Helen Mirren: “I hate the word beautiful, I wish there were another word for it”

Posted by
Harriet Hall

Helen Mirren is one of those rare Hollywood women whose acting careers has continued to flourish as she ages.

The award-winning actor spoke with beauty journalist, Sali Hughes, in this weekend's Guardian, about what being beautiful means to her...although she “hates that word.”

Mirren, 70, famously accepted her contract with the french make-up brand L'Oreal Paris, on the condition that her photographs not be retouched. 

"My whole life, one had these images of perfect, incredibly youthful girls shoved at you as what you should aspire to...and we’re not even talking about 25-year-olds, incidentally, we are talking about girls of 15. Who looks 15? It’s not fair,” she says.

Admitting that with youth comes beauty, Mirren says:

“I definitely don’t look better now than when I was young. Definitely not. Of course I looked better then. The great thing that happens as you age is that you don’t really give a flying fuck. I don’t look so good, but I don’t care.”

When asked if she thought herself beautiful, Mirren retorts:

“I hate that word. Kate Moss is beautiful, so is David Beckham, and I can appreciate a beautiful girl walking down the street. Young is beautiful. But the majority of us are something else, and I wish there was another word for it.” 

helen mirren

Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience

The Queen star continues to call-out Hollywood sexism on behalf of her younger contemporaries:

“I think what’s galling to me is when you see someone who’s supposed to be a high-level surgeon in a film and she’s being played by a 28-year-old actress. They wouldn’t even be qualified yet, never mind eminent.”

Mirren argues that people want to watch lives they can personally relate to, saying:

“You want, as an audience member, to see people that you recognise and can identify with.”

What it comes down to, the Prime Suspect actor says, is:

“Profound sexism – the ‘Would you fuck her?’ kind of attitude.”

But rather than blame Hollywood alone, Mirren believes that it is society that must change before the film industry can follow.

Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect

Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect

“When roles for women in real life change, then you will see change in the film industry,” she says.

Mirren adds that when it comes to ageing on-screen, the opposite is true of men:

“We all watched James Bond as he got more and more geriatric, and his girlfriends got younger and younger. It’s so annoying,”

However, she also claims that now men are also now being scrupulously criticised by the industry as well.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mirren says that the image of the real man in film, has now been replaced by the gym-obsessed, unattainable image of a sculpted beefcake.

“It's absolutely incredible. They all have to have these ridiculous bodies now that are completely unrealistic.

“They all have to be in the gym for three or four hours a day. Tedious. Awful,” she says.

Cult beauty journalist, Sali Hughes, will be in conversation with make-up artist to the stars, Lisa Eldridge at Stylist Live on Saturday 17th October at 4pm. Tickets are from £25 each and you can secure your place here

Additionally, if you feel passionate about sexism in Hollywood, come along to "Talk Feminism with Gemma Cairney and Friends" at 10.30am on Saturday 17th October and at 12.15 on the same day, No More Page 3's Lucy-Anne Holmes and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez will be discussing online feminist activism.

Stylist Live is a four-day festival of cocktails, culture, catwalks and conversation hosted by Edith Bowman and Dawn O’Porter on Thursday 15 – Sunday 18 October 2015.