‘Sex queen’, a projector of ‘sluttish eroticism’ and ‘amorous boa constrictor’ were just a few of the words TV host Michael Parkinson used to describe Helen Mirren in a 1975 interview. Now, more than 40 years later, the video has started trending on social media as an especially cringe-worthy example of sexism and has reignited online debate.
Parkinson, and his audience of constantly chuckling ‘70s types, are unrelenting in this interview. At one point, he asked her if her ‘equipment’ gets in the way of her acting, which Mirren feistily draws out answering, asking “You mean my fingers?”
“Because serious actresses can’t have big bosoms, is that what you mean?” she asked finally, to which Parkinson caddishly replied “Well, I think that they might sort of detract from the performance.”
It should be noted that during all this, Mirren was performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company, not that anyone present cared, even when Mirren responded with dignity: “I can’t think that can necessarily be true. I mean what a crummy performance if people are obsessed with the size of your bosoms more than anything else. I would hope that the performance and the play and the living relationship between all the people on the stage and all the people in the audience overcome such boring questions.”
Years later in 2010, however, Mirren acknowledged the horribly sexist interview to Bust Magazine, calling Parkinson ‘an extremely creepy interviewer’.
In 2011, she told The Telegraph “That’s the first talk show I’d ever done. I was terrified. I watched it and I actually thought, bloody hell! I did really well. I was so young and inexperienced. And he was such a f******g sexist old fart. He was,” she said. “He denies it to this day that it was sexist, but of course he was.”
Parkinson has been described by The Guardian as ‘the great British talkshow host’. In 2013, he was diagnosed with prostrate cancer.
It’s now 2016 and Hollywood sexism is still as hotly debated as ever. The recent Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid actors was a great example of pay disparity in the industry. Good roles for female actors over the age of 40 have always been notoriously rare, a matter which Meryl Streep is always quick to point out.
Helen Mirren, at 71, continues to be a widely respected actor. Her’s is a model career, one that is too rare in Hollywood. From prestige dramas to action films, Mirren remains at the top of her game. Looking at her taking on Parkinson in the interview, is it really that surprising that 41 years later, she’s starring in a Fast & Furious movie with Vin Diesel and The Rock?
I'm going to throw it out there that Yung Helen Mirren = Jennifer Lawrence in a couple years https://t.co/lpNsjQZT5D? xoxo— Sara Benincasa (@SaraJBenincasa) August 23, 2016
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