07 February 2022

Helen Mirren calls criticism over her casting as a non-Jewish Golda Meir ‘utterly legitimate’

07 February 2022

Dame Helen Mirren has addressed questions over her casting as Israel’s first female Prime Minister, Golda Meir, and called them “utterly legitimate”.

The choice of having Mirren, 76, play the role was criticised by Dame Maureen Lipman, 75, owing to the fact that despite her acting credentials as an Oscar-winning actress, Mirren is not Jewish.

Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle about Meir, who died in 1978 after serving as Israel’s Prime Minister between 1969 and 1974, Lipman said that the character’s Jewishness is “integral”.

“I’m sure she [Mirren] will be marvellous, but it would never be allowed for Ben Kingsley to play Nelson Mandela. You just couldn’t even go there,” she added to the publication.

Mirren has now said that it’s a point she raised herself when first meeting with Israeli film-maker Guy Nattiv.

“It was certainly a question that I had, before I accepted the role. [Meir] is a very important person in Israeli history,” she told the Daily Mail.

“I said, ‘Look, Guy, I’m not Jewish, and if you want to think about that, and decide to go in a different direction, no hard feelings. I will absolutely understand.’

“But he very much wanted me to play the role and off we went.”

The new film entitled Golda, is set during the Yom Kippur war in 1973 and began shooting last November.

Mirren went on to say that she held no ill-feeling towards Lipman and that she had sparked a wider discussion about casting within the entertainment industry.

“I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had – it’s utterly legitimate,” she told the publication.

“I very much respect Maureen. And I love her as an actress, absolutely.

“I’d love to bump into her and sit and have a cup of tea and talk about it,” she added. “Dame to dame, I suggest.

“My only real fear is if I’m really bad as Golda ... in which case, I’ll be toast.”

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