Maureen Lipman criticises Helen Mirren 'Jewface' casting
Actress Dame Maureen Lipman has questioned the casting of Helen Mirren as former Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir amid increased criticism of ‘Jewface’.
As explained by Sarah Silverman recently – when she, too, called out Hollywood casting of gentiles in Jewish roles – ‘Jewface’ is defined as ‘when a non-Jew portrays a Jew with the Jewishness front and centre’, often with make-up, or ‘a big false nose’, and using a ‘New York-y or Yiddish-y’ accent.
Now Dame Maureen has said she’s not comfortable with Dame Helen’s casting in the role of Meir in upcoming film Golda and fears Jewish actresses were overlooked.
The actress – who made headlines last week by declaring that cancel culture was killing comedy – told the Jewish Chronicle of the casting: ‘With that I disagree, because the Jewishness of the character is so integral.
‘I’m sure she [Mirren] will be marvellous, but it would never be allowed for Ben Kingsley to play Nelson Mandela. You just couldn’t even go there.’
She added: ‘Perhaps you need to have some sort of panel of people who say this is not acceptable, this is acceptable.’
However, playwright Patrick Marber insisted ‘lived experience’ should not be a vital part of making casting decisions, saying it was ‘sort of a denial of what creativity is and denies the actor the fundamental challenge and right to become someone else’.
He said: ‘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. I don’t like laws. I think we should be better than that, we Jews.’
Their comments follow those of comedian Silverman, who called out the casting of gentiles as Jewish people in films, while Friday Night Dinner star Tamsin Greig admitted there would be wider conversation around the casting of her own character in the sitcom after initially suggesting she ‘probably shouldn’t’ have played a Jewish mum because she isn’t Jewish herself.
Silverman recently spoke of the casting of Kathryn Hahn as Joan Rivers, while also singling out Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsberg, accusing Hollywood of ‘Jewface’.
She said on her podcast: ‘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.
‘One could argue, for instance, that a Gentile playing Joan Rivers, correctly, would be doing what is actually called “Jewface”.’
She explained ‘Jewface’ is defined as ‘when a non-Jew portrays a Jew with the Jewishness front and centre’, often with make-up, or ‘a big false nose’, and using a ‘New York-y or Yiddish-y’ accent.
Mentioning the casting of Hahn (who also played Rabbi Raquel in Transparent) as the late Rivers in Showtime’s limited series The Comeback Girl, Silverman went on to say the star ‘did nothing wrong, she’s a brilliant actor and she’s gonna be great as Joan’, insisting ‘singularly I have zero problem with it’.
She listed off an extensive list of non-Jewish stars who have portrayed Jewish women, including Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug and Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan in Mrs. America, adding: ‘None of these actresses are doing anything wrong, but collectively it’s f**ked up, little bit.’
The star called out the ‘perpetuated anti-semitic tropes’, such as the claim that ‘Jews run Hollywood’.
Casting director Jen Rudin previously defended the practice of casting non-Jewish peple in Jewish roles, telling Forward: ‘Acting is a profession and our goal and job as casting directors is to hire the most qualified actor for the role.
‘Kathryn Hahn is wonderful as Rabbi Raquel in Amazon’s Transparent and my close friend Grant Shaud is hilarious as Miles Silverberg on Murphy Brown.
‘Neither are Jewish but both gave fantastic performances of characters who are Jewish.
‘[…]If we are only casting Jewish actors for Jewish roles, it feeds into a racist or religious stereotype that Jews all look a certain way and then we are not open-minded in our casting searches.’
Metro.co.uk contacted Dame Helen’s reps for comment.
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