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

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Helen Mirren fans have been celebrating the veteran actor on her 73rd birthday (Monday 25 July).

Known for her work both on stage and screen, Mirren has been a major presence in the entertainment industry across a variety of genres – from Shakespearean comedies to action movies (Red and the Fast and Furious films) to her Oscar- and Bafta-winning portrayal of The Queen.

Since the early stages of her career, the actor has also become highly respected for her forthright nature, and has never been afraid to call someone out.

One of the clearest examples of this trait took place back in 1975 when she was interviewed by Michael Parkinson on his BBC chat show.

Helen Mirren, circa 1975 (Getty Images)
Helen Mirren, circa 1975 (Getty Images)

One point of their conversation saw Parkinson asking the star whether she thought that her physical attributes had “hindered” her in her career.

“Because serious actresses can't have big bosoms, is that what you mean?” Mirren replied. Clarifying his question, Parkinson then wondered whether she thought her figure could “detract” from her performance.

"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.”

Watch: Helen Mirren wrote to Queen Elizabeth II before starring in The Queen

The exchange has remained a favourite moment for Mirren fans, as proof of her ability to answer questions in a candid fashion.

In the years since, the actor has spoken about the infamous interview and told Flaunt Magazine in 2019 that she’d reexamined the moment in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

“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 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 has also addressed the interview decades after its airing, and as of 2016, the broadcaster is unapologetic over his words.

He told the Mail on Sunday: “I don’t want to [apologise]. Nor does she. I don’t regard what happened there as being anything other than good television.”

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