“Golda,” which wrapped in December and also stars “Call My Agent’s” Camille Cottin, is directed by Israeli filmmaker Guy Nattiv (“Skin”).
However, there was disquiet over the casting around the time the film was shooting in London, last winter, after photographs emerged of Mirren looking drastically different for the role.
Actor Maureen Lipman (“The Pianist”) told Variety in Jan.: “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.”
At the time, Mirren declined to comment but in an interview with the Daily Mail’s showbiz columnist Baz Bamigboye last week she reportedly said: “It was certainly a question that I had, before I accepted the role.”
“[Meir] is a very important person in Israeli history,” Mirren continued. “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.”
“I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had – it’s utterly legitimate. [But] You know, if someone who’s not Jewish can’t play Jewish, does someone who’s Jewish play someone who’s not Jewish?”
She compared the debate around her casting as Meir to that around authentically casting gay characters. “I know actors like Ian McKellen would, I think, take big issue with that,” Mirren reportedly told Bamigboye. “Because what happens then if you’re a gay actor? Shouldn’t you be able to play straight parts? Is this really a path you want to go down?”
Mirren did, however, qualify her statement by saying she understood it could be “frustrating” for a gay actor “to see a straight actor giving, to your mind, a fake, simplistic sort of performance.”
“The Queen” actor, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of the British monarch, also discussed with Bamigboye the wider debate around authentic casting. “There’s a lot of terrible unfairness in my profession,” Mirren said. “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.”
“I’m from Essex. Can an Essex girl play a woman from Newcastle? I’m sure there’s a lot of fabulous lasses from there who would object to my portrayal.”
“I very much respect Maureen. And I love her as an actress, absolutely,” Mirren added. “I’d love to bump into her and sit and have a cup of tea and talk about it.”
“‘My only real fear, is if I’m really bad as Golda… in which case, I’ll be toast.”