Maia Morgenstern

Maia Morgenstern
Maia Morgenstern
Born May 1, 1962 (1962-05-01) (age 49)
Occupation Actor

Maia Morgenstern (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈmaja ˈmorɡənʃtern]; born May 1, 1962) is a Romanian film and stage actress,[1] described by Florin Mitu of AMOS News as "a symbol of Romanian theater and film".[2] 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.[1]



Born in Bucharest, in a Jewish family,[1] 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;[3] in addition, she continues to act at the Jewish State Theatre and other Bucharest theaters[1] and elsewhere in Romania.[3] 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.[1]

Morgenstern has appeared in numerous films, primarily in Hungarian and 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.[4]

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.[5] In interviews, she has defended The Passion against allegations of antisemitism,[6] 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."[7]

She has been married twice, and has 3 children: Tudor Aaron, Eva Leea Cabiria and Ana Isadora.[8]

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.[8]
  • Best Actress for: Balanţa (1992), European Film Awards[9]
  • Best Actress for: Balanţa (1992), Cinéma Tout Ecran (Geneva Film Festival)[9]
  • Best Actress for: Balanţa (1992), Romanian Filmmakers Union[9]
  • UNITER best actress award (1993), for her role in Ghetto at the Romanian National Theatre.[8]
  • UNITER (1995) award for her performance in the stage production of Lola Blau.[8]
  • Best Film Actress for: The Passion of the Christ (2004), Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards (EMMA Awards), UK[10]


Where translations of titles are italicized, it indicates use of the translated title for the film in English-language release.

Film Year Role Language
Fata din Transilvania 2011 Romanian short
La fin du silence 2011 La mere French drama
Sange Tanar, Munti Si Brazi 2011 Mama Romanian drama
Luna verde 2010 Simona 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
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)
After the novel Patul lui Procust, by Camil Petrescu
2001 Doamna T. Romanian
Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula 2000, TV Woman at 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
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
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")
After the novel Cel mai iubit dintre pământeni, by Marin Preda
1993   Romanian
Balanţa (The Oak) 1992 Nela (the starring role) Romanian
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: IMDB, except as noted. Accessed 21 December 2007. IMDB omits certain Romanian letters, which have been corrected.


  1. ^ a b c d e (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.
  2. ^ (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.
  3. ^ a b (Romanian) Florin Mitu, 2007 Interviu: Maia Morgenstern, AMOS News, November 17, 2007. Accessed online December 20, 2007.
  4. ^ The Passion of the Christ: About the Language, Accessed online December 20, 2007.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 'Passion' actress: Film not anti-Semitic, CNN, February 4, 2004. Accessed 20 December 2007.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ a b c d (Romanian) Evelyn Badea, Maia Morgenstern, femeia care ştie să aibă succes în toate, Adevărul, 20 October 2007 Accessed online 20 December 2007.
  9. ^ a b c Awards for Balanta (1992), IMDB. Accessed 20 December 2007.
  10. ^ Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards, UK: 2004, IMDB. Accessed 20 December 2007.

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