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‘Getting older means horizons ­broadened’ says Dame Helen Mirren | UK | News


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Helen Mirren

‘If I fail it doesn’t really matter, it’s the journey rather than the arrival’ says the actress. (Image: Getty)

Don’t tell Dame Helen Mirren she looks good for her age. “‘You look good for your age’ is definitely a caveat rather than a compliment,” explains the 78-year-old actress.

“Whether you’re 25, 45 or 85 you are who you are and you look great for who you are, not how old you are.”

Helen’s acting career kicked off in her early 20s when she appeared with on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and in movies A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Age of Consent.

In 1979 she hit TV screens in a production of Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills.

But as she approached her 40s, Helen says it was a tough time to be an actress.

“It’s an uncomfortable moment when you realise in my industry that they didn’t want me because I was good, they wanted me because I was young,” says Helen, who was made a Dame in 2003.

“It hits you round about your mid-30s – it did for me anyway.”

“It was a whole different attitude in those days. I don’t think that’s the case any more.”

“Moving from your young ­freshness into maturity. And the mature side is ‘not interesting’. It was very much ‘we don’t want that, we want young, fresh females, we don’t want smart, intelligent, productive women’. That was the extremely sexist and ageist world I grew up in.”

Then, at 46, Helen had a telly breakthrough starring as steely DCI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect, a role that made her a household name and won her three BAFTAs.

“I was lucky with Prime Suspect, it allowed me to grow into this new world. At the same time as me doing that, women, because of post-war, had gone into universities, trained as lawyers and doctors, gone through sexism, come out the other side, done really well in their professions and were now in their 50s. Prime Suspect came along and revealed to the world what women had been dealing with.”

The problem, she says, is thus. As a society we’re conditioned to be scared of getting older.

“I think we’re afraid of ageing because for the last 50 years there’s been a commercial selling of youth,” says Helen, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in 2006 film The Queen.”

“I’ve never understood it because older people have more economic power in general than young people.”

“This commercial selling of youth has made anyone over the age of 40 feel that they no longer have anything to ­contribute.” The latest stats back this up.

Research shows spending sprees by retirees are adding billions to the UK economy and by 2040, older people will be spending 63p in every pound in the UK economy – an increase from 54p in 2018.

This is something bosses at beauty brand L’Oreal realised when casting Helen as the face of its products in 2014, a position she has held ever since. She credits the brand with binning the term ‘anti-ageing’ from their campaigns, despite anti-ageing being a huge money-spinner.

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Helen Mirren

Her acting career kicked off in her early 20s with the Royal Shakespeare Company. (Image: Getty)

“It’s an awful phrase,” Helen says. “It’s great to get older – it’s fantastic. You enjoy who you are, you’ve realised who you are. We should be celebrating it.”

“My mum always told me to never worry about getting older. She said, ‘Don’t worry, when you get to being 40 you don’t want to be 20 again, you’ll have gained so much more’. And it’s absolutely true all throughout life – you do lose things, but you gain so much more.”

“You die young or you get old – and I don’t want to die young, I’m too interested in life.”

But the way we view ageing in beauty is changing for the better, Helen says. “Without a doubt the whole concept of so-called beauty – which is not really to do with beauty, it’s to do with self-confidence – is changing enormously as far as growing up is concerned. Thanks in no small part to L’Oréal Paris, I might add. Other brands as well have luckily realised the change in life in general. People are, with health, exercise and diet, living very productive lives for longer now. So, it’s a part of our human condition.”

For Helen, the ageing process is one of excitement.

“Getting older means for me, my horizons ­broadened.”

“Every day my horizons get wider. I learn more, I have more experience. I love watching the world change, I love GPS. I love witnessing the changes in the world, it’s so exciting.”

“It’s also heartbreaking because you see war and destruction which becomes a constant, you realise it’s a constant in human behaviour. But, it’s an endless adventure really and that’s what I love about getting older.”

Beauty, she says, is as much fun as it ever was. And Helen loves to experiment. Who could forget the blue ’do she sported on the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival last year?

“I don’t really have a routine, honestly. I am constantly ­experimenting,” Helen says.

“I love any new product, I jump on it. I do nowadays always wash my face at night, I always clean my face. I never used to as a teenager, or at least in my 20s. But now I religiously clean everything off at night and use some sort of moisturiser at night.”

Helen swears by L’Oreal Paris Midnight Night Cream, £29.99 (Boots), and L’Oreal Paris Golden Age Rosy Day Cream, £15.99 (Superdrug). And she loves to break the rules.

“I don’t obey any rules of any sort. I love make-up. I love playing around.”

“I’m constantly wearing things that are ‘inappropriate’.”

Helen is in more demand than ever, her career going from peak to peak. Last year she starred in war thriller Golda, playing Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, which garnered critical acclaim.

“I’m just trudging on,” she laughs.

“In my whole career, the thing that has scared me the most is the thing I feel I should do – the thing I am most likely to fail at is the thing I’m most likely to attempt.

“If I fail it doesn’t really matter, it’s the journey rather than the arrival.”

“So put yourself on an interesting journey if you possibly can.”

“I’m not growing old, I’m growing up – I’m learning more about life and how to live it.”

“I feel the age that I am. With all the curiosity, knowledge and fear I have about life.”

“I feel my age but in the fullest possible sense.”

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