Helen Mirren Sounds Off On Sexist Hollywood Ways – And Much More (Video)

At The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment breakfast this year, Helen Mirren gave both an inspirational and eloquent speech when receiving the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award.

I’ll let you take a look for yourself before sharing my favorite parts.

Mirren on Hollywood:

“I certainly could complain about the fact that virtually every drama made for film, stage, or television has 20 male characters to maybe the 1, 2, or if you’re lucky 3 female characters.”

“I resent having witnessed in my life the survival of some very mediocre male actors and the professional demise of some very brilliant female ones.”

“…with all due respect to you many brilliant and successful women in this room – executive producers, writers, directors – really not too much has changed in the canon of Hollywood filmmaking that continues to worship at the altar of the 18 to 25-year-old male and his penis. Quite small, I always think.”

Mirren on Women and Gender Stereotypes:

“Unappreciated, underused and ill-used. Undervalued, undernourished, uneducated, unsung. What is happening to that incredible global resource called women – the only future of the human race?”

“If you live long enough, like I have, you live to see so many of these so-called scientific truths about gender and race to be shown up for the load of old rubbish they were in the first place. However, it doesn’t stop people from continuing to spew them out.”

Mirren on Girls and Ambition:

“Aren’t you sick of being told what you can and can’t do?”

“Both my mother and my father believed that a girl could do anything, and she had the right to try for it.”

Mirren on the Importance of Mentoring:

I so applaud the mentors among you. Nothing is more important than to encourage ambition and belief in yourself, and to be a role model for those without my kind of parents.”

“…the fact that so many of you take mentoring girls so seriously that is a great step toward the ultimate recognition of the value of women and the releasing of all that power and energy and intellect.”

Mirren on the Media’s Obsession with Looks:

In addition to this great speech, Mirren was also interviewed by The Holloywood Reporter where she takes on the media’s obsession with looks.

When asked “You’ve won fans as a role model for having sex appeal in your 60s. How does that make you feel?” Mirren answered with this:

“A bit cross, actually. We have to let go of this crap. It creates even more pressure on women, and I certainly don’t want to be a part of that. I’m not beautiful; I clean up nice.

Why don’t we talk about the fact, for example, that I just did Arthur, and the cinematographer was a woman, the film operator was a woman, the whole camera team were women? That’s where we should be putting our attention. The fact that I look good at the age I am is bloody irrelevant.”

Bloody irrelevant indeed!

Bravo Mirren! What a refreshingly honest take on Hollywood (and many other things for that matter) – something so few public people share in such a public forum. I only wish this was a speech that was given at an award show with both male and female actors, but maybe someday now it will.

YouTube screen shot of video.

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Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle4 years ago

Helen Mirren is a feminist. There are others out in Hollywood also -- Jaime Lee Curtis, Meryl Streep. Gutsy women must always speak out. 51% of the population must be heard -- we don't just have the looks, but the brains (women's brains have more cross-over paths than men's. Sorry, men -- I appreciate your assets, but women are so FEELING and SMART! Part of that, I feel, is just lucky -- we give birth and raise and nurture, so we value life, and won't send our children off to war to be killed, without exhausting every avenue of negotiation and need, before we do.) Sorry. Sort of got off on a tangent.

bj Jung
bj Jung4 years ago

Thank you Helen Mirren! She is all the things that Athena said and more....we should pay attention to what she says. She makes a great point when talking about what percentage "women" play in consumerism; makes one think, what would happen if we decided not to play that game? Gotta love women who make you think!

Kirsten G.
Kirsten G.4 years ago

Sharply said. Very inspiring.

Nellie K A.
Nellie K. Adaba4 years ago


Erika L.
Erika L.4 years ago

Way to go, Helen! I agree completely.

Mary Cotturo
Mary Cotturo4 years ago

Helen Mirren tells it like it is! I don't even recognize the names of Hollywood stars both male and female who are lauded with accolades for soon forgettable roles. Hollywood worships youth and beauty. It is not a true reflection of reality. Bravo Helen!

Jo Hofreiter
Jo Hofreiter4 years ago

Bravo to Ms Mirren!


Robert O.
Robert O.4 years ago

She has always been honest and unafraid to speak her mind. I love that about her!

Ingrid R.
Ingrid Riets4 years ago

I agree in general that movies, as is all art, are a mirror to society. We can learn a lot about all cultures by studying their history through art. Looking back at great literature, music and art (that we have easy access to) in the history of Western civilization, how much of it has been produced by women? Very little. Not to say that it didn't exist, just that women had little to no respect as artists, and were discouraged from doing much with their talents other than "entertainment" at home.

However -- in art, as in society, something big and unexpected and totally new appearing has always changed how we look at ourselves. This has to happen in order to progress. Almost always, this has been greeted with fear and disdain by the ones reluctant to change. But change happens, whether we like it or not! Let's hope for something like that to happen, or try to make it happen, that will revolutionize how we think about those who are not like us. Helen Mirren has every right to express what she has observed, and she is in a position to be heard by many. It's a start.

Mike and Janis B.

Succinctly put.

It is similar to the obsession with foul language which usually offers nothing to the plot and usually means changing channel. the occasional word adds to the plot but every other one is terrible. The original Pelham 123 was far superior to the new one partly due the the language or lack thereof.