Helen Mirren is no stranger to the sexism of the film industry, having worked in film and television since the mid-’60s. Now that an uncomfortable 1975 interview between a young Mirren and host Michael Parkinson has resurfaced, there’s video evidence showing just how long she’s been combating it. The video features Parkinson asking Mirren a barrage of sexist questions and her firmly taking him to task. Watch the full interview below.
In the interview, Parkinson first introduces the actress as a “sex queen” and then quotes a number of theater critics who focus on her sensuality and “sluttish eroticism.” He then brings her onstage and asks her almost immediately if her “equipment” (read: breasts) hinders her in the pursuit of being a serious actress. “Because serious actresses can’t have big bosoms, is that what you mean?” Mirren asks him pointedly, to which he responds that it might “detract from the performance.”
In 2011, Mirren told the Telegraph that this was the first talk show interview she had 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 fucking sexist old fart. He was. He denies it to this day that it was sexist, but of course he was.” When Mirren returned to Parkinson’s show in 2006 as promotion for “The Queen,” he asked her about her breasts again. She responded in kind, “This was the problem the first time we ever met. [You have] to talk about my breasts. Here we are full circle.” Mirren won an Oscar for her performance.
Mirren can be seen in David Frankel’s “Collateral Beauty” out in theaters this December.