Opening in theaters on August 25th is the new biopic ‘Golda,’ which examines the life of Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir and her involvement in the Yom Kippur War, and was directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Guy Nattiv (‘Skin’).
What is the plot of ‘Golda’?
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.
Who is in the cast of ‘Golda’?
Moviefone recently had the pleasure of speaking with Academy Award-winning director Guy Nattiv about his work on ‘Golda,’ her incredible true story and why now was the right time to tell it, Helen Mirren transformative performance, Liev Schreiber’s real life meeting with Henry Kissinger, his unusual alliance with Meir, Nattiv’s directorial choices, and what he hopes audiences learn from watching the movie.
Moviefone: To begin with, can you talk about why now was the right time to tell Golda Meir’s story, the relevance that it still holds to this day, and the themes you wanted to explore with this film?
Guy Nattiv: So this film started to brew in 2016/2017. It was a script that was running around, and I was attached to it only in 2018. So we didn’t really know when this movie’s going to come out. We just working on a movie and it may happen and may not happen. But miraculously, this movie came out now, which is the 50th anniversary to the Yom Kippur War, when the government in Israel is basically leading us to catastrophe, decimating the judicial system. We all feel, I mean, me and my crew, my team and my tribe, that the blindness that they had in 1973 leading us to this catastrophe of Yom Kippur is coming back again. It’s kind of a full circle. So it’s the Yom Kippur democracy. That’s one thing. That’s one subject matter. But the other thing is that it’s time to clean or clear Golda from all the wrongdoings they were blaming her for. It’s not only her narrative, a lot of it’s the intelligent division that proved her wrong. (Moshe) Dayan, who basically lost it and completely collapsed and she didn’t have him at all. Another narrative of the war, after the six-day war and the big slap the Israeli got thinking they are the kings of the Middle East, and it wasn’t right. So telling now this story about this woman, about this pioneer lady, I think it has a lot of significance to a lot of Israelis Jews and non-Jews.
MF: What was your experience like working with Helen Mirren and can you talk about her physical transformation for this role?
GN: What can you say? I mean, it’s one of the best actors in the world and one of the greatest. I mean, a lot of admiration to this woman who took on herself a big challenge, and she did a brilliant job. When we still were in our beds in hotel rooms before coming to shoot the film, she woke up at 4:00 AM, went to the trailer at 5:00am and did make up for three and a half hours. When we came to set at 7:30am eating our breakfast, she was Golda already. This is how she did it for 37 days and you didn’t hear a peep of complaining. What can I say? She’s just an amazing artist, an amazing actress, and an amazing human being. She worked, she prepared at least a year in advance before we started shooting with a dialect coach and a physical coach. She did her work. She didn’t just land and became Golda. She also did research. She saw documentaries, she read books, she heard recordings of Golda while getting the makeup done. She was putting her earphones on and she heard Golda talking from YouTube (videos). But it’s her talents and her soul that she brought to the role that made Golda who she is in the film.
MF: Can you talk about Liev Schreiber’s performance as Henry Kissinger, and Kissinger and Meir’s unusual friendship?
GN: Well, Liev met Henry Kissinger in his apartment in New York two days before shooting. So yeah, we made that happen. Kissinger sat with Liev and spoke to him for an hour and a half, and gave him all the little stories about the relationship and how she planted the soup, and the scene with “First I’m Secretary of State, then I’m an American.” He gave this anecdote to Liev who brought it to the script later on and we used it. But it was just amazing to see those two brilliant actors facing each other in Golda’s kitchen in London. I was pinching myself to see if it’s real. It was so brilliant.
MF: Can you talk about your use of symbolism in the movie, specifically the symbolism of the birds, as well as a scene where Golda’s cigarette smoke dissolves into a battle sequence?
GN: The smoke of war is basically the fog of war. I don’t know if you saw the documentary, ‘The Fog of War’? The Errol Morris documentary, it’s kind of homage to a place where you can see from one meter. You’re not able to communicate because it’s all mist. The fact that she’s smoking, she’s smoking herself to death, but it’s also the smoke that comes from an explosion, from this mushroom of explosion that her psyche, she’s in a total nightmare and the nightmare is taking over her. The smoke is an element that I wanted to use because it’s almost a mist that they all smoke there. It’s a mist that leads us to those very dark alleys and film noirish in a way. The birds, there’s a very special Israeli bird that is almost like a canary, right? I don’t know if you remember this, the canary in a coal mine, that the birds were signifying what’s going to happen a second before you get the notion. So when they go into the chimney, she understand we are going to Hell. It’s kind of a sign before it happens. When she’s walking in the tunnel there, the bird’s running away because she’s running away from the mayhem that’s going to happen from the apocalypse. At the end they’re dead because they’re dead with her soul as well. So it’s like a canary in a coal mine in a way.
MF: Can you talk about the importance of using actual footage of Golda Meir at the end of the film?
GN: I think it’s something that I got from Oliver Stone and ‘JFK.’ He used a lot of documentary footage with ‘JFK,’ and he edited in a jittery way. But for me, this is the accord when I lead you, the viewer, to the end. The end is almost like, here is the real woman, and you’re not going to see the “Helen/Golda” anymore. You go with this footage to outside the cinema and seek yourself all the information. So this is kind of leading you to the outside and giving you an end within the TV that she’s watching herself.
MF: Finally, what do you hope audiences take away from seeing this film?
GN: Audiences, the people who don’t even know Golda, in Israel when you’re 19, you think Golda is an ice cream because there’s an ice cream chain in Israel called Golda. A lot of people don’t know even who Golda was, which I want them to know because when I was a kid, I watched films like ‘Gandhi.’ I was like, “Wow, there’s a man named Gandhi, and look what he did and Ben Kingsley and the whole thing”. I was overwhelmed. Then I saw ‘The Last Emperor’ of (Bernardo) Bertolucci, and that’s like, “Whoa, this is amazing.” What a story, without knowing anything. So many people tell me that, “I watched a movie and I didn’t know anything. It just blew my mind that something like that had happened.” Of course, the people who know Golda and did not know how human, how funny, how warm, how passionate and how fierce she was, could see that in her character in the movie.
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