How Golda Meir’s Grandson Collaborated with Film’s Makeup Team to Ensure Helen Mirren’s Portrayal Was Not a Caricature

Rexa Vella

How Golda Meir’s Grandson Collaborated with Film’s Makeup Team to Ensure Helen Mirren’s Portrayal Was Not a Caricature

The tiny details mattered in transforming Helen Mirren into “Golda.”

In the film, Mirren plays the first female prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir, and follows her leadership during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Special effects makeup designer Karen Hartley Thomas did not want to turn Mirren into a caricature, so the less-is-more approach was the right way to go on this film.

Four makeup artists spent two and a half hours applying a nose bridge, tip pieces and adding in teeth. The team used stippling to age her, but the details mattered, especially for the eyes.

Mirren has blue eyes while Golda had brown eyes. “Brown eyes are quite difficult on film when they’ve got blue eyes underneath them, and they can look flat,” says Thomas. “I remember Helen saying to me, ‘Do you think we can go a bit darker with this?’ and I told her, ‘No, because when we get on camera they won’t show.’ So, it was a matter of getting all the elements.”

Mirren also has thinner brows than Golda. “I had three sets of eyebrows made. She had very dark, thick and bolder brows, but it was the tiny details,” says Thomas. “If we’d had bushier eyebrows, it would be like getting a caricature.”

Alex Rouse Wigs, which provided the wigs for “The Duke,” also starring Mirren, made Golda’s wig. But again, fine detail mattered because Golda’s hair had a distinct look, so Thomas sat down with Rouse. “We chose the color and texture and tried to get as close as possible to Golda’s hair at the time, but also with the mind to it being

Helen Mirren and it suiting Helen,” Thomas says. “You can’t transpose the Golda hair onto Helen — it wouldn’t work.”

Golda’s grandson, Gideon Meir, was integral in providing information, such what her hair looked like when it was loose. Explains Thomas: “He told us she always plaited it and then twisted it into a bun, which is that very iconic look of Golda Meir.”

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