Maia Morgenstern is a Romanian film and stage actress who is described by Florin Mitu of AMOS News as “A symbol of Romanian theater and film.” In the English-speaking world, she is best known for the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. In Romania, Morgenstern has been nationally known since her 1992 role as Nela in Balanta, a film known in the United States as The Oak and which was set during the waning days of Communist Romania.
Born in Bucharest to a Jewish family, Morenstern graduated from the Film and Theatre Academy of Bucharest. She then played at Teatrul Tineretului (youth theatre) in Piatra Neamt and at the Teatrul Evreiesc de Stat (State Jewish Theater) in Bucharest. From 1990 to 1998, she was a member of the company of the National Theatre in Bucharest, and since 1998 of Teatrul Bulandra. Additionally, she continues to act at the State Jewish Theatre and elsewhere in Romania. Among her notable stage roles in recent years, Morgenstern was featured in a Romanian-language production of The Blue Angel (Ingerul Albastru in Romanian) at Bucharest’s Odeon Theater, in 2001-2002 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 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 memorized her lines phonetically.