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Mirren channels Meir 

By Philissa Cramer

JERUSALEM — Helen Mirren will soon become linked with Golda Meir when she plays the late Israeli prime minister in a new film. But the award winning actress has another, real-life connection to Meir: the two are related, Israeli genealogical researchers revealed last week.

Mirren was in Jerusalem for the Israeli premiere of “Golda,” the film she’s headlining about Meir’s handling of the Yom Kippur War — when Egypt, Syria and a coalition of their allies attacked Israel and made significant headway before ultimately being rebuffed. 

The movie headlined the Jerusalem Film Festival, with a red-carpet screening held on July 13.

During a press conference before the screening, researchers with MyHeritage presented Mirren with evidence linking her to Meir, who was prime minister, 1969-1974. 

The connection is distant, stretching nine generations back through Mirren’s paternal Russian ancestry, and through marriage only.

The genealogy also connects Mirren to two Israeli presidents, Chaim and Ezer Weizman, and to the British royal family.

Still, Mirren — who is not Jewish — said the revelation offered an important lesson.

“It’s miraculous, isn’t it, really? It just goes to show that we are all one family actually,” she said. “In times of divisiveness and strife as I know Israel is in right now . . . It would be a very good thing to remember that fact.”

The film portrays Meir being caught flat-footed by aggression from neighboring Arab countries, then overseeing a military response that transformed from fumbling to triumphant — and eventually led to Israeli-Egyptian peace in 1979, years after Meir left office. 

It shows her deeply struggling over the deaths of Israeli soldiers who might have lived had she heeded warnings of war. In 1974, Meir resigned amid divisions within her party over where to assign blame.

“She understood that as the leader of the country she had to take responsibility, and she did — unlike many other leaders who, when things go pear-shaped, start pointing fingers at other people,” Mirren said. “I think that must have been incredibly painful.”

Mirren’s connection to Israel dates back to 1967, when she traveled with a Jewish boyfriend to work for a month on a kibbutz in the country’s north. “I’m amazed every time I come,” she said.

Mirren said her motivations for taking the role were simple.

“I’m a horribly greedy actress. All I want to do is play great women,” said Mirren, who won an Oscar for portraying Queen Elizabeth II and has also played Queen Elizabeth I, among other historical figures. “And Golda was one of the greatest.”

Before “Golda” hits screens worldwide next month, Mirren has another major role — as the narrator in “Barbie.” 

She said both movies offered portrayals of strong women.

“I think we need a Golda Meir Barbie, don’t you think?”

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