Helen Mirren Addresses Golda Casting Backlash

“If someone who’s not Jewish can’t play Jewish, does someone who’s Jewish play someone who’s not Jewish?”

Helen Mirren — best known for her Oscar-winning performances in The Last Station and The Queen — is addressing the controversy surrounding her latest role.

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Last year, Helen was cast as the titular character in Golda, a biopic about Israel’s former Prime Minister Golda Meir. Known as the country’s “Iron Lady,” she was (and still is) the first woman to hold the post.

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While the film will be helmed by Academy Award-winning director Guy Nattiv, who is Jewish and Israeli, Helen herself is of Russian and English descent, with no Jewish ancestry.

As a result, she faced some backlash from viewers and the industry alike for accepting the role. Fellow British actor Maureen Lipman called the casting decision “Jewface” because “the Jewishness of the character is so integral.”

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In an email elaborating on her stance, Maureen said, “Helen will be great. Good actress, sexy and intelligent. Looks the part. 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. Which is not to say that ‘Pericles, Prince Of Tyre’ has to be [played by] a pure Tyresian thespian. It is complicated.”

Meanwhile, Golda’s grandson, Shaul Rahabi, defended the casting choice to the Jewish Chronicle, saying that “being Jewish or not doesn’t matter at all” and that he was sure Helen would be “great.”

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Now, Helen is addressing the controversy, telling the Daily Mail that she initially had doubts about taking the role. “It was certainly a question that I had before I accepted the role,” she explained.

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“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 continued. “But he very much wanted me to play the role, and off we went.”

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Helen added that the discourse “has to be had” and that it’s “utterly legitimate,” but maintained that it brings up other difficult questions about which roles actors can and should take.

“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.”

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Ultimately, Helen shared that her real concern was not doing justice to the iconic figure: “My only real fear is if I’m really bad as Golda. In which case, I’ll be toast,” she said.

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To read Helen’s full interview with the Daily Mail, click here.

Source: BuzzFeed – Celebrity

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