Actress Helen Mirren has commented on criticism of the decision to cast her as Golda Meir in an upcoming HBO biopic on the former Israeli prime minister, saying it was “utterly legitimate” to question if a non-Jew should perform the role.
Mirren was responding to remarks last month by fellow British actress Maureen Lipman, who said she disagreed with the casting decision, as “the Jewishness of the character is so integral.”
The comments reignited debate about having non-Jewish actors play Jewish characters, a practice some have called “Jewface.” Lipman was among a group of Jewish thespians who signed an open letter on the matter in 2019.
In an interview published Friday, Mirren said she too questioned whether it was appropriate to cast her in “Golda” and raised the issue with the film’s Israeli director Guy Nattiv before accepting the role.
“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,'” she told the Daily Mail.
“But he very much wanted me to play the role, and off we went,” Mirren added.
She said had no hard feelings about Lipman’s comments: “I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had – it’s utterly legitimate.”
Mirren noted the matter raised other questions, such as if it’s then appropriate for a Jew to portray a non-Jewish character.
“There’s a lot of terrible unfairness in my profession,” she said.
She cited other examples like only allowing gay actors to play gay roles, saying, “is this really a path you want to go down?”
Mirren said that she hasn’t spoken with Lipman since the latter’s remarks.
“I very much respect Maureen,” she said. “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.”
Mirren also said her “only fear” was “if I’m really bad as Golda.”
“In which case, I’ll be toast,” she said.
A release date has not yet been announced for “Golda,” the production of which began last year. The movie has a star-studded cast that includes “Call My Agent” star Camille Cotin as Meir’s longtime personal assistant and Israeli actor Lior Ashkenzi as her chief of staff.