Helen Mirren: Golda Meir was one of my greatest roles

The British actress also recounted her time as a 'shiksa from London' volunteering on a kibbutz


English actor Helen Mirren and overs attend a press conference on the movie "Golda" as part of the Jerusalem film festival, in Jerusalem, July 13, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ??? ???? ?????? ?????? ?????? ?????? ?????? ???????? ?????

British actress and screen legend Dame Helen Mirren has spoken of her immense respect for former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, saying she was "one of the most extraordinary characters I’ve ever played."

Speaking at the Jerusalem film festival, Mirren who took on the role in somewhat controversial circumstances, said she was hugely excited about taking the role, sayingL  “all I want to do is play great women, and Golda was one of the greatest.”

In a speech accepting an award on the opening night of Israel's most prestigious film festival this evening, Mirren described herself as a "Shiksa from London" who came to volunteer on a kibbutz in the Golan Heights in 1967.

She also weighed in on Israel's domestic politics, saying that she was inspired by the mass protests in Israel, saying: "“I’m personally very moved and excited when you see these huge demonstrations.

“I think it’s a pivotal moment in Israeli history.”

Earlier in the day, Mirren met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and again paid tribute to Meir, comparing her to the late Queen Elizabeth II. She said: “Golda is one of the greatest roles to play. I was a young woman when she was elected, and to see a woman leading a complex country like Israel was a seminal moment.

"I am often asked if I see a connection between the great female leaders I have portrayed. The closest connection I see to Golda is Queen Elizabeth in terms of her absolute dedication to her country. She had great charm.”

Last year, in a battle of the Dames, Maureen Lipman told the JC that she was not comfortable with Mirren, who is not Jewish, playing the Israeli leader.

“the Jewishness of the character is so integral,” said Ms. Lipman, who sees additional significance in the fact that Meir was the first female Prime Minister of Israel.

At the time, Mirren took a more conciliatory tone, saying: "I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had – it's utterly legitimate,"

However, she also said it raised other questions about ethnicity in casting, saying: "If someone who's not Jewish can't play Jewish, can someone who's Jewish play someone who's not Jewish?"

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