Actor says Meir’s Jewishness is ‘integral’ to role and that Ben Kingsley would ‘never be allowed’ to play Nelson Mandela
Last modified on Wed 5 Jan 2022 16.31 GMT
Maureen Lipman has criticised the casting of Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in a forthcoming film about the former Israeli prime minister, saying that the character’s Jewishness is “integral”.
In comments reported by the Jewish Chronicle, Lipman said she “disagreed” with Mirren’s casting. She added: “I’m sure [Mirren] will be marvellous, but it would never be allowed for Ben Kingsley to play Nelson Mandela. You just couldn’t even go there.”
Meir, who died in 1978, was Israel’s prime minister between 1969 and 74. The new film, called Golda, directed by Israeli film-maker Guy Nattiv is set during the Yom Kippur war in 1973 and started shooting in November 2021. Production stills showing Mirren under heavy makeup were released, with Mirren, who is not Jewish, commenting: “Golda Meir was a formidable, intransigent and powerful leader … I only hope I do her justice!”
The Jewish Chronicle’s piece cited a number of controversial instances of “Jewface”, including Tamsin Greig’s recent suggestion that she ‘probably’ should not have been cast in the sitcom Friday Night Dinner and the row over a stage production of the musical Falsettos in 2019, which contained no Jewish cast or crew members. It also quoted actor and comic Sarah Silverman’s comments on the mooted casting of Kathryn Hahn as Joan Rivers in a TV series: “Right now, representation fucking matters. It has to also finally matter for Jews as well. Especially Jewish women.”
In contrast, the playwright and director Patrick Marber was quoted in the Jewish Chronicle article as objecting to the primacy of “lived experienced” in casting decisions, saying: “I fucking hate that expression. Because ‘lived experience’ is sort of a denial of what creativity is and denies the actor the fundamental challenge and right to become someone else to impersonate another human being from another time, from another culture from another religion and another sexuality and other gender.”
Marber added: “I think a Gentile can play a Jew and a Jew can play a Gentile. I don’t like it when someone plays a Jew and gets it wrong. [But] I don’t like quotas.”