Helen Mirren was in the Czech Republic this week to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. During her acceptance speech, the Oscar-winning actress took the opportunity to address the alarming underrepresentation of female directors on today’s biggest stages — a longstanding debate that received newfound attention at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Here’s how The Guardian recounted Mirren’s speech:
“I don’t know how many female directors are presenting their films in this festival. I very much doubt that it’s 50%. Not too many, I’m sure,” she said during a speech in which she paid tribute to the film-maker Nora Ephron, who died last week. “When I was making films [early in my career] there were very, very few female directors, and there were certainly no women on set, which made taking one’s clothes off all the more difficult,” she observed, before remarking that directors such as Julie Taymor and Kathryn Bigelow had helped to shift the gender balance. “Things have moved on, but as far as I’m concerned, they haven’t moved on enough,” she added.
Mirren certainly isn’t the only person to call for a more representative gender balance. Meryl Streep took a similar position last month, during a speech at the 2012 Women in Film Crystal + Lucy awards in Los Angeles. Unlike Mirren, though, Streep chose to frame her argument in more economic terms, pointing out that women today comprise just “7-10% of directors, producers, writers, and cinematographers in any given year,” despite the fact that female-centric films like The Help and Bridesmaids have performed so well at the box office.
“Alice Walker said that the most common way people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any,” Streep said. “That’s like [hearing] that women don’t get raises because they don’t ask for them. It’s incredible.”