Maia Morgenstern in 2012
1 May 1962
Emilia-Maia-Ninel Morgenstern (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈmaja ˈmorɡənʃtern]; born 1 May 1962) is a Romanian film and stage actress, described by Florin Mitu of AMOS News as "a symbol of Romanian theater and film". In the English-speaking world, she is probably best known for the role of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. In Romania, she has been nationally known since her 1992 role as Nela in Balanţa, a film known in the United States as The Oak, set during the waning days of Communist Romania.
Born in Bucharest, in a Jewish family, she graduated from the Film and Theatre Academy of Bucharest in 1985. She then played at Teatrul Tineretului (Youth Theater) in Piatra Neamţ until 1988, and at the Teatrul Evreiesc de Stat (State Jewish Theatre) in Bucharest 1988-1990. From 1990–1998 she was a member of the company of the National Theatre in Bucharest, and since 1998 of Teatrul Bulandra, also in Bucharest; in addition, she continues to act at the Jewish State Theatre and other Bucharest theaters and elsewhere in Romania. Among her notable stage roles in recent years, in a Romanian-language production of The Blue Angel (Îngerul Albastru in Romanian) at Bucharest's Odeon Theater, in 2001-2 she played (to great critical acclaim) Lola Lola, the character made famous by Marlene Dietrich. At the same time, she was also playing the role of Kathleen Hogan in a Romanian-language production of Israel Horovitz's Park Your Car in Harvard Yard at the State Jewish Theater.
Morgenstern has appeared in numerous films, primarily in Romanian language roles. In The Passion of the Christ, she performs a role in Aramaic, but like the other actors in the cast of that film, she simply memorized her lines phonetically.
Her surname, Morgenstern, means "Morning Star" in German, a title of the Virgin Mary, the character she played in The Passion of the Christ. Mel Gibson, a devout Traditionalist Catholic, thought this of great significance when casting her. In interviews, she has defended The Passion against allegations of antisemitism, saying that the high priest Caiaphas is portrayed not as a representative of the Jewish people, but as a leader of the establishment, adding that "Authorities throughout history have persecuted individuals with revolutionary ideas."
She has won several major awards as an actress:
- Best Actress for: Cei care platesc cu viaţa ("Those who pay with their lives", 1991), Romanian Filmmakers Union
- UNITER (Romanian theater association) Lucia Sturdza Bulandra Prize (1990) for her stage role as Medea in Trilogia antică (Ancient Trilogy), directed by Andrei Şerban.
- Best Actress for: Balanţa (1992), European Film Awards
- Best Actress for: Balanţa (1992), Cinéma Tout Ecran (Geneva Film Festival)
- Best Actress for: Balanţa (1992), Romanian Filmmakers Union
- UNITER best actress award (1993), for her role in Ghetto at the Romanian National Theatre.
- UNITER (1995) award for her performance in the stage production of Lola Blau.
- Best Film Actress for: The Passion of the Christ (2004), Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards (EMMA Awards), UK
Where translations of titles are italicized, it indicates use of the translated title for the film in English-language release.
