Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren REUTERS

Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren is preparing to retire from the theatre after years of battling crippling stage fright. The 69-year-old British star, best known for her portrayal of the Queen Elizabeth in the 2006 British drama film The Queen, admitted that she would soon been taking her final curtain call.

"Theatre is always nerve-racking. I'm afraid of losing my voice, having enough energy, and not getting sick," she told Radio Times magazine.

"Every actor has stage fright, but there are levels, from serious psychotic breakdown, where you lock yourself in your dressing room and refuse to come out. It's happened to a few actors.

"Not me, but when I'm on stage I see the abyss and have to overcome it by telling myself it's only a play.

"I don't know why we should feel like this. If something goes wrong audiences are wonderfully accommodating."

Dame Mirren won her first Olivier Award for her performance in The Audience in 2013 and was dubbed the Queen of Broadway after the play transferred to the US. But despite her achievements in West End and Broadway, she admitted that she doesn't think "dying on the job" is such a wonderful thing.

"But I'm driven by competitiveness, always thinking I can do better, and the sheer pleasure of earning a living - a fabulous miracle I've never quite got over," she said.

Mirren, who plays Austrian Jewish aristocrat Maria Altmann in new movie Woman in Gold, also used the candid conversation s an opportunity to rubbish "insanely and outrageously wrong" reports that she is one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood.

"What else can you do but laugh, so long as the taxman doesn't take it seriously," she said.