel. Or another Yellowstone prequel, if that's too confusing. 1923 premiered this month, which takes place 40 years after 1883, with a new set of Dutton family ancestors as they battle disease, drought, and the Great Depression and try to hold onto control of their beautiful, sprawling Montana ranch.

Notably, a few members of Hollywood royalty are joining the Dutton family including Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren, both longtime features on the silver screen. Ford will play the patriarch of the Yellowstone ranch, Jacob Dutton, and Mirren will play his wife and the family matriarch, Cara Dutton. 

While Mirren isn't actually wedded to a rancher who owns a ton of sought-after land in Montana, she has been married to director Taylor Hackford for nearly a quarter of a century. Though the actress wrote in her autobiography, In the Frame: My Life in Words and Pictures, that when she met Hackford, "It was certainly not love at first sight."

Regardless, the pair seems to have been happily married for the last 24 years. Here's what we know about their love story:  

How Did Helen Mirren Meet Her Husband?

Helen Mirren and husband Taylor

Photo by Tom Wargacki/WireImage

Before meeting and marrying Hackford, Mirren was already acting royalty. The Hitchcock star focused most of her early life on her career and never seemed to prioritize getting married or having a family. When she was in her thirties, Mirren told reporters she never wanted to be divorced. 

"I simply could not see the point of being married if there was the remotest possibility of being divorced," Mirren wrote in her autobiography. 

Mirren first met her future husband when she auditioned for White Nights, a film Hackford directed. Supposedly, Hackford kept the award-winning actress waiting for her audition and Mirren let him know how she felt about that. 

"It was a strange way to meet Helen, because she is a lovely person," Hackford told AARP magazine in 2006. "But she didn't hold back her fury."

Once they got past that minor hiccup, the pair connected during filming. However, Mirren never expected to get involved with a coworker.

 "I did very consciously choose my work over my relationships right up to the time that I met Taylor," Mirren said. "I was 38 when I met Taylor, pretty late in life." 

And Mirren credits her life experience with helping her identify love when it was right in front of her. In an interview on TODAY in 2016, she said, "The great thing about finding a partnership later on [in life] is that you recognize it as such."

But, Hackford was married when they met in 1985, so they remained friends during filming. He divorced his wife later that year, and when Mirren learned about this, she says she knew a romance was inevitable. She wrote, "My fate was sealed."

Change and Compromise

CANNES, FRANCE - JULY 06: Dame Helen Mirren with husband Taylor Hackford attend the "Annette" screening and opening ceremony during the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival on July 06, 2021 in Cannes, France.

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

The pair went public with their romance in 1986, though they realized early on they both had to integrate their very separate and different lives. Mirren is British and had to move across the pond to make a home with Hackford and his children in Los Angeles. 

Plus, they both loved their work. Before Mirren entered his life, Hackford was an award-winning director, writer and producer, best known for his work on An Officer and a Gentlemen (1982) and Against All Odds (1984). Neither him nor Mirren was willing to give up their passions after they got together, so they often spent weeks or months at a time apart. 

While Mirren says she never considered herself very romantic, she admitted to missing Hackford terribly when they were apart. Additionally, she said that meeting and dating later on in life gave them permission to offer each other more freedom, allowing them to live their passions.  

Also, Hackford had been married twice before and had two children from those marriages, Río and Alex.

In her autobiography, Mirren wrote about meeting Río and adjusting to living with children: "It was a whole new world for me, utterly alien and fraught with difficulty." She says the first years with Hackford were challenging at first, and she feared it would only be a short-lived relationship. 

Mirren finally decided to come clean about the hard time she was experiencing and shared her perceived failures with Hackford over lunch. Mirren writes she was surprised that instead of criticizing her, he comforted her and said, "Don't worry. Look, we are only this far along in our life together, we have all that way to go. Some will be hard and some will be easy, but we will make it."

That's when she says she fell in love completely. 

Tying the Knot

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Actress Helen Mirren (R) and husband Taylor Hackford attend the European Premiere of "Collateral Beauty" at Vue Leicester Square on December 15, 2016 in London, England.

Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

More than a decade after the couple first started dating, they finally decided to tie the knot in 1997. Despite never wanting to get married, Mirren said they finally took the plunge for legal reasons. 

"We got married in the end because we realized that we were going to be together forever," Mirren said to AARP. "We got married, ultimately, for legal reasons more than anything else. Estate planning and other complicated things like that. And our families, we sensed, wanted us to be married."

In six weeks, they planned a private, small wedding in Scotland in a medieval castle on New Year's Eve. This way, they could celebrate Taylor's birthday, their wedding and the New Year all in one event. 

Initially, they invited only 16 of their closest friends and family. But when the couple arrived at the castle, they found a crowd was already building up outside. They suspected the florist had revealed their secret wedding venue. So, they pivoted and invited all the people in the crowd to attend their big day.  

"I always said I have nothing against marriage; it just wasn't to my taste, like turnips," she said. "It took me a very long time to come around to acquiring the taste. I just had to meet the right turnip."

Still In Love

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - JUNE 20: (L-R) Helen Mirren with her husband Taylor Hackford pose as they attend the 57th Monte Carlo TV Festival : Closing Ceremony on June 20, 2017 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.

Photo by Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Nearly 25 years since they officially said "I do" and more than 35 since they first started dating, the pair say they're more in love than ever. 

Mirren said that while they missed each other through much of their relationship because they were always traveling, it might have been the secret to making their partnership work. "My theory has always been that this is why we're still together: because we've spent so much time apart, we're always pleased to see each other."

After years of living on different work schedules and in different places, the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to permanently unpack their suitcases and lockdown together. Mirren said this was the first time that either of them had gone without working for six months.

"So many people were suffering through that terrible, terrible time," Mirren told People in 2022. "But what was valuable for me was that I got to spend time with my husband and sit across the table from him every night for six months — which I've never done before — and not worry about or even think about work."

Mirren did say that love is work. "And it's very important to allow the person you love to be who they are — even if [sometimes] you don't like it very much."

But luckily, this much intimacy and alone time during the pandemic didn't cause either of them to call it quits on their decades-long relationship. Mirren says she still finds joy in their journey together.

"You're constantly discovering, learning about the person you love, who suddenly, completely surprises you," she said to People. "You find depths of courage or patience or generosity or that you just didn't know were there."

Watch Mirren and Ford defend their Yellowstone ranch in 1923 on Paramount+.

READ MORE: Helen Mirren 'Learned a Lot' About Acting From '1923' Co-Star Harrison Ford