Sunday, January 14, 2007

Getting their dues

The buzz is certainly that Helen Mirren and Judi Dench are strong contenders to win the Best Actress award at the Golden Globes for their roles in The Queen and Notes on a Scandal. I'm routing for either of them, Mirren because I saw the movie and loved it and Dench because, while I haven't seen the movie, I know what a tremendous actress and how professional she is and know it would be well deserved.

I watched Mirren last week on the telly when she was interviewed by Morrie Shafer of 60 Minutes and the chemistry between them as they ribbed one another was palpable.

At one point Mirren, who was born Ilynea Lydia Mironoff, walked through the working-class seaside resort town (Southend-on-sea) where she was raised--her father was a penniless Russian aristocrat and her mother a working-class woman--and she said her family were always regarded as a bit eccentric by the neighbors. As a kid, she and worked as a 'blagger' at the fun-fare and demonstrated how she was required to attract passing members of the public to the rides by shouting out something nonsensical to them. When they'd approach and ask what she said or wanted, she'd repeat the nonsense and then quickly segue into a spiel inviting them to try whatever ride she was trying to sell. Great training for the theatre, she went on to say.

At one point, Morrie asked if she or her husband ever regretted not having children. Looking him straight in the eye, she replied 'absolutely not' and went on to say that they'd have prevented her from the freedom to follow her path in life. It's a decision shared by some married couples I've got friendly with here in the states.

I could almost hear the collective clucks of disapproval from many women (and men) who believe the chief purpose of life is to marry and have children--especially some demanding parents who believe they have an unassailable right to become grandparents (some of whom were lousy parents, it might be said). I've even come across such people on occasions, people who look at you oddly when you say you've never wanted kids. So I admired Mirren's assertive honesty and conviction here. Not everyone is destined to have or want children and there's nothing the matter with people that don't...or their articulation of it.

On the other hand, Dench has one daughter (Finty) by her late husband, Michael Williams--also a great actor who died of cancer six years ago--and they're very close, so I can imagine her saying the opposite of what Helen Mirren said if she were asked the obverse question. I've seen Finty accompany her mother to the various awards ceremonies. This morning Dench was interviewed for a piece on Sunday Morning on CBS and there was a very poignant moment when she said she's been working very hard ever since the death of her husband. When asked if this was her coping mechanism, there was a pregnant pause that spoke volumes.

It's tremendous to see older actresses celebrated--Dench is 72 and says she has no intention of quitting--and respected for their craft and getting their dues because I find the tendency in America to exalt young actresses and put the older ones out to pasture very shallow and, frankly, despicable.

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3 comments:

Debra Hamel said...

I could almost hear the collective clucks of disapproval from many women (and men) who believe the chief purpose of life is to marry and have children...at you oddly when you say you've never wanted kids. So I admired Mirren's assertive honesty and conviction here. Not everyone is destined to have or want children and there's nothing the matter with people that don't...or their articulation of it.

I don't cluck with disapproval, certainly, but I've been on both sides of the fence now. Before I had kids I was definitely not one of those people who really really really wanted kids. I figured I'd be perfectly happy with or without. Anyway, when I had them I was simply shocked by the emotional intensity that accompanies parenthood. I had no idea that this is what it would be like, and looking back I realize that I would have missed out on a lot if I hadn't had kids. I would have been perfectly happy, mind, but I would have missed a lot.

This is not to say by any means that parenthood is all good, or that everybody should therefore have children. So my only "clucking," such as it is, comes with thinking that people who haven't had them really can't have a very good idea what they're missing, because seeing others absorbed in parenthood, and having nieces and nephews, simply is nothing like the real thing.

That said, I sometimes dream of having an apartment that the rest of my family doesn't know about, with pure white walls and almost no furniture, certainly no toys, and no noise....

Damian McNicholl said...

Good point, Debra as I'm sure being a parent brings forth extremely strong forces. It's an area that fascinates me, actually, and not because I want to be a parent. I'm sure there's also a difference between the sexes as regards the feelings and emotions having kids creates. I think women must have much stronger bonds and feelings as they carry the child within for nine months--and then that may not be fully true because, on the other hand, I've met gay men who are absolutely driven by the need to be a parent, that their lives are not complete without it.

Debra Hamel said...

I'm not sure what the answer is, whether the bond between fathers and children is/can be different from that between mothers and children because of innate sexual differences or because, simply, mothers tend to be the ones who spend more time with the kids. Or maybe it's not so different at all but just expressed differently. Surely there's a whole range of possibilities. It was just interesting for me because I never anticipated this going into the project.