WHEN you sit down to watch a British film, on average less than a third of the cast will be female – and there’s a decent chance one of them will be Dame Judi Dench.
This male-female ratio has barely changed in 100 years, according to the British Film Institute, which has created a new database of UK movie stats at filmography.bfi.org.uk.
While the records show a fascination with Queen Victoria, the news is not so good for women working in the business.
The 19th century monarch, played twice by Dench, has been portrayed in as many films as the fictional spy James Bond.
But the stats back up claims that sexism is entrenched in movies. In 1913, 31 per cent of the cast in all the movies made that year were female. By 2017, the figure is just 30 per cent.
Those actresses who don’t play a named character are most likely to end up playing an unnamed prostitute or a housekeeper.
Kate Dickie, the most used British actress of the last decade whose roles have included a lady of the night, said: “I don’t have any more prostitutes in me. I don’t know how we will change the film industry until we change society.”
The data also reveals how tastes have altered over the years. In the 1970s it was the king of horror Peter Cushing ruling at the box office and in the 1990s ‘lad’ Keith Allen nabbed the most roles.
Most prolific actors of each decade 1960-2017
John le Mesurier 51 films
Marianne Stone 62 films
Peter Cushing 29 films
Marianne Stone 37 films
Robbie Coltrane 16 films
Liz Smith 14 films
Keith Allen 14 films
Sadie Frost 10 films
Michael Gambon 21 films
Shirley Henderson 18 films
Jim Broadbent 21 films
Kate Dickie 13 films
TOP 10 MOST FEATURED CHARACTERS IN FILM
- Queen Victoria 25 films
- James Bond 25 films
- Sherlock Holmes 24 films
- Miss Moneypenny 17 films
- M 16 films
- Q 15 films
- Prince of Wales 13 films
- Old Mother Riley 13 films
- Queen Elizabeth 12 films
- Felix Leiter 10 films
- Henry VIII 8 films
- Harry Potter 8 films
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Emotional film Breathe starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy honours couple who changed views on disability after a sudden paralysis
DASHING ex-Army officer Robin Cavendish had been leaping about on a tennis court just hours earlier – but now the 28-year-old was paralysed for life. Polio had struck at lightning speed and the young dad-to-be was told he just had three months to live. Every moment of those months would be spent in hospital, hooked […]
DASHING ex-Army officer Robin Cavendish had been leaping about on a tennis court just hours earlier – but now the 28-year-old was paralysed for life.
Polio had struck at lightning speed and the young dad-to-be was told he just had three months to live.
Every moment of those months would be spent in hospital, hooked up to a breathing machine, unable to move from the neck down.
So he begged his pregnant wife Diana, 25, to turn off the machine and let him go, so that she could be free to “start again”.
Diana refused — and took on the medical profession and medical science to not only bring her beloved husband home, but to let him live a full and rich life for another 35 years.
Along the way, the couple and their inventor friends created the first wheelchair with a portable respirator and changed the world’s attitude towards the disabled.
Now their story is being told in an emotional movie opening this Friday, starring The Crown actress Claire Foy as Diana and Amazing Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield as Robin.
Titled Breathe, it was produced by the couple’s son Jonathan, who made the Bridget Jones films, and directed by Gollum actor Andy Serkis.
In an exclusive interview Diana, now 83, told The Sun: “I never considered letting him die, not at all.”
But she did not just have to argue her case to doctors that he could have a decent life — she also had to talk Robin around.
She said: “It was incredibly difficult to convince him life was worth living.
“Sometimes he was terribly depressed. He was a young, healthy, athletic young man who was completely in control of his life and suddenly, bang, it was all gone.”
Diana had been watching Robin play that last game of tennis in 1958, on what had seemed a typically idyllic day for the glamorous pair.
The couple had married in 1957 and moved to Kenya where Robin had set up as a tea trader and they were living an exotic life of expats in the then-British colony.
After his diagnosis, the couple was flown home in a military aircraft equipped with a breathing machine, and Robin was installed in a hospital in Oxford for what he was told would be the rest of a short life.
When Diana protested, she was told that if she tried to take him home and put him on a respirator, he would die within two weeks.
But the young mum, who by this stage had given birth to son Jonathan, told Robin she would get him home no matter what.
She would defy the authorities and get him discharged, even though nobody with that degree of disability had ever left hospital before.
She recalled: “He cheered up a lot when he thought he might be able to leave hospital. They didn’t want Robin to leave.
“Doctors think they are gods, don’t they? It set a precedent, nobody had been able to get out hospital before.”
With the help of family and friends and using their savings, Diana set up a home for the couple in Oxfordshire, complete with a breathing machine.
Those first days were harrowing. Diana explained: “When Robin did first come out of hospital you did live on a knife edge because in the early days if it stopped or became unplugged you had to react fairly quickly.
“It stopped quite a few times. You then had to operate the hand pump.”
At first Robin was still bed-bound, but their friend, the scientist Teddy Hall — best known for proving the Piltdown Man fossils were a fraud — came up with a way to free him.
He invented a battery-powered breathing machine that could be attached to a wheelchair.
A van was adapted to carry Robin and one time they even loaded the vehicle up onto an aeroplane so he could make a dream holiday to Spain.
