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July 14, 2023 11:14 am

Helen Mirren Says She’s ‘Very Moved’ by Israeli Protests Against Proposed Judicial Overhaul


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Helen Mirren and Liev Schreiber in Bleecker Street’s “Golda.” Photo: Jasper Wolf, courtesy of Bleecker Street.

British actress Dame Helen Mirren said on Thursday night she is heartened by the thousands who are protesting in Israel against changes to the country’s justice system that are being pushed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition.

The Oscar-winning actress stars as Israel’s first and only female Prime Minister Golda Meir in her latest film Golda, which is the opening film of the 40th Jerusalem Film Festival that began on Thursday night. At a press conference in Jerusalem before the start of the film festival, where Mirren also received an award, the actress was asked about her thoughts on the nationwide protests that have been taking place in Israel for more than six months against Netanyahu’s proposed judicial overhaul.

“I’m personally very moved and excited when you see these huge demonstrations,” she replied, according to the Associated Press. “I think it’s a pivotal moment in Israeli history.” She also talked about Meir’s leadership style in comparison to that of Netanyahu’s, saying the late prime minister “had immense power, but she was perfectly happy to toddle around in the kitchen, making everyone coffee and being the grandmother. It’s a very different attitude toward power — from the male, Netanyahu type of power to the Golda Meir kitchen power.”

Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi, who plays the head of the Israeli army in Golda from director Guy Nattiv, chimed in and said he thinks Meir would be supportive of annexing the West Bank. “Even though she was a socialist, I think she would definitely support the settlers,” he explained, according to the Associated Press.

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Mirren also talked at the press conference about wanting to play Meir on the big screen. “I’m a horrible, greedy actress. All I want to do is play great women, and Golda was one of the greatest,” she said, before adding that “absolutely, undoubtedly, Golda is one of the most extraordinary characters I’ve ever played, her history, her commitment to her country, her character in general.”

Also at the press conference, MyHeritage presented Mirren with research that revealed her distant family relations to Meir. Mirren thanked the researchers for making the discovery and said, “It goes to show that we are all one family, and when we’re in times of divisiveness and strife, as I know Israel is right now and the whole world is, it would be very good for all of us to remember that.”

Golda, from Bleecker Street and ShivHans Pictures, will be released in the United States and United Kingdom on August 25, with special screenings held two days prior that will include a Q&A with Nattiv and Mirren. The film is based on a true story and follows Meir’s tough task of leading Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Mirren is also the voice of the narrator in the upcoming Barbie film, which the Jerusalem Film Festival will have a sneak preview of. When asked about the rom-com on Thursday night, the actress suggested, “I think that we need a Golda Meir Barbie.”

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