Meryl Streep stars as Emmeline Pankhurst in the new film 'Suffragette'. Here she talks feminism, Hollywood sexism and window-smashing, wearing a t-shirt with a famous line from her character
Do you have a motto you try to live by?
‘“What if I was someone who didn’t give a shit?” I have to ask myself this on a regular basis because I worry an awful lot about what people think. So I go quietly to myself: “What if you were someone who didn’t give a shit? Fine, I can do this.”’
What piece of advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
‘You’re not crazy. You will fall in love. You will be loved. You are beautiful. So get out there and enjoy yourself more.’
Was there a point at which you realised that being a girl meant you were treated differently from boys?
‘Yes. I can remember being in a physics class being made to feel like science belonged to the boys, and that it didn’t matter that I didn’t understand. I wasn’t supposed to.’
Which women would you invite to your dream dinner party?
‘Lena Dunham, Simone de Beauvoir, Dame Judi Dench, Kate Bush and Malala Yousafzai.’
Who inspires you?
‘My son. He’s five and he inspires me to be braver.’
‘My son inspires me to be braver’
How would you like to be remembered?
‘Daily. Hourly… With love.’
What’s your biggest regret?
‘Breaking someone’s heart.’
What could you not live without?
‘The two men in my life.’
Whose windows would you most like to smash?
‘Anyone who performs female genital mutilation.’
Who’s your heroine and why?
‘There are so many women I admire. Malala Yousafzai. Julie Delpy is awesome. And my best friend.’
Describe a suffragette in four words.
‘Passionate. Right. Heroic. Awesome.’
What lesson could the suffragettes teach us today?
‘Fight even though you feel it’s an impossible battle. You can still win it.’
If you were living in the 1910s, would you be brave enough to protest?
‘I like to think I would have suffragette-ed. I don’t know if I would have given up my child for the cause. But I love to think that I would have been there.’
Are you a feminist?
‘Yes, I am a feminist and proud to say I am.’
What’s the most annoying question women get asked in interviews that men don’t get asked?
‘“Are you worried about ageing?” It’s totally passive-aggressive, like: “You should be.” If I have to answer that question one more fucking time…’
Does it piss you off knowing you get paid less than male colleagues?
‘I’m not a big movie star, so this doesn’t affect me as much as it would Carey. It would if I was Jennifer Lawrence. If I’m the reason everyone’s coming to see this movie, damn right I’d be pissed off. Plain and simple: it’s not fair. Where’s the logic? Because they have a cock!’
Does Hollywood need a suffragette movement?
‘There seems to be a lot of roaring by lionesses going on at the moment. There’s a real rumble in the jungle and it’s very exciting because actors are always terrified that they’re not going to be given any work, which makes it frightening to speak up and say: “This is a sexist industry.” So the fact that Jennifer Lawrence has done it is extraordinary. It feels like something’s cooking. And it needs the really big stars to do it, because those are the people with the power.’
'Suffragette' opens the London Film Festival on Oct 7 and is in cinemas on Oct 12.