|Miss Christina||2013||Mrs. Moscu||Romanian|
|The Secret of Polichinelle||2013||Maya||Romanian|
|Fata din Transilvania||2011||Romanian|
|La fin du silence||2011||the mother||French|
|Sange Tanar, Munti Si Brazi||2011||Mama||Romanian drama|
|Iubire si onoare (tv series)||2010–2011||Marieta||Romanian|
|Aniela (tv series)||2009–2010||Maica Stareţa||Romanian|
|The House of Terror||2008 (pre-production)||Eszter Somos||English|
|The Fence||2007 (in production)||Herman's mother||English|
|Mansfeld||2006||Mrs. Mansfeld||Hungarian / English / Russian / German|
|Visuri otrăvite ("Poisoned Dreams")||2006||Ada's mother||Romanian|
|15||2005||Irene||Romanian / French|
|L'Homme pressé||2005, TV||Bonne de Bois de Rose||French|
|Orient Express||2004||Amalia Frunzetti||Romanian|
|The Passion of the Christ||2004||Mary||Aramaic|
|Căsătorie imposibilă ("Impossible marriage")||2004, TV series||Romanian|
|Bolondok éneke (Fool's Song)||2003||Gina||Hungarian / French / Romanian|
|A Rózsa énekei (Rose's Songs)||2003||Olga||Hungarian|
|Patul lui Procust (Procust's Bed)
Based on Camil Petrescu's novel Patul lui Procust
|Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula||2000, TV||woman at the fountain||English|
|Marie, Nonna, la vierge et moi||2000||Nonna||French|
|Kínai védelem (Chinese Defense)||1999||Hungarian|
|Faţă în faţă (Face to Face)||1999||Romanian|
|Triunghiul morţii ("Triangle of Death")||1999||Regina Maria||Romanian|
|Az Álombánya||1998, TV, short||Hungarian|
|Witman fiúk (Witman Boys)||1997||Mrs. Witman||Hungarian|
|Omul zilei (The Man of the Day)||1997||Romanian|
|Ulysses' Gaze(original Greek title: Το Βλέμμα του Οδυσσέα, To Vlemma tou Odyssea)||1995||playing opposite Harvey Keitel as Ulysses' wife||English / Greek|
|Siódmy pokój (The Seventh Room)||1995||Edith Stein (the starring role)||Hungarian|
|Trahir (Betrayal, Romanian title: A trada)||1993||woman in prison||French / Romanian|
|Casa din vis ("The House from the Dream")||1993||Romanian|
|Cel mai iubit dintre pămînteni (The Earth's Most Beloved Son)
based on Marin Preda's novel Cel mai iubit dintre pământeni
|Balanţa (The Oak)||1992||Nela (the starring role)||Romanian|
|Rămînerea (Forgotten by God)||1992||Romanian|
|Băiatul cu o singură bretea, also known as Flăcăul cu o singura bretea
("The Boy with a Single Brace")
|Cei care plătesc cu viaţa
(Those Who Pay with Their Lives)
|Marea sfidare ("The great defiance")||1989||Romanian|
|Maria şi marea ("Maria and the Sea")||1988||Maria||Romanian|
|Anotimpul iubirii (The Season of Love)||1986||Romanian|
|Secretul lui Bachus
(The Secret of Bacchus)
|1984||the girl in the restaurant
(as Maia Morgenstern Istodor)
|Dreptate în lanţuri (Chained Justice)||1983||Romanian|
|Prea cald pentru luna mai
("Too hot for the month of May")
- (Romanian) Gabriela Dumba, Pur şi SIMPLU, Maia Morgenstern, ("Pure and simple, Maia Morgenstern", but with a pun, because Simplu is a Romanian musical group with whom she had done a video), Gardianul, December 23, 2006. Accessed online December 20, 2007.
- (Romanian) Florin Mitu, 2007 Interviu: Maia Morgenstern, AMOS News, November 17, 2007. He addresses her, "Sunteţi un simbol al teatrului şi filmului românesc…". Accessed online December 20, 2007.
- (Romanian) Florin Mitu, 2007 Interviu: Maia Morgenstern, AMOS News, November 17, 2007. Accessed online December 20, 2007.
- The Passion of the Christ: About the Language, CinemaReview.com. Accessed online December 20, 2007.
- Marco R. della Cava, J.C., 'morning star' and Mel Gibson, USA Today, posted 2/22/2004 9:39 PM, updated 2/23/2004 11:21 AM; retrieved March 1, 2005.
- 'Passion' actress: Film not anti-Semitic, CNN, February 4, 2004. Accessed 20 December 2007.
- Naomi Pfefferman, Jewish Actress Proud to be Mel Gibson’s Virgin Mary, The Jewish Journal, November 1, 2003. Reproduced on the New American Media site, a site focusing on ethnic journalism. Accessed online December 20, 2007.
- (Romanian) Evelyn Badea, Maia Morgenstern, femeia care ştie să aibă succes în toate, Adevărul, 20 October 2007 Accessed online 20 December 2007.
- Awards for Balanta (1992), IMDB. Accessed 20 December 2007.
- Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards, UK: 2004, IMDB. Accessed 20 December 2007.