Helen Mirren sits with pad and pencil for important reason when she watches TV

Theatre producers, watch out if you see Dame Helen Mirren sat armed with some paper and a pencil.

The actress, 73, admits she still struggles to land roles in her male-dominated industry.

“My biggest challenge as a woman starting out was obviously the paucity of roles – and still is,” she says.

“I’d advise all of you next time you watch television or go to the theatre to just count the number of men you see. I used to sit with a piece of paper and a pencil.

“Every time I saw a man, it didn’t matter what he was doing, I’d just put a mark – man, man, man, woman.”

Offering advice to young thesps, Dame Helen told an audience at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival: “Learn to say ‘f*** off’ and don’t be an a***hole.”

Dame Helen will soon be starring as Russian empress Catherine the Great in a Sky Atlantic drama, and insists the monarch never had sex with a horse.

She said: “That was calumny thrown at her by history because history doesn’t like very successful, and very powerful women.”

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