- Helen Mirren undergoes extensive prosthetic makeup and wears a bodysuit to accurately portray Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the bio Golda.
- The prosthetic makeup and body were designed to convey the essence of Meir without appearing caricature.
- Mirren’s cast initially drew criticism for not having Jewish ancestry, but Jewish director Guy Nattiv felt she was right for the role, and the controversy didn’t stop Mirren from taking on the role.
The celebrated actor Helen Mirren stars as Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the war drama biopic Golda, which takes place during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Meir was the fourth prime minister of Israel and the first woman prime minister. To accurately portray the 75-year-old leader, Mirren had to undergo two hours of prosthetic makeup and change into a bodysuit each day of shooting. Special effects makeup designer Karen Hartley Thomas explained the process and wanted Mirren’s look to be as simple and minimal as possible, despite it being the most complicated look of Thomas’ career.
“You want to capture the silhouette and essence of the person… not a caricature,” Thomas explained.
In conversation with Vanity FairThomas says Mirren’s face and torso were fitted with contact lenses, a custom-made wig, eyebrows, false teeth, silicone eye bags, a fake nose bridge and a fake neck jewelry. Thomas says all of the parts were custom made to ensure light weight, allowing Mirren to move freely on set.
Sinéad Kidao, the film’s costume designer, oversaw the construction of Mirren’s polyester-filled spandex bodysuit and custom leg pads. Kidao also focused on making the leg padding light so Mirren’s freedom of movement was not restricted. But despite Kidao’s best efforts, Mirren reportedly wore layers of fabric to recreate Meir’s vintage look.
Prior to the prosthesis, however, Mirren’s cast faced backlash because she is not of Jewish ancestry. Mirren stated that she respectfully questioned director Nattiv, who is of Jewish descent, about the casting controversy. “Look… I’m not Jewish, and if you think about it and decide to go in a different direction, don’t worry. I’ll absolutely understand,” Mirren said. The actor revealed that Nattiv told her that she reminded him of his grandmother. “He really wanted me to play the role and off we went.”
Why Helen Mirren’s transformation had to be accurate
During production, Nattiv, Thomas, and Kidao were aware of how prosthetics and bodysuits were used, as the topic has been the subject of constant controversy in recent years. Many in the film scene believe that bodysuits and prosthetics are problematic and promote fatphobia. The thing with Pam, The whale, House of GucciAnd Tammy Faye’s eyes are some examples of current controversies. The upcoming biopic about Jewish-American composer Leonard Bernstein, starring Bradley Cooper, maestro, has been faced with anti-Semitic accusations after a teaser showed Cooper, who is not of Jewish descent, with a pronounced prosthetic nose. Nattiv wants viewers to focus on the story and Mirren’s acting, not her looks.
“As long as it doesn’t take the emotion out of what brings me to the character… I don’t think there’s any problem with that…” [But] I welcome the discussion.”
Meir’s leadership during the simultaneous attacks from Syria and Soviet-funded Egypt elevated her status to the “Iron Lady of Israel” in the vein of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Meir navigated between the male chauvinism of the generals and US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Liev Schreiber) and a covert fight against lymphoma. Despite her struggles, Meir persevered with the help of her aide Lou Kaddar (Camille Cottin).
Director: Guy Nattiv, Screenplay: Nicholas Martin. Golda is now showing in select theaters nationwide.