To put it outrageously lightly, being a woman in Hollywood is no cake walk. Having the nerve to age past 3o only compounds the problem. Numerous actresses and industry insiders have shared their experiences coping with sexism in the film industry, much of which involves sexual objectification in media, nonexistent opportunities, and a persisting pay gap. Often times these demonstrations of systemic bias exist in celluloid or in print; they’re divorced from the specific, human source. Sometimes, however, the source is sitting right in front of you, directing their blatant misogyny right at you.
During a 1975 interview with Michael Parkinson, acclaimed British actress and soon-to-be Vin Diesel costar Helen Mirren found herself in this very predicament. Already an accomplished stage actress by then, Mirren had just begun exploring roles outside the theatre when she was invited to Parkinson to discuss her burgeoning career. Parkinson, however, wasted little time before broaching the subject of Mirren’s anatomy, inquiring whether her “equipment” distracted audiences from her performances. When asked to clarify what he means by “equipment,” he responds, “your physical attributes.” “You mean my fingers?” she retorts, exemplifying the keen wit and frankness the actress has come to symbolize. After Parkinson persists in questioning whether her appearance hinders her ambitions to be a “serious actress,” Mirren lays it out for him, real simple like:
I can’t say that would necessarily be true. I mean what a crummy performance if people are obsessed with the size of your bosom over 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 would overcome such … boring questions, really.
Today Mirren remains fiercely proud of how she handled herself on what was her very first talk show appearance:
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*cking sexist old fart. He was. He denies it to this day that it was sexist, but of course he was.
(Via Vanity Fair)