Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren lashed out at Hollywood ageism at TheWrap’s Power Breakfast in New York on Tuesday, calling it “f-cking outrageous” that 37-year-old Maggie Gyllenhaal was recently told she was too old to play the lover of a 55-year-old man.
“It’s f—-ing outrageous,” said Mirren, who turns 70 this year, to a packed room of more than 120 women entertainment, media, theater and digital. “It’s ridiculous. And ’twas ever thus. We all watched James Bond as he got more and more geriatric, and his girlfriends got younger and younger. It’s so annoying,” she said.
The Academy-Award and recent Tony winner opened up about that and many other topics, including feeling fearful in her work and how she hates being referred to as “sexual,” despite her reputation.
She said appearances can deceive and her stellar career comes with its share of jitters. “I’m frightened all the time, of everything, really,” she said. “The point is not to be afraid of the fact that you’re afraid. You get on with it.”
She recalled a nun in her school years advising her, “Never be afraid of fear. The most dangerous thing is fear itself. That’s something I’ve held with me all my life. Don’t be foolish, but don’t be afraid of fear.”
And the glamorous older woman who has payed nude scenes well past her 50s added: “I don’t like the word sexual. There are people who are sexual, and who are less sexual. But there’s got to be another word. Sexual is so limiting,” the actress said.
When asked if she preferred being called hot, she said, “hot and cool.”
“Being powerful is so much more interesting than being beautiful,,” she added.
Mirren won the Academy Award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in “The Queen” in 2006 as well as 3 Golden Globes, 4 Emmys and 4 BAFTA Awards. She just picked up a Tony Award for Leading Actress for “The Audience.”
Other speakers at the breakfast included mountain climber Melissa Arnot, the first woman to climb Mount Everest five times.
“I can get attention by being a young cute girl, but I can’t get respect that way and respect is more important to me,” said Arnot. “I have been guiding now for 11 years. You can go anywhere and do anything one time … To do it again and again takes something more.”
A digital panel debated the future of media and technology, while veering into a heated discussion about the role of women in leadership in those industries.
The panel included Rachel Sklar, founder of Change The Ratio/The List; Shelley Zalis, CEO of IPSOS OXT; Joanna Pena-Bickley, head of IBM Interactive Experience; Gayle Troberman, Chief Marketing Officer of iHeartMedia and Whitney Bouck, SVP of Global Marketing at Box.
“There’s power in the pack. If we could have done it alone it would have happened by now,” said Zalis of the importance of women networking and supporting each other.
The breakfast was hosted by Waxman, Karen Appleton of Box, Nancy Dubuc, CEO of A&E Networks, Ruth Vitale, CEO of Creative Future, film and theater producer Paula Wagner and Jill Wilson, SVP of of SGN.
The room was packed with infuential women across the world of theater, entertainment, finance and technology. They included Patina Miller, Broadway actress, “Sister Act”; Amy Nederlander, Owner, Amy Nederlander Productions; Meryl Poster, President and Founder, Superb Entertainment; Susan Gurman, Founder, Susan Gurman Agency; Tamara Tunie, actress, “As the World Turns”; Charlotte St. Martin, President, Broadway League; Heather Hitchens, President, American Theatre; Rachael Horovitz, producer, “Moneyball”; Annie Kaufman, director, “The Nether”, Gail Becker, President of Strategic Partnerships and Global Integration, Edelman; Vicki Gordon, Executive Story Editor, “60 Minutes”; Nancy Gibbs, Managing Editor, Time Magazine; Michele Lavan, Presi
Here’s more video from Mirren’s appearance: