Helen Mirren on Why "The best thing about being over 70 is being over 70!"
Born in 1945, Dame Helen Mirren is now a woman of a certain age, but she's showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, she says, "The best thing about being over 70 is being over 70. Certainly, when I was 45, the idea of being 70 was like 'Arghhh!' but you only have two options in life: Die young or get old. There is nothing else. The idea of dying young when you're 25 is kind of cool, a bit romantic, like James Dean. But then you realise that life is too much fun to do that."
Secure in Her LooksAt the time of her 70th birthday in 2015, Helen said in an interview: "At 70 years old, if I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to use the words f*** off much more frequently, so what did she mean? Well, she also said, "There's a huge pressure on young girls to look a certain way these days but, as I age, I‚'ve lost that incredible insecurity of youth‚ I'm a woman that loves make-up and getting dressed up.
"As I get older, I don't look as good, but I don't give a damn" which sums up her attitude to aging nicely.
And Her EquipmentBack in 1975, the then 30-year-old Helen was interviewed on the popular Michael Parkinson chat show. He introduced her as "sluttishly erotic" and began the interview by saying, "You are, in quotes, a 'serious actress'; do you find what might best be described as your equipment hinders you in that pursuit?" As the Royal Shakespeare Company's leading lady, she deftly held her own with style, replying with a good-natured, "How dare you?" Then adding, "Describe in detail what you mean by my equipment."
Being a "Serious Actress"Parky's sexist comment perhaps sums up attitudes to women in the 70s, but Helen's distinguished career has long since demonstrated that her talent extends way beyond her "equipment". In 2007, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress in her role as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen; in 2013, she won an Olivier Award for Best Actress in her West End performance of The Audience, and in 2015, she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play after her Broadway performance in the role, making her one of only a handful to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting. With a total of 25 awards to her name, including five Baftas, four Emmys and two Golden Globes, Helen is undoubtedly a "serious actress" but there can be no doubt that a big part of her longevity in the business is down to not taking herself too seriously. In interviews she has said, "I'm pretty laissez faire about my beauty routine. I climb on the bus and get snapped with no make-up on, and I rarely go to the hairdresser's," an attitude that backs-up her long-held ambition to be prepared to age on screen.
Baring AllFor her role in the 2012 film The Door, Helen appeared on screen completely free of any make-up. She has since said, "It is actually incredibly rare on film to have nothing on your face at all. Even when you are playing a character who wears no make-up, you wear make-up otherwise your eyes tend to disappear and look like two piss-holes in the snow. But on this occasion, I really did wear no make-up. It was great because I could just prance in five minutes before I was due on. And also, once you let go of that, it's gone. You just look the way you look."
Not everyone in the press deemed Helen's decision to bare all a good one, but she no longer worries about what others think of her on screen or in any aspect of her life.She says, "You write your life story by the choices you make. You never know if they have been a mistake. Those moments of decision are so difficult. I went through a phase of consulting the I Ching, which was useful in that it freed you up to listen to your instinct. Though often it would say things such as, 'The water will pour down from the mountain and the sea will churn' and you had to make of it what you wanted to."
The Last Word on AgeingDame Helen Mirren is perhaps living proof that with age comes wisdom, and the last word on ageing must be hers: "The young always want to feel as though they're the ones to do everything first. But naturally, it's all been done before. All I'd say to them is that ageing is an adventure. It's a frightening adventure because health becomes an issue‚ "Growing old is not for pussies" you've got to have courage. But then, you've got to have courage in life anyway."