Oscar winner Helen Mirren responded to her controversial casting as Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the upcoming biographical drama Golda directed by Guy Nattiv. Some have criticized the casting of a non-Jewish actress, Mirren, as the iconic Jewish prime minister.
Radio Times reports, “Mirren's casting first came about because Golda’s grandson, Gideon, said he wanted Mirren to play his grandmother, and the film's writer Nicholas Martin has said once Mirren was on board the team ‘stood a really good chance of getting the project going.'”
Mirren says, “The whole issue of casting has exploded out of the water fairly recently. I’ve had other Jewish roles [in Woman in Gold and The Debt], but not an uber-Jewish role like Golda Meir. I did tell Guy that I’m not Jewish, in case he thought I was. I said, ‘If that’s an issue, I’ll step away, no problem.' But he said, ‘No, it’s not an issue. I want you to play Golda.' And off we went.”
Helen Mirren Says the Conversation About Her Playing a Jewish Woman Is Necessary
Dame Helen Mirren won a Best Actress Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. Some of the most notable roles in her long career include those in Gosford Park, The Last Station, Hitchcock, F9, Red, Red 2, and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, to name but a few. Although no one questions her acting talents, some have questioned whether it's appropriate to wear a prosthetic nose — effectively, “Jewface” — to play Meir in Golda.
In a previous interview with Radio Times, Mirren said, “I think this discussion absolutely has to be had, because it is in the context of playing a very high-profile, highly committed Israeli Jewish woman.” Golda‘s writer, Nicholas Martin, said:
“I don’t feel like all this discussion about gentiles playing Jews is helpful. Helen’s job was to portray Golda authentically, which Golda’s family would say she has. A leading Israeli historian said that Helen is ‘more Golda than Golda'. I find it very worrying that there is a creeping authoritarianism in entertainment saying you cannot do this or that. Am I just supposed to write about middle-aged men living in south London?”
Nattiv said, “When I met Helen, she told me how she volunteered, aged 29, on the kibbutz. She toured the country for five months and fell in love with it. She was basically Israeli, you know? So I never felt that I compromised the authenticity [of the film] by using Helen, who can move from being funny and soft, like a grandmother, to being fierce and ruthless, like a politician.”
Golda was released domestically in August and opens in U.K. theaters on October 6.
Robert DeSalvo is a professional writer and editor with over 25 years of experience at print and online publications such as Movieline, Playboy, PCH, Fandango, and The A.V. Club. He currently lives in Los Angeles, the setting of his favorite movie, Blade Runner. Robert has interviewed dozens of actors, directors, authors, musicians, and other celebrities during his journalism career, including Brian De Palma, Nicolas Cage, Dustin Hoffman, John Waters, Sigourney Weaver, Julianne Moore, Bryan Cranston, Anne Rice, and many more. Horror movies, sci-fi, cult films as well as gothic, postpunk, and synthwave music are what Robert geeks over.