Helen Mirren is so good playing a veteran spy in "RED" that her co-stars are starting to wondering whether she's really acting.
The ensemble cast, which includes Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman as retired CIA operatives, has reached a consensus that Mirren is the most likely to be a real-life undercover agent.
"She's just there listening to what you're saying, taking notes, and all of a sudden you feel a little stabbing pain back here, and you're on the floor," Willis jokes.
Mirren's feminine wiles could be an asset.
"I don't think any man would be looking for an alterative motive because they'd probably be overwhelmed by her charms," says co-star Mary-Louise Parker.
Willis stars as Frank Moses, a former black ops agent who recruits his former colleagues, an aging A-team now deemed Retired and Extremely Dangerous _ or RED _ to find out who is trying to kill them.
"Weeds" star Parker joins as office worker Sarah Ross, inadvertently pulled into a deadly pursuit by Moses, her long-distance love interest.
As former sniper Victoria, the 65-year-old Mirren wields a semi-automatic as gracefully as she arranges flowers. Mirren, the Oscar-winning actress whose screen credits include "The Last Station" and "The Queen," admits she was nervous about becoming an action star but says working with Willis eased the transition.
"I was very lucky in our leader Bruce, a huge movie star, but he's also an incredibly down-to-earth, welcoming, hardworking geezer," she says. "He's a good geezer, and personally, I love a good geezer."
Mirren says she looked to domestic diva Martha Stewart with her "gracious intelligence combined with a steely determination" to create the lethal, yet elegant character. Despite her best intentions and a reputation for a rock-hard body, Mirren spent little time training physically for the role.
"I'm terrible; I'm so lazy," Mirren says. "Every time I start a film I go, 'I've really got to get fit for this one.' OK. I'll start tomorrow. ... And then only two weeks to shooting, 'I better start now.' I'm afraid that's the story of my workout ethic."
Freeman's ailing Joe Matheson springs himself from a retirement home, and Malkovich's ultra-paranoid Marvin Boggs emerges from his underground bunker to join the team of unlikely heroes.
Willis says "RED," which opens Friday, packs in the action, comedy and romance but acknowledges, "At the end of the day I'm just waiting for that shot of Helen on that .50-caliber machine gun, tearing it up."