The casting of Helen Mirren in new film Golda has proved controversial, with the Oscar-winning actress playing the fourth Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir.


The controversy surrounding the casting has stemmed from the fact that Mirren, a non-Jewish actress, is playing a Jewish role.

Mirren's casting first came about because Golda’s grandson, Gideon, said he wanted Mirren to play his grandmother, and the film's writer Nicholas Martin has said once Mirren was on board the team "stood a really good chance of getting the project going".

Mirren has now responded to the controversy surrounding her casting, which has drawn criticism from Maureen Lipman and David Baddiel, saying in an interview with this week's Radio Times magazine that "the whole issue of casting has exploded out of the water fairly recently".

She continued: "I’ve had other Jewish roles [in Woman in Gold and The Debt], but not an uber-Jewish role like Golda Meir. I did tell Guy that I’m not Jewish, in case he thought I was.

"I said, 'If that’s an issue, I’ll step away, no problem.' But he said, 'No, it’s not an issue. I want you to play Golda.' And off we went."

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Mirren previously addressed the controversy in an interview last year, saying: "I think this discussion absolutely has to be had, because it is in the context of playing a very high-profile, highly committed Israeli Jewish woman.”

On the same topic, the film's writer, Martin, said in this week's Radio Times: "I don’t feel like all this discussion about gentiles playing Jews is helpful. Helen’s job was to portray Golda authentically, which Golda’s family would say she has. A leading Israeli historian said that Helen is 'more Golda than Golda'.

"I find it very worrying that there is a creeping authoritarianism in entertainment saying you cannot do this or that. Am I just supposed to write about middle-aged men living in south London?"

Meanwhile, the film's director, Guy Nattiv, added: "When I met Helen, she told me how she volunteered, aged 29, on the kibbutz. She toured the country for five months and fell in love with it. She was basically Israeli, you know?

"So I never felt that I compromised the authenticity [of the film] by using Helen, who can move from being funny and soft, like a grandmother, to being fierce and ruthless, like a politician."

Golda is in UK cinemas from Friday 6th October. Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on tonight.


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