Maia Morgenstern

Maia Morgenstern

Birth name: Maia Emilia Ninel Morgenstern
Born: May 1, 1962
Age: 62
Birthplace: Bucharest
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Maia Emilia Ninel Morgenstern (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 been married twice, and has 3 children: Tudor Aaron, Eva Leea Cabiria and Ana Isadora.

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.

Film Year Role Language
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
Luna verde 2010 Simona Romanian
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
Eva 2009 Maria English
The Fence 2007 (in production) Herman's mother English
Mansfeld 2006 Mrs. Mansfeld Hungarian / English / Russian / German
Margo 2006 Margo's stepmother Romanian
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
Damen tango 2004 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
2001 Doamna T. Romanian
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
A hetedik szoba (The Seventh Room) 1995 Edith Stein (the starring role) Hungarian
Nostradamus 1994 Helen English
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
1993 Romanian
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")
1991 Romanian
Cei care plătesc cu viaţa
(Those Who Pay with Their Lives)
1991 Romanian
Pasaj 1990 Romanian
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")
1983 Romanian

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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