She's one of our best-loved screen icons and at 72 Dame Helen Mirren tells The Australian Women's Weekly in an exclusive interview, that she was shocked and increasingly perplexed when the current sexual abuse scandal broke in Hollywood with Harvey Weinstein at its core.
"The shift has been coming, the volcano has been bubbling away there," she tells The Weekly's editor Juliet Rieden.
"It was weird, all of them - not just Weinstein; Bill O'Reilly [Fox News host], Roger Ailes [Fox News Chairman]. Weird. Euw! Men are weird! Obviously it's absolutely nothing to do with sex, it's more to do with power, and what is it in men that needs that?"
Harvey Weinstein had distributed films Helen had worked on and she says "the irony and the contradiction and the pain of the whole thing, if you like the loss of Harvey, is that he did the kind of movies that an awful lot of film makers want to do, the independent films, the interesting films."
"The very first time I met and worked with Harvey was on The Cook The Thief His Wife And Her Lover, which he distributed in America. He's very courageous and he took that little, low-budget, high-art movie and he made sure that it was seen in America."
Over the years Weinstein proved to be the champion of brave and brilliant movies but as we now know it came at a cost.
"I knew that Harvey could be very, very aggressive, very bullying, very demeaning to people he worked with. And a lot of people in Hollywood can be like that, incidentally."
"They're very passionate and it's a dog-eat-dog world where people can be absolutely ferocious. I knew film makers who had been subjected to very violent bullying - but I guess I put that down to that sort of passion that I saw in the early days."
Did Helen have any sense of the abuse at the heart of Harvey's seemingly creative world? "Absolutely not at all. No, not at all," she says firmly.
"When I first arrived in Hollywood I was already in my mid-30s, so I was just not a candidate for that kind of thing."
Helen's film director husband Taylor Hackford was equally stunned. "He was like me, I don't think he had any concept of that. He had a concept of the nature of people losing it and shouting at people and demeaning people in front of other people, that sort of thing."
"It's part and parcel of existence in Hollywood, really, and people know that and they toughen up and they deal with it and they get on with it… But yes a major shift has happened."
Helen says that the tempest currently raining down on Hollywood had to happen and the solidarity and speeches at the Golden Globe Awards this year made her feel proud. "It was a great night. I don't think it will ever be quite repeated in that way, ever again. It was a moment in time."
Read the full interview with Dame Helen Mirren in the February issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.
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