‘He could never quite grasp what he did wrong’: Helen Mirren and that infamous Michael Parkinson interview

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Helen Mirren’s 73rd birthday was a cause for joy for her ardent admirers (Monday 25 July). From Shakespearean comedies to action flicks like Red and the Fast and the Furious, Mirren has a lengthy and varied history in the entertainment industry. She has won two Academy Awards and a Bafta for her depiction of the Queen in The Queen.

The performer has gained a reputation for being honest from the start of her career and has never shied away from calling someone out when they’ve done something wrong. When she appeared on Michael Parkinson’s BBC talk show in 1975, it was evident that she had a natural flair for the interview.

The celebrity was asked if she felt that her physical characteristics had “hindered” her in her profession at one point during Parkinson’s chat with her. “Because serious actresses can’t have big bosoms, is that what you mean?” Mirren replied. Parkinson then inquired if she believed her figure might “detract” from her performance, clarifying his first query.

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“I can’t think that can necessarily be true,” said Mirren. “I mean, what a crummy performance if people are obsessed with the size of your bosom or anything else. “I would hope that the performance, and the play, and the living relationship between all the people on stage and all the people in the audience will overcome such boring questions.”

Mirren devotees hold on to this encounter as proof of her openness when answering queries. Her remarks to Flaunt Magazine in 2019 revealed that she’d reexamined the interview after the #MeToo movement prompted her to do so.

After that Parkinson interview, I was the one who got the s***,” Mirren explained. “He didn’t. I got the s***. I got the s*** for being argumentative.” She added: “I don’t want to diss Michael, but he did blow it that once, because, you know, he didn’t know any different.

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“He never saw it. I mentioned it to him again years later and he never saw what was wrong with it. He never could quite grasp it.” Since the interview aired over 30 years ago, Parkinson has spoken out about it, and he remains unrepentant about his statements. He revealed: “I don’t want to [apologize]. Nor does she. I don’t regard what happened there as being anything other than good television.”

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