This afternoon HeyUGuys found a blissful escape from the heat in the form of a cruise down the Thames with the stars of RED 2: Dame Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker and a man called Bruce Willis.

This time around the retirees are spilling bullets on an international stage as they work hard to save the world from a deadly device –Nightshade. Before we embarked there was a short delay, as we waited for Mr. Willis to arrive, which allowed Dame Helen time to speculate on the gender and name of our impending royal arrival. Tiny and chic in a vintage looking floral summer dress, she was as wry and cheeky as one could hope and very graciously took pains to distract us from the late arrival. Mary-Louise was quieter but enjoyed the chatter nevertheless, predicting a girl for the Cambridges. In a straw poll of the room for gender predictions the majority went for pink while our self-appointed chairwoman correctly guessed the truth. It was surreal to have the extraordinary talent behind The Queen debate the business of ours.

A distinctive man in black strode down the aisle and the threesome was complete.  The river cruise took in some of the key landmarks from the decidedly international sequel to 2010’s RED as the three co-stars talked shop. One of the first questions addressed something HeyUGuys had been wondering – whether it had become “de rigueur” for a regal moment to be included in every role Dame Helen took on or whether she had improvised the surprising mental hospital break in. She acknowledged that she had been less than keen but had come around with gentle persuasion. In fact, surprisingly, she later confessed to worrying people would think she had “sold out” by taking on the role of Victoria in RED at all. Though she later realised “how utterly stupid that was…” it was fascinating to learn that someone we think of as established and respected could still fall prey to such doubts. In fact she went on to “love very minute” and “couldn’t wait to come back for the second one”. She found it brilliant to “jump in the opposite direction” – the film coming directly after The Queen shoot.

Bruce Willis’ confession was that he was not a comic book fan at all – RED being based upon the Warren Ellis/Cully Hamner graphic novel. He did generously offer to pretend to be one though. He categorically stated that he will not be repeating his ‘80s attempt at pop stardom and that we needn’t expect to see him in a musical any time soon. In response to a question about the brand new Welsh cast members – Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta Jones – he stated his preference to work with ensemble casts. The RED 2 crew use an eBay auction to entrap a target they need to interrogate. When asked whether there was any luxury item in the world that would induce each of the three to break cover and bid Dame Helen, after joking that it might be a fine pair of shoes, said she would love to own something in Elizabeth I’s own handwriting. Not the warrant of execution for Mary Queen of Scots, she demurred, but perhaps a letter rejecting a proposal of marriage from the King of Spain.

Mary-Louise conceded that her driving skills played no part in the dramatic 2CV chase her character engages in. Quite the contrary in fact, she was banned from driving by director Dean Parisot after crashing the car on her first attempt. Ms. Parker, like the actors to either side of her, returned for the sequel primarily because of the talented cast she would be teamed with. On Bruce she said “It’s just so easy to work with him and hang out with him”. RED 2 is the first sequel of her career and as her preference has been to be able to stay long term with characters – on stage and small screen – it was irresistible to return to Sarah. Helen too had never been involved with a franchise and, though cross that she missed out on a Paris jaunt, was glad the new movie had “expanded to such incredible locations”. She felt it was wonderful to return to the “fully realised quirky characters” of the first film. Bruce expressed a preference for comedy over action, though maintaining that the action is necessary, and concurred that it was difficult and unusual to see the comedy, action and romance elements united. He stated that, despite the two or three years between films “it was as if we had just seen one another the day before”.

To experience the cast camaraderie and kick ass action of RED 2 for yourselves, look for it at a cinema near you from August 2. Read our review here.