Helen Mirren has been engulfed in controversy due to her latest role, former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, in the upcoming biopic “Golda”.
Mirren’s casting was criticized by her fellow actor, Dame Maureen Lipman, who complained about Mirren portraying a Jewish icon, even though she’s not Jewish herself.
“If the ethnicity or gender of the character drives the role, then that ethnicity should be prioritized,” wrote Lipman in a letter to The Guardian.
Speaking with the Daily Mail, Mirren admitted she did not step into the role without carefully considering that very issue.
“It was certainly a question that I had, before I accepted the role,” she said, admitting she’d shared her doubts with “Golda” director Guy Nattiv.
“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,” said Mirren.
Responding to Lipman’s criticism, Mirren said it wasn’t unwarranted. “I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had — it’s utterly legitimate,” she said.
However, she also pointed out that it raised other questions. “You know, if someone who’s not Jewish can’t play Jewish, does someone who’s Jewish play someone who’s not Jewish? 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,” she continued.
However, she added, “My only real fear is if I’m really bad as Golda… in which case, I’ll be toast.”