"This one is for the girls": Helen Mirren accuses Sam Mendes of sexism

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 24:  Dame Helen Mirren attends the Jameson Empire Awards 2013 at Grosvenor House Hotel on March 24, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 24: Dame Helen Mirren attends the Jameson Empire Awards 2013 at Grosvenor House Hotel on March 24, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

The iconic actress said in her Legend Award speech that Sam Mendes didn't name one woman as a source of his cinematic inspiration

Dame Helen Mirren was presented with the ‘Legend Award' by Empire at the film magazine's annual award ceremony last night, and it took her all of 30 seconds to live up to that billing.

“I don’t want to unduly pick on Sam Mendes, but when he spoke about his inspirations earlier this evening, I’m afraid not a single one of the people he mentioned was a woman,” she said.

Earlier in the evening, Mendes won Best Film, Best Director and the Empire Inspiration Award for his Bond film Skyfall. He used one of his speeches to credit the directors that had in turn inspired him in his filmmaking career: Paul Thomas Anderson, François Truffaut, Martin Scorsese and Ingmar Bergman amongst them.

It was a desperately tasteful selection, but Dame Helen was unimpressed. “Hopefully in five or ten years, when Sam’s successor is collecting their Inspiration Award, the list will be slightly more balanced in terms of its sexual make-up,” she continued. “In the meantime, this one is for the girls.” And with those words she left the stage, to a very womanly roar of appreciation from the audience.

Dame Helen is absolutely right about this: running through the culture of movie fandom is a bizarre fear of films made by women, films made primarily for women, and films primarily about women. Hundreds of thousands of votes were cast for last night’s awards by Empire Magazine’s 2.8 million-strong readership, and yet in a year that featured popular and critically acclaimed mainstream movies with terrific roles for women such as Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty and Gary Ross’s The Hunger Games, the second most-garlanded film after Skyfall was The Hobbit, Peter Jackson’s tedious fantasy sausage-fest.

That gender imbalance is by no means peculiar to the Empire Awards, as seasoned Oscar, Bafta and film festival observers know all too well. But it continues to manifest itself elsewhere in the industry, in odder and more depressing ways.

Take the reporting of the recent news that Lynne Ramsay, the director of We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011), unexpectedly quit her next film, a Western called Jane Got a Gun. Her two leading men, Michael Fassbender and Jude Law, also left the obviously troubled production, but you won’t read any think-pieces about how they’ve somehow let down “men in the industry” by doing so. Instead, the focus of the industry press has been entirely on Ramsay, whose departure has since been patronisingly described as “insane” and “irresponsible” by one of the films producers, Scott Steindorff. (Ramsay has yet to give her side of the story, and she no doubt has one.)

I’m sure Empire readers, male and female alike, don’t think of themselves as a misogynistic bunch, and no doubt many of them who have been following the Lynne Ramsay/Jane Got a Gun saga have despaired at the way in which the story has been covered. But it’s worth pondering why Empire has yet to dedicate a cover to the wildly successful, female-skewing Hunger Games franchise, and never, throughout the saga’s four-year, £2.1 billion-grossing run, has the British magazine dared to devote a single cover to Twilight. Would Hobbit fanboys be able to cope with the encroachment of girls on their turf? Think carefully on Dame Helen’s words, dear nerds, when it comes to marking your ballots for the Empire Awards in 2014.

As originally seen on Telegraph.co.uk

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