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February 7, 2022 2:33 pm
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Helen Mirren: ‘Utterly Legitimate’ to Ask If Jewish Actress Should Have Starred as Golda Meir

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in “Golda.” Photo: Jasper Wolf.

British actress Helen Mirren has addressed the debate on whether she should have starred in an upcoming biopic about former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir despite not being Jewish herself, calling the question “utterly legitimate.”

The Academy Award-winning actress, 76, told the Daily Mail that the she discussed the very topic with “Golda” director Guy Nattiv, even before fellow British actress Dame Maureen Lipman argued in January that a Jewish actress should play the iconic character.

“It was certainly a question that I had, before I accepted the role,” Mirren said. “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,” she added.

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Mirren also said, “I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had – it’s utterly legitimate. You know, if someone who’s not Jewish can’t play Jewish, does someone who’s Jewish play someone who’s not Jewish? There’s a lot of terrible unfairness in my profession. If there’s an actor who’s disabled, who’s brilliant but has had very few opportunities, and now a wonderful role comes along that’s for a disabled actor, everything being righteous, he or she should have that role.”

She further called Meir “a very important person in Israeli history.”

“Golda” is set to premiere later this year, and the first photo of Mirren in character as Israel’s former prime minister was released in November, when filming started for the biopic.

Lipman, who is Jewish, said in January that while she thinks Mirren “will be brilliant in the role,” casting directors should have first considered Jewish actresses because “the Jewishness of the character is so integral.”

She separately told Variety, “Helen will be great. Good actress, sexy and intelligent. Looks the part. [But] my opinion, and that’s what it is, a mere opinion, is that if the character’s race, creed or gender drives or defines the portrayal then the correct — for want of an umbrella [term] — ethnicity should be a priority.”

Mirren acknowledged Lipman’s comments in her interview with the Daily Mail, saying, “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. Dame to dame, I suggest.”

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

Nattiv previously said of his decision to cast Mirren, “I have long been an admirer of the great Helen Mirren. She has melted so brilliantly into Golda Meir’s character with incredible talent, intelligence, depth and emotion, doing justice to the richness and complexity of this incredible woman.”

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