Belfast Telegraph

More roles for older actresses

Jenny Agutter has said that older women are finally returning to the screen.

Stars from Dame Helen Mirren to Miranda actress Patricia Hodge have complained that women disappear from films and TV dramas once they reach their forties.

But the Call The Midwife actress, 62, told Radio Times magazine that more roles are now being penned for older women .

"There's a more mature audience to be catered for and great stories are being written. You no longer have to be young forever, which is terrific," she said.

Her comments come after Russell Crowe sparked controversy when he suggested that older women who had difficulty landing roles still wanted to "play the ingenue, and can't understand why she's not being cast as the 21-year-old".

But Jenny said that women still faced more pressure than their male counterparts to look young.

"Men can be attractive at any age, but for women it's still associated with childbearing and sexuality. It has to change," she said.

"Maybe I'm more hopeful than I should be, but look at Miranda (Hart, who plays Chummy in Call The Midwife) - so attractive, and although she goes on about being ungainly, she's really very secure. She grew up tall and gangly and had the strength of personality to overcome it."

Jenny told how she faced pressure to go under the knife when she lived in Los Angeles in the 1970s.

"When I was in Hollywood a producer told me I should have the bags under my eyes done. I was very British and said no.

"I know a couple of people who've had face lifts and it was terrifying - black and blue and swollen. It doesn't do it for me. But men are conned into it, too. There's an industry and it doesn't end with women," she said.

Call The Midwife returns to BBC1 this weekend with its fourth series.

The Railway Children actress said that the series was grounded in "reality, albeit a bit removed", in contrast to ITV's period drama Downton Abbey.

"Downton isn't something I've watched much. It's a wonderful fantasy of English life", she said.

Jenny said that playing a nun in the drama - Sister Julienne - had its challenges, including what to wear.

"I keep asking if I can sneak in a pair of silk pyjamas to wear, but they're very strict in the lingerie department so it's just white winceyette and wimples for me," she told the magazine.

Jenny added: "I do love playing a nun. You'd think it would be easy, but it's one of my more difficult roles.

"It's so far from anything I can imagine - that dedication, tolerance and faith - which is very different to 'religion'.... If I do anything surprising - like swear - when I'm in costume, I get strange looks."

The Logan's Run actress, who was brought up as a Roman Catholic but rebelled at 16, said. "There are some wonderful things about all religions, but they've gone awry over hundreds of years by being politically manipulative.

"Religion often uses faith as a blindfold, saying anyone who doesn't believe the same as us must be wiped out. It's not God saying that. It's people, which is so dangerous."

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