Synopsis : Golda is a ticking-clock thriller set during the tense 19 days of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (Helen Mirren), faced with the potential of Israel’s complete destruction, must navigate overwhelming odds, a skeptical cabinet, and a complex relationship with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Liev Schreiber), with millions of lives in the balance. Her tough leadership and compassion would ultimately decide the fate of her nation and leave her with a controversial legacy around the world.
Rating: PG-13 (Pervasive Smoking|Thematic Material)
Genre: History, Drama
Original Language: English
Director: Guy Nattiv
Producer: Michael Kuhn, Jane Hooks, Nicholas Martin
Writer: Nicholas Martin
Release Date (Theaters): Limited
Distributor: Bleecker Street Media
Production Co: Maven Screen Media, Piccadilly Pictures, Qwerty Films, ShivHans Pictures, Hianlo , Embankment Films, New Native Pictures
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
Exclusive Interview with Director Guy Nattiv
Q: Golda was born in Kiev and moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After she graduated from what was the equivalent to a university, she became a teacher and joined the labor organization called Habonim. The film tackles her tribulations. How much did you study about her early life and add characteristics of her early life into this film?
Guy Nattiv: I learned a lot about Golda through scripts, research, her books and through documentaries that I saw. I also looked at the protocols that came out of the war 10 years ago.
Q: When Egyptian and Syrian Allied forces made a surprise attack against the Israeli defense force, Golda was criticized for failing to take adequate measures despite the information she received. Out of all the moments in her life, why did you choose this particular time? She had a lot more achievements afterwards.
GN: It was not me but Nicholas Martin who focused on the actual war. I thought it was very smart to focus on the young people of war as a time of a downfall. It was a requiem for her life.
Q: Take us through the process of casting Helen Mirren? She’s one of the best actors in the world, but she’s not Jewish. What was fascinating about her that she brought out in her portrayal? What did you see in her that made you feel she fit the role?
GN: First of all, I didn’t cast her. She was already cast in the role. It was the grandson of Golda who thought of her. He said, “I want her to play my grandmother.” Helen brings humanity to the role. She’s fearless and brings humor to the role as well as the emotions.
Caption: Helen Mirren, Rami Heuberger, Lior Ashkenazi and Dvir Benedek in Bleecker Street/ShivHans Pictures’ GOLDA Credit: Sean Gleason, Courtesy of Bleecker Street/ShivHans Pictures
Q: In the United States, there hasn’t been a female president yet. It’s remarkable to see Golda handle the men in her government and within the military. How were you able to develop her performance and show a very strong minded woman who also had a vulnerable side?
GN: Golda was definitely a fish out of water because she was American and the rest of them were Israelis. She did not know anything about the war. She was not a commander but she was a great stateswoman. She brought in her strength while dealing with the US and Kissinger in order to get shipments of weapons to Israel which basically saved Israel from defeat. It’s all about her strength as a stateswoman. She had said that didn’t even want to become prime minister. She was a pioneer in her time and was making history. She paved the way for Angela Merkel and Margaret Thatcher.
Q: You did capture the remarkable essence of Golda. What conversations did you have with the makeup team to create her look. What conversations did you have with the costume designer to create her wardrobe?
GN: We had a lot of creative discussions. It took us 2.5 weeks to understand how we want Helen to look like and how she could create the character through her eyes. Karen Hartley and Suzi Battersby were in charge of Helen’s look. It was very hard to do the prosthetics with all the hair and makeup without taking it to an extreme and to let Helen shine within the character. It took 2.5 weeks of trial and error before arriving at the right percentage that we could use.
Q: What about the production design?
GN: It came from the 70s in Israel. Production designer Arad Sawat went to Israel and basically built a stage with the same offices, kitchen and war room in London.
Caption: Helen Mirren and Camille Cottin in Bleecker Street/ShivHans Pictures’ GOLDA Credit: Sean Gleason, Courtesy of Bleecker Street/ShivHans Pictures
Q: It’s really authentic to the core. Did you talk to Golda’s estate or family members? Did you add anything to the storyline beyond what was officially recorded in books or official interviews?
GN: The grandchildren give us their full support. They gave us a lot of details, photos, letters, and other stuff that we used.
Q: Anything else that particularly stood out to you?
GN: I do remember that we met with her press secretary. He’s 91 and gave us a lot of tips and special insights. The fact that she was sick and was smoking nonstop. He revealed that she had a very intimate relationship with her assistant, Lou Kaddar, all we got those bits and pieces into the movie.
Q: She was the Prime Minister from 1969 to 1974. They had a lot of archive materials, footage and books covering this period which must have been helpful in making this film. How did you narrow it down to the core of this film? What was essential to make this film with all that archival material?
GN: I wanted to only make specific scenes of her getting out of the bunker and flying to the south. In the end we wanted to use those materials, but we didn’t use it in a massive way. I was inspired by “JFK” — the film by Oliver Stone.
Q: It’s amazing to see the relationship between Henry Kissinger and Golda. She seemed to be aware of what the US wanted back then. Talk about her intelligence in how she dealt with the US and Henry Kissinger.
GN: She was very smart and sneaky. She actually knew how to manipulate the Americans and Kissinger who was really afraid to support Israel because of the Russians. She brought Kissinger to her kitchen and made him feel like she was his grandmother. She manipulated him into sending Hercules missiles and planes. Kissinger didn’t force her to declare a cease fire until she was almost engulfed by the Egyptian troops. She did something very smart and saved us from a huge defeat. Her strength was to bring support from the US. A lot of people compare her to Zelenskyy, and what’s happening now in Ukraine. He’s been very good at seeking help for his country through negotiations because he’s a great statesman.
Caption: Liev Schreiber in Bleecker Street/ShivHans Pictures’ GOLDA Credit: Sean Gleason, Courtesy of Bleecker Street/ShivHans Pictures
Q: Talk about the casting of Liev Schreiber as Kissinger. That was really uncanny.
GN: He’s one of the best actors of our time. We just offered him the role and he said, yes. one thing I can tell you is that he met with Henry Kissinger in his apartment in New York. Kissinger today is 101, Liev was very inspired by all these stories when he came to set.
Q: Your film was showing at the Berlin Film Festival. Could you talk about the reaction of the festival? How well was it received?
GN: The German people in the crowd were very emotional about it. I think that the most emotional screening was in Jerusalem in front of 6000 people, outside. That was the most emotional reaction from all the film festivals yet.
Q: This film mostly takes place in a war room and very much focused on Helen’s performance. What did you discuss with her to establish the feeling of being in a very confined room? What was your approach in directing her performance?
GN: I didn’t need to talk to Helen about her performance at all because she knew how to approach it. She did her research. her process. She’s so intelligent that I just told her what my direction would be and what I wanted to focus on. I wanted it to be a claustrophobic film, I focused on the locations and rooms and a lot of smoke to make it feel claustrophobic. She agreed with me and went with it.
Caption: Helen Mirren in Bleecker Street/ShivHans Pictures’ GOLDA Credit: Sean Gleason, Courtesy of Bleecker Street/ShivHans Pictures
Here’s the trailer of the film.