Helen Mirren, Actress
Helen Mirren talks about her childhood in Britain under the influence of her feminist parents, what first sparked her interest in acting, and how she became one of the most celebrated British actresses in a career spanning five decades.
Helen Mirren talks about her childhood in Britain, the influence of her feminist parents, what first sparked her interest in acting, and how she became one of the most celebrated British actresses in a career spanning five decades.
HELEN MIRREN: Any woman now actually is a feminist actually. They don't realize it because they're living in a world that feminism has, to a certain extent, created for them, which is very exciting because it's entitled. That's what I love about them. They're entitled.
I grew up in a sort of British equivalent of Cony Island, which was the sort of working class seaside sort of place. I think I was very lucky in that both of my parents were feminists. I do remember suddenly understanding how the world was stacked against me as a girl. I was just so horrified and shocked coming from the family saying, no, you can be anything, you can do anything.
And then, boom, no you can't. You be this, and you are not allowed to be anything else. I went to see an amateur production of Hamlet, which my mother took me to. I was absolutely transformed. And I immediately left the theater and started reading the complete works of Shakespeare, and that was what brought me into the idea of acting in the sense of telling stories.
I was very lucky. And I immediately went in playing sort of quite substantial roles. But having said that, 10 years of your life as a theater actor is really trying to learn how the hell to do it, struggling with technique, and trying to find your own authentic voice.
- She's especially telling in projecting sluttish eroticism. She is missed Helen Mirren.
HELEN MIRREN: It was one of the very first interviews I ever did. I'm talking quite seriously about acting. But he had obviously decided just to throw that mantle upon me, I guess, and not ever actually listen to what I was actually saying. That was completely irrelevant.
- Do you find that your physical attributes, which people always gone about, hinder you?
HELEN MIRREN: Serious actress can't have big bosoms. Is that what you mean?
I think the 60s and 70s were not a good time for women. It should have been liberating, but actually it wasn't. It squeezed women.
There was the received wisdom that the audience wouldn't watch if a women was the lead character. It was a great role. She was this incredibly wonderfully flawed character, ambitious, self-centered, difficult, egotistical.
Mr. Greenley, someone is dead. Now, he may not have been a part of your inner circle of friends, but that doesn't mean he didn't have rights. And someone caved his head in. Now, I'm in charge of this case, and I will decide who gets released and when. All right.
At the time, incredibly groundbreaking. You had not seen that woman on television before. You very rarely saw a single woman being the lead character in anything at all, let alone a police drama.
My initial reaction was, can you do that, is that allowed. I was interested in doing a piece that looked at them as human beings in this extraordinary situation.
Nowadays, people want glamor and tears, the grand performance. I'm not very good at that. I never have been. I prefer to keep my feelings to myself.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the queen. I always used to say, put your energy into changing roles for women in life because, as night follows day, as women's roles change in real life, roles will change for women on the screen. You're banging your head against a brick wall, and then a little bit of cement falls away and I feel that a wall is just about to fall. It hasn't quite fallen. But, yes, I think these are very exciting times for women.
HELEN MIRREN: I think I was very lucky in that my chosen profession was the theater. And I've always believed that the great actors have a very strong feminine side to them, and the great actresses have a very strong masculine side. And I think I do. In spite of loving all girly things, I'm actually quite masculine in many ways. I loathe talking about my feelings. I don't want to talk about relationships. I won't go to the doctor. I have a lot of sort of masculine attributes. So one's understanding of the new phrase, which I love gender fluidity, comes to you very quickly in the theater. So I think I was very lucky in that respect.