Helen Mirren calls judicial reform protests 'pivotal moment in Israel'

The Oscar-winning complimented former prime minister Golda Meir, whom she portrays: 'Her commitment to the country was above all else' ; and talked about the Jewface storm: "Anyone can embody everything"
Yael Ilan|

Helen Mirren, star of 'Golda,' talks to reporters in Jerusalem
(Video: Gil Yohanan)

The Jerusalem Film Festival opens Thursday night, with 6,000 people expected to fill the Sultan's Pool and watch "Golda", the new film by the Israeli director, Guy Nativ, which tells the story of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir during the three weeks of the Yom Kippur War.
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“I think she had a profound nobility in her character, understood as the leader of the country, she had to take responsibility — and she did, unlike many other leaders,” actress Helen Mirren, 77, told reporters on Thursday ahead of the screening, alongside Nativ, actor Lior Ashkenazi, who plays Chief of Staff David Elazar; and screenwriter Nicholas Martin. “Golda is one of the most extraordinary characters I’ve ever played."
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הלן מירן
הלן מירן
Helen Mirren meets reporters in Jerusalem
(Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
"There is great excitement," said Nativ at the opening of the press conference. "Helen came last night, and we are so happy that she came during a very challenging time here. It's much more exciting than any festival in the world to screen the film here with all the actors."
Mirren also said of Golda Meir: “Her history, her commitment to her country, her character in general… she had utter dedication to her country. Her commitment to her country was over everything; over family, over personal contentment, over personal ambition.”
She was asked about the current protests against the government's attempts to legislate a judicial overhaul, and responded: “I don’t want to speak to [it] because I’m not Israeli and I haven’t lived in Israel,” she said. “I’ve watched it from afar, obviously, in these past weeks. I’m personally very moved and excited when I see those huge demonstrations. I think maybe it’s a pivotal moment in Israeli history.”
She added that “I’ve seen Israel how it used to be, and now I’m amazed every time I come with the way Israel has changed.”

"Anyone can play anything"

Nativ went to demonstrate against the judicial overhaul together with his father to "stop the madness," he said. "I met someone older than the Yom Kippur War and he said that's how it feels. He feels it's like a Yom Kippur war, to protect his children and grandchildren. So yes, in a certain way we are fighting to shape the future of our country."
Mirren also responded to the Jewface storm that began after she was cast in the role. The controversy arose because she is not Jewish and was criticized for taking on the role of the iconic Jewish personality, while at the same time questions arose as to why a Jewish actress should not be cast as Meir.
"The whole understanding of 'who plays what' has exploded and it's great and I think it's interesting," she said. "I was part of a group led by Peter Brook, a well-known theater director who was also my partner for a time. We had the idea that everyone could play anything - and that only adds to the imagination of the audience. You could have Hamlet black with a white woman playing his mother Gertrude. That's the way he directed and produced theater."
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גיא נתיב, הלן מירן, ליאור אשכנזי וניקולס מרטין במסיבת עיתונאים
גיא נתיב, הלן מירן, ליאור אשכנזי וניקולס מרטין במסיבת עיתונאים
Guy Nativ, Helen Mirren, Lior Ashkenazi and Nicholas Martin at a press conference
(Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
“I adhere to both camps – at the same time as believing anyone can play anything, I also believe that sometimes the absolute right person for a role is the very person who can understand, profoundly understand, the issues involved in that,” said Mirren. “I’m incredibly grateful that I was given the opportunity to inhabit Golda.”
"Gidi Meir (Golda's grandson) was the first one to say 'I see my grandmother in Helen Mirren,'" added Nativ. "And when she read the script she thought it was amazing and I saw her Jewish soul immediately and it was a no-brainer for me. We felt it was the right move."
"We love you and respect your decision, and are happy that you played Golda," he added.

"I would have done the role for less money"

Mirren, a British-born actor, has won both Oscar and Emmy awards for performances ranging from Queen Elizabeth II in “The Queen,” and Sofia Tolstoy in “The Last Station.”
The film's cast consists mainly of Israeli actors, who play most of the senior IDF officers: apart from Lior Ashkenazi, there is Rotem Keinan who plays Zvi Zamir; Dvir Benedek is Eli Zeira; Rami Heuberger is the Defense Minister Moshe Dayan; and Ohad Knoller is Ariel Sharon.
When Mirran was asked if she was pressured about working with an Israeli team in the shadow of the boycott encouraged by the BDS organization, she replied: "I never experienced any pressure. On the contrary, my representatives from America really wanted me to do the film. My agent wanted me to have the opportunity to play Golda and encouraged me to take this role. I'm a very gritty actress. I always want to play more and more great women, and Golda was one of the greatest. We didn't have a big budget and I would have done the role for less money."
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