Dame Helen Mirren has chosen to portray some strong female characters, among some of the real-life ones:
- Chris Harper, who convinces her Women’s Institute cohorts in Calendar Girls to pose nude for a calendar to raise money for a worthy cause;
- Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who leads her family, a novice Prime Minister, and her country through a particularly painful and public period in The Queen;
- Countess Sofya Andreyevna Tolstaya, her husband’s scribe and collaborator who battled for the rights to his work in The Last Station;
- Alma Reville, Alfred Hitchcock‘s wife and partner, who collaborated, unsung, with Hitch for 30+ years and breathed life into his “stillborn” masterpiece Psycho.
In the run-up to the glitz and glamor of Sunday’s Oscars, Dame Helen hosted the annual Women in Film reception celebrating women nominees and made her voice heard on the issue of the gender gap in the film industry. This year, as far as we know, she dodged the red carpet and was all business.
If the montage shown at the Oscars to illustrate this year’s theme of “Everyday Heroes” was any indication of the current representation of women in film, Dame Helen’s focus on inequity is right on target. Of the 21 clips shown (that I counted), only three were of real-life women heroes: Norma Rae, Erin Brockovich, and “Maya,” the CIA operative in Zero Dark Thirty. That is fewer than 15% and deplorable! Karen Silkwood, Anne Frank, Joan of Arc, Veronica Guerin, the Mirabal sisters, the machinists of Dagenham, and Barbara Castle were nowhere to be seen in that montage. The Academy and the industry can and must do much better.
That this comes as we begin Women’s History Month is both appropriate and ironic.
Thank you, Dame Helen!
MELENA RYZIKGetty Images
WEST HOLLYWOOD –
“Shut up,” said Helen Mirren, “’cause Mama’s in the house.”
“That includes all you guys over there near the bar,” she added, as she waited for the crowd to quiet down at the Women in Film reception on Friday evening. The boys did as the Dame commanded.
Ms. Mirren was out and about on the party circuit on Friday – she’d also made a brief appearance at the British film reception beforehand – and was this year’s co-host of the annual event, held at Fig & Olive restaurant. It spotlights female Oscar nominees – each wears a fragrant white gardenia corsage – and also serves as a booster moment to reverse the continued gender disparity in the industry.