Helen Mirren had come to understand that there was no problem with roles for women, but it could be a question of taking a role for a man and giving it a woman's name. She auditioned for Ripley back at the time of Alien's production and when she read the script, she had no idea which character was male and which was female, they were just people engaging with each other in this situation. They all had what she found to be asexual names such as Ripley, and quite honestly she wasn't even sure if Ripley was supposed to be man or woman. All of the characters could have been interchanged, they could all have been male or female, any one of them could have been anything. And this was a revelation. So she came to think about how when people talk about writing for women, she would say "Don't write for women, write for people. Give it an asexual name and then decide whether you're going to cast a woman" and this what she would believe.
- Helen Mirren: There's no problem with roles for women. just take a role for a man and give it a woman's name. Done! It was reading the script of Ridley Scott's Alien - which I had the privilege of doing though unfortunately I didn't get a role in it - that made me realise it. All of the characters had names like Ripley. There was no , "a lean 32 year old woman who doesn't realise how attractive she is" - there was absolutely none of that! You had no idea who was a man and who was a woman. That was the revelation. (Empire, April, 2016)
- You hear of many A-list actresses
doing that — women like Angelina Jolie or Jodie Foster, who take
scripts originally written for men and star in them, because the roles
become more interesting.
Helen Mirren:That's happening much more now. That was the great thing with the first Alien — I read the original script for that, and when you read it, you had no idea which character was male and which was female. They were just people engaging with each other in this situation. They all had these sort of asexual names, so when Ripley said or did things, you had no idea whether Ripley was a man or a woman. You could have interchanged all the characters — they could have been all male or all female — any one of them could have been anything. When people talk about writing for women, I say, "Don't write for women, write for people." Give it an asexual name and then decide whether you're going to cast a woman. I've always believed that.
Did you audition for the original Alien?
I did, actually. Yes, I did, I went up for it. (http://www.vulture.com/2010/12/helen_mirren_chat_room.html#)