Helen Mirren: You don't need sex in marriage

Friday, December 21, 2012
Helen Mirren: You don't need sex in marriage
Dame Helen Mirren.

Let's about sex, shall we? Not how much of it we're all supposed to be having, but about whether it's possible to be married and to be in love, and yet not be having any sex at all.

Helen Mirren — the British-born actress who also happens, at the age of 67, to be a total fox — thinks it must be.

Related: Helen Mirren – Nothing like a Dame

"I don't know why people have this idea that all marriages have to have sex because really, they don't," she says, over a civilised cup of tea at the Dorchester Hotel in London's Mayfair, one foggy afternoon.

"There are other types of glue that hold people together."

To be clear, Helen is speaking not of her own 15-year marriage to the American director Taylor Hackford (among other films, he made An Officer and a Gentleman), but of the 54-year union between the so-called "master of suspense" Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma.

Helen plays Alma in the upcoming film, Hitchcock. It's set in 1959, the year that Alfred made Psycho and although this isn't the main point of the movie, there are signs that the couple are no longer intimate (they sleep side-by-side, but in single beds, for example.)

This shouldn't be taken to mean that the relationship is dead; on the contrary, Hitchcock celebrates what might be called real love — the kind that endures over decades.

Yet there are signs that Alma, who is getting on for 60 years of age in the film, still wants Alfred to desire her, as much as to admire her.

That is something that Helen completely understands. "Of course, she's his wife, she wants him to think, or to say, 'Oh, look at you, you look so chic!'," she says.

"It's not, 'get your knickers down, darling', but all women — or many women — want to be told they look nice."

Just for the record, hardly anyone ever says that Helen Mirren looks "nice". No, to her great amusement, they're more likely to describe her as "red-hot" or as a "sex-pot", or to quote some of the headlines that have been used in recent years, she's "Still Sexy — and over Sixty!"

She's only got herself to blame, of course. Just three years ago, at the age of 64, Helen startled paparazzi by emerging from the Italian sea wearing nothing but a red bikini. Two years ago, she posed naked but for a strand of pearls for New York magazine. She also stripped for Esquire in the lead-up to the London Olympics, draped only in the Union Jack.

In pictures: Meryl Streep - Sexy at 60

She's tickled by the idea that she's somehow doing something remarkable by being an object of sexual fascination well into her seventh decade, saying, "I do feel insecure sometimes, just like everybody else. But, honestly, it's ridiculous ... we're all worrying about [how we look] and it really is a bloody waste of time".

Read more of this story in the January issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.

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