There are things you should and shouldn't have to do in any job interview, whether you're an actor or something less glamorous, like a pumpkin farmer. Do your prep, dress the part, be friendly toward the person who might be giving you a job — all basic principles of getting hired. But feeling the pressure to use your gender and your sexuality as a tool of persuasion? That's degrading.
Welcome to Hollywood.
Lena Headey, now one of TV's most celebrated actors for her deliciously frosty portrayal of Cersei Lannister in #GameOfThrones, spoke to Net-a-Porter's The Edit recently about how her own refusal to flirt with casting directors (something women in the industry are regularly, and repulsively, expected to do) has cost her jobs in past:
"When I was in my 20s, and doing a lot of audition tapes in the States, a casting director told me: ‘The men take these tapes home and watch them and say, ‘Who would you f—?’ I’ve never played the game of going in [to auditions] and flirting. I’ve never done it. And I’m very happy I didn’t."
Headey isn't the first actress to speak up about such blatant sexism in a patriarchal industry, and won't be the last — in May, Jamie Denbo (Orange Is The New Black's Ginsberg) called out a casting director and potential male co-star on an unnamed project from which she was rejected for being "too old" to believably play the wife of a 57-year old man and mother to an 18-year old.
Denbo is 43, which, the last time I checked, is not cause for alarm. Of course, men never reach an age when they're too old to be dusted off and paired with a 30-year old love interest, a fact Amy Schumer's brilliant skit 'Last Fuckable Day' memorably skewers.
Part of the problem faced by women, and the reason their age is taken into account when their male co-stars are drawing pensions and still being given leading roles as action heroes, is that the range of roles available to them is still limited to the wife or 'love interest' depressingly often. This creates situations like the one described by Denbo in which a male actor or casting director is viewing them through a prism of pure lust and not in a manner which considers their actual talent.
Headey goes on to tell Net-a-Porter that, as a 40-something woman working in Hollywood, she feels liberated of any pressure to be beautiful — which is a good thing for an actor focused on doing her best work, I suppose. Of course, it is also wildly outrageous considering that her comment implies that women are by default no longer considered beautiful once they hit a certain age.
Headey's talent won through in the end, but others may not be so lucky. We shouldn't be resigned to accepting Hollywood's double standards as the status quo. For now, though, the best weapon against sexism is to give a voice to actors like Headey who are bold enough to speak out. Awareness is power.
Game of Thrones returns July 16 on HBO. Watch it to see one of Hollywood's finest actors at the peak of her powers — and her beauty.
What can be done to change the degrading ways Hollywood views women?