Helen Mirren has been fighting the good fight for decades. Don't believe me? Then watch the then-30-year-old actress nobly suffer through her first-ever talk show appearance on Parkinson, hosted by Michael Parkinson—ahem, that's Sir Michael Parkinson, CBE. The line of deeply sexist questioning she's subjected to may be outrageous, but it's also unsettlingly reminiscent of the "journalism" that female celebrities are regularly expected to endure even today.
As a totally cool, totally chill introduction for Mirren—the kind of opening you might expect Jimmy Fallon to give Chris Pratt—Parkinson tells his audience, "The critics spend as much time discussing her physical attributes as assessing her acting ability." He goes on to quote reviewers who'd described the member of the Royal Shakespeare Company as a "sex queen" possessing an unmistakable "sluttish eroticism" before welcoming her to the stage.
Parkinson soon takes a break from verbally slobbering all over the sex queen—and future Oscar, Tony, and Emmy winner, but never mind that—to offer a classic neg: "You are, in quotes, a 'serious actress,'" he tells her. "In quotes? What do you mean in quotes? How dare you," she responds. But the highlight of their uncomfortable dialogue is no doubt this exchange, which speaks for itself.
PARKINSON: "Do you find that what could be best described as your equipment in fact hinders you perhaps in that pursuit?"
MIRREN: "I'd like you to explain what you mean by 'my equipment,' in great detail."
PARKINSON: "Your physical attributes."
MIRREN: "You mean my fingers."
PARKINSON: "No, I meant your…"
MIRREN: "Come on, spit it out."
When Parkinson finally admits he's referring to her "figure," Mirren summarily dispenses with the bullshit. "Serious actresses can't have big bosoms, is that what you mean?" she asks.
"I think that might sort of detract from the performance if you know what I mean," Parkinson responds, which leads us to imagine that he must find it difficult to pay attention to anything, ever, in the entire world, given that women and their troublesome bosoms are always around.
Take it away, Dame Helen:
I can’t think that can necessarily be true. I mean what a crummy performance if people are obsessed with the size of your bosom or 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.
Looking back on this interview in 2010, Mirren recalled feeling "mortified," but said she was proud of how she'd handled the situation. "At least now young actresses can say, 'Fuck off,' and still work again," she told BUST.
Watch the vintage cringefest yourself here:
[h/t Huffington Post]
Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.