The inimitable Helen Mirren turns 72 today, and the words “with age comes wisdom” is never more true than it is with her. The actor’s candor, wit and fierce intelligence shine through each and every time she opens her mouth (the accent helps, of course).
Mirren, who was born in West London, has racked up some incredible experiences in her life so far: an Academy Award, a Tony Award, a few Emmy Awards, a love affair with a young Liam Neeson, a DBE from Queen Elizabeth, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a BAFTA Academy Fellowship, a nearly 20-year marriage to director Taylor Hackford, her own wax figure at Madame Tussauds London — and she is not even close to slowing down. With three films scheduled for release in 2018 alone, we’ll be seeing Mirren for a long, long time. Here are 10 of our favorite Helen Mirren quotes.
1. “I think every woman in our culture is a feminist. They may refuse to articulate it, but if you were to take any woman back 40 years and say, ‘Is this a world you want to live in?’ They would say, ‘No.'”
2. “I have come to understand that feminism is not an abstract idea but it’s a necessity if we — and really by ‘we,’ I mean you guys — are to move us forward and not backward into ignorance and fearful jealousy.”
3. “Any woman now actually is a feminist. They don’t realize it, because they’re living in a world feminism has, to a certain extent, created for them. Which is very exciting, because it’s entitled. That’s what I love about them. They’re entitled.”
4. “Women were controlled by being shamed, so I love women who have claimed their own bodies: Madonna, Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, Bonnie Raitt. I love Pussy Riot more than anything in the world. They all raise their middle fingers to this epithet of ‘slut.’ They wear what they want to wear, behave as they want to behave.”
5. “I love the fact that girls are so much more confident and outspoken than my generation were. We were sort of brought up to be polite, and sometimes politeness, in certain circumstances, is not what’s required, you’ve got to have the courage to stand up for yourself occasionally when it’s needed.”
6. “Growing old is not for pussies — you’ve got to have courage. But then, you’ve got to have courage in life anyway.”
7. “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 realize that life is too much fun to do that.”
8. “I’ve done everything but I haven’t done too much of anything — I’ve never had a Coca-Cola, ever. Sometimes I use hotel body lotion as conditioner for my hair. I’m not particular. Life is too short and too precious.”
On general wisdom for every woman:
9. “The hardest period in life is one’s twenties. It’s a shame because you’re your most gorgeous and you’re physically in peak condition. But it’s actually when you’re most insecure and full of self-doubt. When you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s frightening.”
10. “Connect with friends daily and I don’t mean on Facebook. Better to have three great friends than 300 friends on social media. Friends you can really talk to.”
Happy birthday, Dame Helen!