Helen Mirren has a change of heart about infamous Michael Parkinson interview

Mirren and Parkinson’s ‘sexist’ exchange remains one of the most memorable moments of the BBC chat show

Nicole Vassell
Wednesday 04 October 2023 07:51 BST
Sir Michael Parkinson asks Dame Helen Mirren about her 'physical attributes' during 1975 interview

Helen Mirren has shared a change of heart regarding her infamous interview with Michael Parkinson, which has been widely deemed “sexist” by viewers.

The stage and screen star appeared on the late broadcaster’s BBC chat show in 1975, during which they had a terse exchange when Parkinson asked whether her physical attributes had “hindered” her in her career.

“I can’t think that can necessarily be true,” replied 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.”

The interview became an infamous interaction of their careers, and both had shared their takes on the conversation in the decades that followed.

In a recent interview with Radio Times, the Golda star expressed something of a u-turn in her feelings toward the conversation.

“I didn’t feel sorry for Parky, but then in a way I did because in lots of ways he was right,” she said, according to Metro. “My physicality did get in the way of me being taken seriously as a classical actress.”

Mirren also acknowledged that the culture had changed over the years, adding: “Yes, yes [times] really do [change]. And fast. And we can only kick down the patriarchy one brick at a time.”

Helen Mirren speaking to Michael Parkinson on his talk-show in 1975

The actor also spoke about examples of Parkinson using his programme for progressive reasons, citing Elton John’s appearance after he was publicly outed as gay.

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“Parky invited Elton on to his show so that they could talk about it properly,” Mirren said. “He held out a hand and helped Elton John at a very important moment. So I don’t want to diss Parky.”

In 2019, Mirren looked back on the interview with the former Ghostwatch host during a profile in Flaunt magazine.

She lamented her treatment in the media in the weeks following, explaining: “After that Parkinson interview, I was the one who got the s***. He didn’t. I got the s***. I got the s*** for being argumentative.”

Helen Mirren

She continued: “I don’t want to diss Michael, but he did blow it that once, because, you know, he didn’t know any different.

“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.”

Parkinson, meanwhile, addressed the conversation in 2016 while speaking to the Mail on Sunday, and remained unapologetic.

“I don’t want to [apologise]. Nor does she,” he said. “I don’t regard what happened there as being anything other than good television.”

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