Helen Mirren responds to 'Jewface' backlash for wearing prosthetics in new movie 'Golda': 'It's a very delicate balance'

  • Helen Mirren is defending her use of prosthetics to portray a Jewish historical figure.

  • Mirren spoke to BBC about the controversy of non-Jewish actors playing Jewish roles.

  • She said "it's a good idea" to resemble the people you're playing, but admitted it can be "offensive."

Helen Mirren was recently asked to weigh in on the "Jewface" debate and defended her and Bradley Cooper's decision to use facial prosthetics to amplify their resemblance to the Jewish historical figures they play on screen.

The Oscar-winner portrayed Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the recently released film "Golda," while Cooper directs and stars in "Maestro," an upcoming Netflix biopic about composer Leonard Bernstein. Neither are Jewish.

Appearing on the BBC's political program, "Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg," Mirren was asked if she understood why people are uncomfortable with non-Jewish actors playing Jewish historical figures and the recent backlash Cooper faced upon the trailer's release.

She responded: "I think I can see, but sometimes I can't see because I can't see who in this room is Jewish."


"We are all such an amazing mix," the "1923" star added," before stating that when the reverse happens and Jewish actors play non-Jewish roles, she doesn't have a problem.

"Certainly I don't have an issue with Kirk Douglas playing a Viking," she said while referencing Douglas' 1958 movie, "The Viking." "Kirk Douglas was Jewish," she continued.

"I think the whole question of assuming a certain physiognomy because you're playing a particular race, there is something offensive about that," she continued.

"On the other hand, if you're playing Leonard Bernstein, and this is really what Leonard Bernstein looked like, you know, maybe it's a good idea. It's a very delicate balance," Mirren said.

Representatives for Mirren did not respond to Inisder's request for further comment.

Bradley Cooper at the world premiere of "Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3" on April 27, 2023 in Hollywood, and as Leonard Bernstein in "Maestro."
Bradley Cooper plays composer Leonard Bernstein in "Maestro."Jon Kopaloff/WireImage/Netflix

In August, Cooper was criticized for wearing a prosthetic nose in "Maestro" to enhance his resemblance to the late composer. Representatives for Cooper did not respond to Insider's earlier requests for comment in regard to the accusations.

However, not everyone took offense to Cooper's prosthetic nose, including Bernstein's children. In a statement to Insider on August 16, Bernstein's children Jamie, Alexander, and Nina Bernstein all defended Cooper, saying that they were touched by his commitment to telling their father's story.

Before Cooper, back in January 2022, Mirren sparked a similar debate when the first photo of her in costume and makeup as Meir was released, which showed her wearing a pronounced nose in the Guy Nattiv-directed film (Nattiv himself is Jewish-Israeli).

At the time, actor Maureen Lipman, who is Jewish, told the Jewish Chronicle she disagreed with Mirren's casting "because the Jewishness of the character is so integral," while others debated the issue on Reddit.

Helen Mirren portrays Jewish-Israeli leader Golda Meir in "Golda."
Helen Mirren portrays Jewish-Israeli leader Golda Meir in "Golda."Marc Piasecki/FilmMagic/Getty Images, Querty Films

Mirren and Cooper are hardly the first actors accused of "Jewface" — a term used when non-Jewish actors portray Jewish people in a manner that reinforces demeaning stereotypes. Still, the issue has been highlighted more recently as part of a general push for authentic casting in Hollywood.

"There's this long tradition of non-Jews playing Jews. And not just playing people who happen to be Jewish, but people whose Jewishness is their whole being," the comedian Sarah Silverman explained on her namesake podcast in 2021. "One could argue, for instance, that a gentile playing Joan Rivers correctly would be doing what is actually called Jewface."

Silverman defined"Jewface" as when non-Jews portray Jewish people with "Jewishness front and center — often with makeup or changing of features, a big fake nose, all the New York-y or Yiddish-y inflection."

Read the original article on Insider