Golda writer hits out at critics of Helen Mirren's portrayal of former Israeli PM

Nicolas Martin attacked 'creeping authoritarianism' in the entertainment industry amid the Mirren casting row


The writer of Golda has criticised “creeping authoritarianism" in the entertainment industry amid growing backlash over the decision to cast Helen Mirren as former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir.

Nicholas Martin said concerns about casting people who aren’t Jewish in Jewish roles made him uncomfortable.

Dame Mirren's casting as Meir in the upcoming Golda biopic was criticised by Jewish actress Dame Maureen Lipman, who said that "the Jewishness of the character is so integral".

But Martin said: “Helen's job was to portray Golda authentically, which Golda's family would say she has. 

“A leading Israeli historian said 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."

Dame Helen, 78, initially said she understood the criticism of her casting in the biopic, saying earlier this month: “[Meir] is a very important person in Israeli history. I said [to the director], ‘Look, 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.”

However, in an interview with Radio Times on Monday, Dame Mirren revealed that she thinks she has Jewish ancestry and is considering taking a DNA test to check.

Dame Helen explained: “The realities of the Holocaust were being revealed as I was gaining consciousness of the world. 

“I do think that the profound, earth-shattering trauma of the Holocaust does enter the DNA.

“Maybe it's hocus pocus, but I think only a Jewish person really carries that profoundly with them.

“The other issue is that within the Jewish race there are other races – Ashkenazi and Sephardic – who are racially very different. It's all a sort of swirling fog at the moment that I can't quite unpick.”

Asked whether she agreed with Martin’s view of 'creeping authoritarianism' in the entertainment industry, Helen added: “I think, in a way, that it's more frightening for a writer to be told they are not allowed to write about subjects with which they don't have an immediate DNA connection.

“I imagine it must be very alarming. And ridiculous.”

Last week, the actress defended Bradley Cooper wearing a prosthetic nose whilst portraying Leonard Bernstein in the biopic Maestro.

A trailer for the upcoming Netflix biopic about the late composer sparked a “Jewface” row across the Jewish community after shots showed Cooper donning the nose. 

Meanwhile, the new Golda biopic focuses on the responsibilities and decisions that Meir, also known as the Iron Lady of Israel, had to make during the Yom Kippur War, an armed conflict fought between Israel and a coalition of Arab states that was launched in 1973.

The film explores the decisions that the politician made during the height of the war, which went on to see her country suffer huge losses in a battle with multiple Arab States.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive