‘Hope I’m all right as Golda!’ Helen Mirren shares worries about new role amid backlash

Maureen Lipman on Dame Helen Mirren playing Israeli PM Golda Meir

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Helen Mirren, 76, had doubts about being cast in her latest film Golda, following the controversy surrounding whether a Jewish actress should be playing Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. But the actress was 100 percent behind the discussion, despite having already played a number of Jewish characters in the past.

It’s all about opportunity

Helen Mirren

She starred in the 2010 thriller The Debt as a Mossad agent, immersing herself in studies of Hebrew writing and the Holocaust when she was in Israel, and appeared as a Jewish refugee in 2015 drama Woman in Gold.

“So I’ve done it a couple of times, but I think this discussion absolutely has to be had,” she said in a new interview.

“Because it is in the context of playing a very high-profile, highly committed Israeli Jewish woman.”

The film centres around the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and the intensely dramatic and high-stake responsibilities and decisions that Meir was faced with.

But Mirren revealed that even though her casting sparked backlash, Israeli director Guy Nattiv, insisted that she was the one to bring her to life on-screen.

She revealed to Radio Times: “I said, ‘Look, I’m not Jewish – and really, really think about it because if you want to withdraw the offer to me, I have absolutely no hard feelings.

“‘I would absolutely understand if you want to go another route.’

“He did think about it and he said, ‘Yes, I want you to do it,’ and so that gave me, in a way, the confidence to go forward.’

The movie star added that casting has “sort of exploded from the inside out”, but she does agree that “it’s all about opportunity”.

“Without opportunity, you can do nothing,” she smiled.

“And if the discussion has to be had around my performance then – oh my God – I hope that I’m all right as Golda, because if I’m not…”

While Mirren may feel a little apprehensive about her debut, we are without doubt that her portrayal will be nothing short of fantastic.

She is undeniably one of Britain’s most iconic actresses, having starred in countess movies and TV series, won an Oscar and 126 other awards alongside 134 nominations for her portrayals on-screen.

While working on Golda, the 76-year-old has also got another film out this year; one that she hopes will help her “break free” from a character she’s been associated with for a decade.

The Duke, which is set in 1961, follows 60-year-old taxi driver Kempton Bunton, who steals Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London.

He sends ransom notes saying that he will return the painting if the government invests more in care for the elderly.

Mirren spoke about her character in the comedy-drama, the final film from director Roger Michell, who died last September.

She plays Dorothy Bunton, a charlady who’s married to real-life character Kempton Bunton, played by Jim Broadbent, and Dorothy’s drab, worn-down essence is a far cry from a very real and world-famous individual she portrayed back in 2006.

Mirren appeared as Queen Elizabeth II, in an iconic performance that won her an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and a SAG Award among others.

The film follows the Royal Family as they try and deal with the series of events that happened after the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997, and even thought she’s honoured to have had the opportunity, she was eager for people to see her in a different light on-screen.

Of Dorothy, she explained: “I loved the character and because the Queen is sticking to me like an old Band-Aid… while I am profoundly honoured…” she giggled.

“And I honestly couldn’t think of a more interesting and profound person to be stuck on me!”

She went on: “Nonetheless I am an actress and so I did want to break free a little bit.”

She is also the only actress to have played both Elizabeth I and II on-screen, as she appeared in the eponymous 2005 television series.

Helen’s full interview is available to read now in Radio Times.

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