Fact: Helen Mirren is fabulous. From her empowering words on ageism and sexism in the industry (and that’s the tip of the iceberg), she is unafraid to take a stand for women’s rights. The Oscar-winning actress is making headlines today for her applause-worthy comments on gender disparities in Hollywood, specifically the uneven ratio of roles for women.
Since men are dominating film when it comes to prime parts, Mirren says the solution to tackling this is a simple one: actresses should be auditioning for male roles. Mirren knows first hand that this tactic can be successful; in her latest thriller Eye in the Sky, she plays an army colonel, a role originally written for a man.
Mirren told the BBC it makes her “cross” that so many roles are given to men: “You look at a scene, and it’s going to be all men around a table, and you think at least half of those could have been women.”
“It’s hard to get a job as an actress,” she said, “let alone as a star but just a job – to be a working actress it’s so much more difficult than it is for men.”
Mirren added that a huge part of the problem comes from so few extras being played by women: “The only time that there are more women on the set as extras is a swimming pool scene, and they’re all in bikinis – any swimming pool scene, and suddenly it’s full of women.”
She explained that her films producers – Colin Firth and Gavin Hood – changed her Eye in the Sky role to a female part before offering it to her.
“As opposed to saying ‘well that’s men, that’s what men do in war’…I think Gavin very astutely understood and realised putting a women [into the role] just changed the discussion,” she said.
Fellow actress Sandra Bullock chose to also seek out male parts last year, prompting a debate on gender-neutral roles in the entertainment industry. As a result, script writers have seen pressure from producers to now change roles, including Emily Bunt’s role in Sicario – in which she plays an FBI agent. It was revealed last year that producers had requested the part be changed to a man, which, thankfully, didn’t happen.
More of this please, Hollywood.