British monarchs, American heiresses, Jewish refugees and Russian diarists feature on a lengthy resume filled with celebrated portrayals of key historical figures.
But Dame Helen Mirren has taken what could arguably described as one of her more controversial biographical roles in director Guy Nattiv’s forthcoming political drama. Golda.
The British actress – who features in a glamorous new cover-shoot for the fall-winter edition of Dujour magazine – plays the late Golda Meir, to date Israel’s only female Prime Minister.
And Mirren, 78, admits playing the leader despite having no off-screen connections to the religion has been met with ‘utterly legitimate’ criticism from those who believe the role should have been passed to a Jewish actress.
She told the Daily Mail: ‘It was certainly a question that I had, before I accepted the role. I said, “Look Guy, I’m not Jewish, and if you want to think about that, and decide to go in a different direction…I will absolutely understand.”‘
Opening up: Dame Helen Mirren has discussed her new role as former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and the inevitable backlash she has suffered for portraying the political leader despite not being Jewish
Controversial: Mirren has been subjected to a torrent of abuse for appearing as Israel’s only female leader in forthcoming biopic Golda (pictured in the film)
Let’s talk: Mirren spoke to the Daily Mail about her latest role while taking part in a glamorous new cover shoot for the fall-winter edition of Dujour magazine
The film follows Meir during the 19 days of the Yom Kippur War in October 1973 – five years before she died of lung cancer, aged 80.
And Mirren’s involvement gives her another opportunity to play a prominent female leader having previously portrayed British monarchs Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II.
‘It’s an incredible challenge to play someone who was alive and well known.’ she said.
‘Women in positions of great power are rare in history. There’s not many of them. I think they have to be twice as good as any man—or even 10 times. It’s absolute, total commitment.
‘Golda had it. Catherine the Great had it. Elizabeth I had it. Elizabeth II did, too. There’s no casualness about their approach.’
Mirren went through two to three hours of preparation a day to physically transform into the chain-smoking Meir as a 75-year old.
‘I’ve never done anything like that before,’ she said. ‘It was an adventure. I got so used to being that person in the daytime that when the makeup all came off and I saw myself as I am, I’d forgotten that was what I looked like.
‘It’s that acting thing—am I becoming her or is she becoming me? There’s a picture the crew made of me and Golda, and we’re in identical outfits. She’s turning to me and saying something, and I’m looking forward with a cigarette. It’s really powerful.’
Candid: Mirren admits playing the leader despite having no off-screen connections to the religion has been met with ‘utterly legitimate’ criticism
Concern: : ‘It was certainly a question that I had, before I accepted the role,’ she said of her involvement in the new film
Shady: The actress strikes a pose in one of several shots taken for the latest edition of Dujour
High glamour: Mirren features as cover star for Dujour magazine
One Twitter user, who said they were ‘Palestinian and proud’, wrote: ‘How sick making a biopic on criminal Golda Meir and yes no surprise Helen Mirren the racist is happy to portray the pure distorted version of a disgusting individual.’
Another wrote: ‘Helen Mirren doing a film about the first female prime minister of Israel is a slap in the face to all the people of Palestine, they are literally celebrating taking over Palestine and taking families out of their homes, murdering children, families! Tasteless film!’
One social-media user said it was ‘hugely disappointing that Helen Mirren is volunteering for this role’, while another wrote: ‘More fascism to show how “wonderful” Israel is.’
Honour: ‘It’s an incredible challenge to play someone who was alive and well known.’ she said of her latest role
Born in Ukraine in 1898 before moving to the US as a child, Meir made history in 1969 as Israel’s first female prime minister.
She soon provoked international controversy, saying: ‘There were no such thing as Palestinians.’
Meir faced huge criticism in Israel for failing to adequately prepare for the threat of war, despite receiving word that Syrian forces were gathering for an attack.
Following the backlash for her handling of the war, Meir announced her resignation in 1974. She died in 1978 aged 80.
Dame Helen has faced criticism in the past for saying that she was a ‘believer’ in Israel and that she rejected calls to boycott the country.
The film also stars Call My Agent! actress Camille Cottin as Meir’s personal assistant and Israeli Lior Ashkenazi as her chief of staff.
Painstaking process: Mirren says she went through two to three hours of preparation a day to physically transform into the chain-smoking Golda as a 75-year old
Pictured: Israel’s first female Prime Minister, Golda Meir, seen on the Day She Resigned. Mirren described Meir as ‘a formidable, intransigent and powerful leader’