At one point, Parkinson asks Mirren if her "equipment" hinders her pursuit of becoming a serious actor.

How Helen Mirren brilliantly tackled sexist questions in this infamous 1975 interview Screenshot/Babe
Social Sexism Tuesday, August 23, 2016 - 13:02

Reminiscent of the sexist Bhupendra Chaubey-Sunny Leone interview from earlier this year, an interview from 1975 featuring British actor Helen Mirren and popular British TV host Michael Parkinson is doing the rounds on the web four decades later. 

The Oscar winning actress, who was then 30-years-old and was with the Royal Shakespeare Company, was reportedly making her first talk show appearance on Parkinson's show. 

The interview elicits mostly the same kind of response- those calling out Parkinson's blatantly sexist attitude. 


Helen Mirren was on the receiving end of quite possibly the most sexist interview ever

Posted by Babe on Saturday, August 20, 2016


Parkinson introduced Mirren by listing a number of phrases that her critics had used for her- this included everything from an "amorous boa constrictor" to being “especially telling at projecting sluttish eroticism".

Mirren, who was already a successful actor by then, was there to talk about her upcoming role as Lady Macbeth. 

However, much of the talk veered off mostly elsewhere. 

What is commendable however is how Mirren handles Parkison's probing-to-the-point-of-being-belittling questions. 

She is thoughtful, intelligent, and has a terrific sense of humour. She is polite and yet unapologetic. She gives it back as she gets. 

At one point, Parkinson asks Mirren if her "equipment" hinders her pursuit of becoming a serious actor. 

Helen is quick to say, "I'd like you to explain what you mean by my equipment, in great detail."

"Well, your physical attributes," a smirking Parkinson responds.  

"You mean my fingers? Come on, spit it out," she tells him. 

The talk show host then says that he was mentioning her "figure". 

"Serious actresses can’t have big bosoms, is that what you mean?" she asks. 

“Well, I think they might detract from the performance," he replies. 

Watch the full interview here: 

Mirren at a later stage would go on to reveal that she found the interview "enraging" and describe Parkinson as "an extremely creepy interviewer". 

She said that sexism of the 1970s was "worse than the 1940s or 50s. It was horrible."

And unfortunately, instances like the Chaubey-Leone interview or the Rajeep Desai-Sania Mirza one, or more recently the sexist Rio Olympic coverage point to one thing- that not much has changed really in 40 years. 

Misogyny and sexism are still very much a part of the media even today. 

Needless to say, there have also been those who support Parkinson stating "people thought differently then" and that "he was just echoing the thoughts of the populace". 

But like one social media user, Kali Ursula Hughes, countered: "Parky (Parkinson) is in the media. He's not merely 'echoing the thoughts of the populace', he's generating them, influencing them, perpetuating them and very much responsible for them (sic)."

Mirren, according to an Independent report, also told Radio Times: "I'm sure many people have seen the interview with Michael Parkinson, but that's a classic example of the prevalent attitude at that time."

One would hope that people change over time. But it doesn't hold true for some people, at least it seems that way in Parkinson's case. 

So when Mirren returned to his show in 2006 for promoting her film “The Queen”, there was a moment of deja vu. 

Parkison referred to a quote that Mirren had given to a publication- that she did was not dependent on the size of her breasts to get a role in the popular drama series “Prime Suspect”. 

"I am glad that you mentioned that Michael. cause you know you can’t resist, can you?" Mirren shot back. 

"The first time we ever met he had to talk about my breasts, and here we are again, you know full circle (sic)," she says. 

"Certainly, they were hanging out,” he tells Mirren who is aghast. 

He however tries to wrap up that chapter by saying they were both a lot sillier and younger back then. 

But not before Mirren said that she hated him and thought he was a very sexist person. 

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