Diana said: “We had some very difficult times, but we also had a lot of fun. My husband was very out going, he loved people.
“If you are going to be very disabled I think it is easier to cope with it if you are an outgoing people-loving person.”
Life was also improved by a contraption known as the “possum”, which allowed Robin to control the television, turn the pages of his newspaper and speak on the telephone just by turning his head.
He was a guinea pig for the device being developed by Stoke Mandeville Hospital and which would later being used by the likes of Professor Stephen Hawking.
Diana said: “It allowed him to use the telephone. To begin with he had to go through the exchange and he had this slightly strange voice.
“One operator was heard to say to another, ‘I’ve got some kind of Dalek on the line’.”
The couple were also acutely aware that they were lucky to have the funds for good care, and so they raised money to help others get hold of the respirator wheelchairs.
They also set up a charity to fund holidays, and became advocates for the rights of the disabled, travelling across Europe encouraging other doctors to set their patients free.
Diana said: “We were lucky we had just enough money to survive. There were lots of people like Robin languishing in hospital.
“It was a question of raising enough money so Teddy could make enough chairs for people who needed them. Robin loved projects.
“It was important for him to be occupied. It was also important to change attitudes.”
Their work has gone unheralded until now and even their son Jonathan, now 58, did not realise their full impact on the world until he made the movie.
He said: “Though I’d obviously lived through all of that, I hadn’t realised quite the trail-blazing nature of my parents’ lives.”
Diana is delighted that society now sees disabled people differently, especially thanks to events such as the Paralympics.
But she said: “Attitudes are a lot better. Although, I am told the ‘Does he take sugar? syndrome’ does still exist.
“We got a lot of that with Robin in the beginning. It made me very cross.
“I would say, ‘Well, he’s here you can ask him yourself.’”
Claire Foy, 33, admits she cries every time she sees Breathe — but Diana herself is, true to form, tougher.
She said: “The first time I saw it, I didn’t know how to cope with it, so I decided to adopt a very detached attitude.
“It wasn’t difficult to watch, not even when he started bleeding from the throat, because I lived all that.”
That bleeding had been caused by years of being hooked up to a machine, and when these agonising episodes became more frequent, Robin decided that he really could not fight any more.
In August 1994, aged 64, a friend helped him end his life — at home.
More than two decades on, Diana still misses him dearly.
She said: “It was lucky Robin was still alive when my son married my very lovely daughter-in-law.
“But he did not live to see his triplet grandchildren, who are now 21.
“I do keep thinking what Robin would think of the film. I am sure he would be very proud of Jonathan.”
- Breathe opens in cinemas on Friday.
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David Brückner’s The Ritual is a funny and sarcastic offering to the horror genre — reminiscent of classics like Children of the Corn
Rafe Spall stars in this non-horror horror set in a Swedish forest exec produced by Andy Serkis. After a shocking opening scene which sees the horrific murder of one of their gang. A group of lads staring 40 in the face decide to honour his memory by going on a Swedish hiking mini break. Bad […]
Rafe Spall stars in this non-horror horror set in a Swedish forest exec produced by Andy Serkis.
After a shocking opening scene which sees the horrific murder of one of their gang.
A group of lads staring 40 in the face decide to honour his memory by going on a Swedish hiking mini break. Bad choice.
Among the blame, accusation and insinuation being thrown about in that bleak and beautiful landscape is something far more sinister…
Clearly these four fellas are about to start being picked off one by one.
The actually very scary contents of those woods are relatively metaphorical – the whole premise of the film is based around when is it OK to be a coward – our default position.
What is it to be a 40 year old man in 2017? All of these questions are thrown at Luke Excellently played by a louche and petulant Rafe Spall) and “the lads”.
The very Britishness of the script gives a really funny and sarcastic twinge to proceedings, which at times feels very Children of the Corn doing Blair Witch directed by Guillermo Del Torro. A really enjoyable, surreal scare.
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Lego’s Ninjago is mildly entertaining – but wholly underwhelming
This is the third movie in the Lego series, which seemed to be able to give Pixar a run for it’s money in terms of originality, visuals and that all important kids-adult crossover appeal. Sadly, after the incredible Lego movie and the under-rated Lego Batman, Ninjago feels a bit done-by-numbers. Ninjago is an offshoot Lego […]
This is the third movie in the Lego series, which seemed to be able to give Pixar a run for it’s money in terms of originality, visuals and that all important kids-adult crossover appeal.
Sadly, after the incredible Lego movie and the under-rated Lego Batman, Ninjago feels a bit done-by-numbers.
Ninjago is an offshoot Lego brand skirting dangerously close to Power Rangers territory.
All dinosaur vehicles controlled by four teenagers with different personalities.
The film doesn’t really do anything to pretend otherwise.
There are some good twists here – the inclusion of real footage works as well as it did before, as does the use of real life objects as the “ultimate weapons”.
There are also nods to our obsession with memes and gifs - but the overall message of searching for the hero inside yourself is as predictable as it gets.
I also can't be quite sure who is crying out for cameos from Ben Shepard and Kate Garraway (no offence guys!) apart from their agents.
My kids were mildly entertained but pretty underwhelmed, mainly because they expected something really special.
A lesson in managing expectations here - perhaps the subtext for the sequel?
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