Actress Helen Mirren says questions over the choice of her playing Israel's first female prime minister Golda Meir in a new film are "utterly legitimate".

The Academy award-winning actress said there was "a discussion to be had" about the suitability of certain actors for certain roles.

The casting for the upcoming biopic, Golda, directed by Guy Nattiv, was criticised by fellow actress Maureen Lipman last month due to the fact that Mirren is not Jewish.

Mirren, 76, told the Daily Mail the question of her appropriateness for the role had occurred to her too, prior to accepting it.

"It was certainly a question that I had before I accepted the role. (Meir) is a very important person in Israeli history," she said.

Maureen Lipman

"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’."

I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had - it's utterly legitimate.

Lipman previously said that the challenge of acting was to become the character you are playing regardless of background

But speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB) she added that actors who shared the background of their character should be looked at first.

On the portrayal of Meir specifically she highlighted that "the Jewishness of the character is so integral".

Responding to Dame Maureen’s criticism, Mirren said: "’I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had - it’s utterly legitimate."

"I very much respect Maureen. And I love her as an actress, absolutely.

"I’d love to bump into her and sit and have a cup of tea and talk about it,’ she added. Dame to dame, I suggest."

She added: "’My only real fear is if I’m really bad as Golda…in which case, I’ll be toast."

Source: Press Association