Helen Mirren Calls Out Sam Mendes and Hollywood’s Boys Club

Yesterday, Empire magazine held its annual Empire Awards in London, handing out honors for last year’s crop of movies. It was a typical British affair, with Skyfall winning Best Picture, Martin Freeman winning Best Actor for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (that’s a burn, Daniel Day-Lewis), and Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook The Hunger Games. (Ha ha, what? Alright, sure. Whatever.) And it seems that two winners sparked some controversy. First, Sam Mendes picked up Best Director for Skyfall, and in his acceptance speech he gave a short list of his cinematic inspirations. Helen Mirren, who received the Empire Legend award (code for: "You’re old"), blasted Mendes and his list, complaining that he forgot to mention any women.

According to The Guardian, Mendes name-dropped four big names: Paul Thomas Anderson, Fran├žois Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, and Ingmar Bergman. Mirren wasn’t too pleased that those names all belong to men. 

"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," said Mirren, to cheers from the audience. "Hopefully in five or 10 years, when Sam’s successor is collecting their Inspiration award, the list will be slightly more balanced in terms of its sexual make-up. In the meantime, this one is for the girls."

OH YEAH, HELEN MIRREN? NAME SOME GIRLS, THEN! Just kidding: making lists of women who should be honored isn’t the right response, because, come on, there are plenty of female filmmakers who are responsible for great movies. Of course, they tend to be overlooked for several reasons, which is a shame, especially since one could argue that Kathryn Bigelow’s work on Zero Dark Thirty was probably better than Mendes’s direction in Skyfall. Having said that: good for Helen MIrren for making a statement. Calling out the rampant sexism in Hollywood is surely seen as, well, complaining, but it’s at the same time encouraging to the women who are working hard to make excellent films and not getting the recognition they deserve.

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