Helen Mirren
Helen MirrenHadas Parush/Flash90

British actress Helen Mirren has responded to criticism of her being cast as Golda Meir in a new film.

Mirren, who is not Jewish, was cast last year as Golda Meir in the biopic Golda, about the former Israeli prime minister.

The film, by Israeli director Guy Nattiv, received criticism for not casting a Jewish actress in the role of Meir.

Maureen Lipman, a Jewish actress notable for appearing with the UK National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company and on British television, told the Jewish Chronicle in January that the role should have been given to a Jewish actress.

"The Jewishness of the character is so integral,” Lipman said. "I'm sure she will be marvellous, but it would never be allowed for Ben Kingsley to play Nelson Mandela. You just couldn't even go there."

But Meir’s grandson differed and defended Mirren portraying Meir, saying that “being Jewish or not doesn't matter at all.”

Mirren has finally opened up about the controversy, telling The Daily Mail that she was initially worried about accepting the role.

Calling Meir “very important person in Israeli history,” Mirren explained that she had spoken to Nattiv about her uncertainty over the role.

“I said, 'Look Guy, I'm not Jewish, and if you want to think about that, and decide to go in a different direction, no hard feelings. I will absolutely understand.’”

“But he very much wanted me to play the role, and off we went,” said the 76-year old actress.

Mirren said she wasn’t upset about Lipman’s statements that the role should have gone to a Jewish actress.

"I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had – it's utterly legitimate," she added.

But she wondered if creating stringent rules for roles would be problematic for casting. “You know, if someone who's not Jewish can't play Jewish, does someone who's Jewish play someone who's not Jewish?”