Dame Helen Mirren doesn’t indulge herself in any sort of beef too often, so when she does you tend to listen, as it’s normally based on some pretty solid foundations. So what, then, of her Empire Awards acceptance speech, where she lambasted Sam Mendes, suggesting slightly cryptically that he might be sexist?

According to The Guardian, Mirren’s issue with the Skyfall director after he’d listed an exclusively male set of influences upon picking up his best director award on stage, neglecting any female film makers. When it came to Mirren to pick her Legend award, she took to the stage and said in her acceptance speech "I don't want to unduly pick on Sam Mendes, but when he spoke about his inspirations earlier this evening, I'm afraid not a single one of the people he mentioned was a woman.” Receiving cheers from the audience. "Hopefully in five or 10 years, when Sam's successor is collecting their Inspiration award, the list will be slightly more balanced in terms of its sexual make-up. In the meantime, this one is for the girls."

It was a surprisingly direct attack from the much-celebrated actress, though maybe Mendes wasn’t thinking about the gender of these film makers when it came to listing his influences, and was simply listing those he admired? That said, maybe Mirren wasn't attacking him per se, more that his choices reflected the difference in equality that has been and still arguably is an issue in Hollywood even in 2013. Elsewhere at the fan-voted for awards, Martin Freeman took the best actor award for his role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, while Jennifer Lawrence took best actress for The Hunger Games.

Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren at the Empire Awards, where she had some strong words for director Sam Mendes