In a new interview with Variety, screen legend Helen Mirren is discussing the changing roles for women in Hollywood while singing the praises of actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and Patricia Arquette for calling out pay inequality.
The Oscar-winning actress has spent nearly six decades in the film industry and has witnessed great changes for women both in front of the camera and behind the scenes in Hollywood.
“There’s been massive progress,” Mirren says. “I’ve always said this, for my whole career: Don’t worry about the number of roles available for women in drama; worry about the number of roles for women in real life. Because as women’s profile gets raised in all the arenas in real life — politics, business, the medical professions, science, technology, whatever — the world of drama will inevitably reflect that, and roles for women will get better.”
But at the same time, Mirren calls out Hollywood for the unrealistic portrayal of women that still exists today: “However, having said that, it still really pisses me off that in many movies, the only time you see more women on the screen than men is in a swimming pool scene, in which case suddenly the world is populated by women in bikinis. And often they’re wearing high heels! No woman ever wears a bikini and high heels around a swimming pool!”
When it comes to the gender pay gap between men and women, Mirren, 71, is applauding actresses for having difficult conversations around pay inequality.
“I love the fact that women are speaking up. I thought what Jennifer Lawrence did was fabulous, and what Patricia Arquette did. They’re brave and I really approve of that,” she says. “I certainly do believe that the influence of the younger energy, the younger understanding, of how things should be, or can be — or actually are, only you guys haven’t caught up with it yet — is powerful. I would say: Listen to the 20 to 30-year-olds.”
Mirren goes on to explain that it isn’t a simple issue and tells the magazine why she thinks women put up with it for so long: “It’s such a complicated issue. How much money your last movie made, how many days you’ll spend doing the role. It’s not as simple as saying, ‘I want parity.’ Of course, if there are a man and a woman on a set, and they’re doing the same number of days, and they’re of the same stature, then of course they should be paid the same.”
Adding, “And it’s a hard thing to talk about, too, because obviously you’re not going to get much sympathy from people, since we’re talking about pretty massive sums of money. Which I think is why women in general, rather sweetly, said, ‘I’ve got enough money, that’s fine.’ Men didn’t.”