Jerusalem Film Festival 2023: Helen Mirren on her role as Golda Meir

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Helen Mirren/Photo: Sivan Farag

Helen Mirren is in Israel for the festive screening of Guy Nattiv’s Golda, in which she delivers a moving and impressive performance, revealing the intelligence, ferocity, compassion and vulnerability of former Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir. At a press conference this morning that took place in the Inbal Hotel, where she was joined by Nattiv, Lior Ashkenazi, and writer Nicolas Martin, Mirren said that Meir was “one of the most extraordinary characters I have ever played” and found her “an amazing person to be able to investigate and live in a small way in her mind and in her skin.” Mirren, who has portrayed several powerful women over the course of her career, including Elizabeth I and II, commented that Meir has a lot in common with Catherine the Great, noting that Meir had “utter dedication to her country…her commitment to her country was over everything – over family, over personal contentment, over personal ambition.”

Guy Nattiv, Helen Mirren, Nicholas Martin, Lior Ashkenazi (L to R)/Photo: Sivan Farag

Golda will open the Jerusalem Film Festival tonight at the Sultan’s Pool and focuses on a critical time in the life of Golda Meir and the history of Israel – the Yom Kippur War. Fielding a question comparing the film’s events to Israel’s current controversies, Mirren said she did “not want to speak” about that as she is not Israeli, but she did say, “I’m personally very moved and excited when I see those huge demonstrations, I think maybe it’s a pivotal moment in Israeli history.”

Questioned on another controversial topic – casting a non-Jewish person as Golda Meir – Mirren provided a very thoughtful response. Recalling her work with renowned theatre director Peter Brook, Mirren said, “He was the first director who understood colorblind casting… so there we have the idea that anybody can play anything, and it only adds to the imagination of the audience. And then we have another point of view which is really, only a gay guy should play a gay guy, and really, only a handicapped person should play a handicapped person, and really, only a Jewish woman should play Golda Meir. I adhere to both camps. At the same time as believing anyone can play anything, I also believe that sometimes the absolute right person for a role is the very person who can understand profoundly the issues involved in that.”