Maia Morgenstern (born May 1, 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 Theater Academy of Bucharest in 1985. She then played at the 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 Theater in Bucharest, and since 1998 of Teatrul Bulandra, also in Bucharest; in addition, she continues to act at the State Jewish Theater and other Bucharest theaters and elsewhere in Romania.
Since making her film debut in 1983 in Prea cald pentru luna mai (1983) she has appeared in dozens of Romanian feature films as well as several international productions, including the English-language Nostradamus (1994), starring F. Murray Abraham and Tchéky Karyo; the Hungarian-language Siódmy pokój (1995) and the English/Greek language Ulysses’ Gaze (1995), in which she co-starred with Harvey Keitel. More recently, she played Nonna in the French language feature Marie, Nonna, la vierge et moi (2000). Morgenstern also took on a role in the USA Network TV movie Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula (2000). She has received two major awards for her work on the stage: Stars of Tomorrow Award (1992) and the Felix Prize as Best Actress (1993). Also in 1993, she won a European Film Award for Best Actress in Balanţa (1992).
Her surname Morgenstern means "Morning Star", 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 film 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."
Maia Morgenstern at IMDB and Wikipedia.