British actress Helen Mirren spoke out against the cultural boycott of Israel on Wednesday upon being honored at the 29th Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles, California.
Talking to press before the ceremony, the Academy Award winner described the campaign to boycott Israeli through cutting off cultural ties as “a really bad idea.”
“The people who are the most inspiring in Israel tend to be from the cultural community. The writers, the directors, the poets, the musicians, they are truly extraordinary people doing amazing work, peace giving work, working towards peace all the time,” she said. “To cut them off is the craziest idea, I don’t agree with it at all.”
Mirren said she agreed with prominent British figures who signed an open letter, published in The Guardian last week, that endorsed cultural engagement with Israel rather than a cultural boycott, as a way to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Mirren received the Career Achievement Award at the annual festival Wednesday and used the occasion to revel her “relationship with that beautiful country Israel.”
Opening her acceptance speech with memories of her first visit to Israel in 1967, “just 6 months after the Six Day War,” the British actress told of how she worked on Kibbutz Ha’on with her Jewish boyfriend.
“After we worked there on the kibbutz we hitchhiked around Israel and I actually slept on the beach in Eilat, so that was my first experience of Israel and I was very taken by the country and especially by the people at that time,” she recalled.
She described the trip as “absolutely a part of the building blocks that have made me the actress I am and doing the kind of work that I do.”
“I love Israel, I think it is a great, great country,” she finished emotionally. “I think that through all the difficulties, and all the pain that Israel has suffered in the past and will in the future, the great thing that Israel has is Israelis, and they will guide it through.”
In the 2010 film “The Debt” Mirren played a retired Mossad agent, and in preparation for the role reportedly immersed herself in studies of Hebrew, Jewish history, and writings on the Holocaust. Some of the film’s scenes were filmed in Israel.
In the 2015 film “Woman in Gold,” Mirren portrays Maria Altmann, who fought the Austrian government for years to secure the return of five Gustav Klimt paintings stolen from her Jewish family during World War II.
A leading and supporting lady in British and American films since the mid-1960s, Mirren — who was made a Dame in 2003 for services to the performing arts — played notable roles in Robert Altmann’s “Gosford Park,” Peter Weir’s “The Mosquito Coast,” and Peter Greenaway’s “The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover.” She won an Academy Award, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears’ “The Queen,” a film describing the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana on the British government and royal family.