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Creator / Meryl Streep

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"In the nearly four years of this series, no name has been mentioned more often, or with more respect, than that of tonight's guest.... She is one of those rare actors who defines her generation, her time, and her craft."
James Lipton, Inside the Actor's Studio 1998
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Mary Louise "Meryl" Streep (born June 22, 1949), widely acknowledged by critics and fans alike as the best actress working today, broke Oscar nomination records with her nomination for Best Supporting Actress (Adaptation.). Now with twenty-one Oscar nominations (more than any other actor past and present) and three wins to her credit, she has tackled virtually every genre in Hollywood, including romantic comedies (Defending Your Life), serious dramas (Sophie's Choice, Doubt), action-adventure (The River Wild), comedies (She-Devil, Death Becomes Her), classic romances (Out of Africa), and even two musicals (Mamma Mia! and Into the Woods). Easily identified by her trademark nose, she has also appeared in, among others, The Devil Wears Prada, Silkwood, Angels in America (as an elderly male rabbi, among others), and Julie & Julia. She's probably best known for starring in Sophie's Choice, The Devil Wears Prada and The Deer Hunter.

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She has been described as "the successor to Bette Davis," and in fact Davis herself endorsed Meryl's early work. Her versatility and ability to act with her eyes and face are now unique in Hollywood, but the talent evident in every film is reminiscent of Davis at her best. Onscreen she plays characters with tremendous depth, but oddly Meryl has no 'trademark' - she transforms herself completely for each role she plays in a way no Hollywood actress has done before or since. (Her facility with accents is one of the most praised weapons in her arsenal.) Although critics have described her as 'robotic' and 'acting from the neck up,' recent movies like Mamma Mia! provide evidence to the contrary.

She is currently the standard to which all other actresses (and most actors as well) are compared, and the phrase "You're no Meryl Streep" has been used on multiple occasions at all levels of the acting industry. In essence, she has defined the standards for not only her generation but every generation to come.

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Selected Filmography:



Tropes associated with her work:

  • Ability over Appearance:invokedShe nearly got turned down for some roles because the directors felt she wasn't beautiful enough - but her performances were enough to win them over. Sophie's Choice (written for Ursula Andress), The Bridges of Madison County (written for Isabella Rosselini) and The French Lieutenant's Woman (written for Helen Mirren) - in which Meryl herself felt she wasn't pretty enough.
  • Actor-Inspired Element:invoked
    • Her character in Death Becomes Her was scripted to have an affair with a younger man, but Meryl suggested a rewrite.
    • She felt Joanna in Kramer vs. Kramer was written to be "too evil" and had the part rewritten accordingly.
    • Miranda's line in The Devil Wears Prada was going to be "everybody wants to be me", but she suggested "us" instead.
  • Ascended Extra: In The Giver the Chief Elder is a pretty small role. But Meryl's counterpart in the film is much more prominent.
  • Awesome, Dear Boy:invoked
    • She has refused to play witches in films for years, but did Into the Woods because it was a Stephen Sondheim musical. She also joked that since the Witch became young and beautiful again, it was a little better.
    • She signed on to Rendition immediately because she was rarely offered scripts for political thrillers.
    • She did She-Devil because she wanted to do a comedy role.
    • Death Becomes Her was in her words "too original to pass up".
  • Beauty Inversion:invoked For Into the Woods she's done up to look like a hag in the Witch's 'before' self. Meryl joked that it took more make-up to have her look beautiful when the Witch regains her youth.
  • Best Known for the Fanservice:invoked Seth McFarlane pointed out in his "We Saw Your Boobs" number at the Oscars that Silkwood is where Meryl herself went topless.
  • Bilingual Backfire: She auditioned for the female lead in King Kong (1976). Dino Delaurentiis said to his son in Italian (who had recommended Meryl) "why do you bring me this ugly thing?" - not knowing Meryl herself spoke Italian. She then replied "I'm very sorry that I'm not as beautiful as I should be, but, you know - this is it. This is what you get."
  • Career Resurrection:invoked Believe it or not, Meryl suffered some setbacks in the 90s. Hype Backlash set in and some of her films were poorly received by critics - she herself growing tired of endless dramatic roles. She longed to go against type, many of these roles not doing that well either. With The Bridges of Madison County, she was back in prominence. Mamma Mia! was a significant turning point for her - marking her highest grossing film.
    "The greatest actress in American movies has finally become a movie star."
  • The Cast Show Off:invoked Meryl has shown off her singing in Mamma Mia!, Into the Woods, Death Becomes Her, Silkwood, Marvin's Room and Ricki and the Flash.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Has said that she's been mistaken for Glenn Close.
  • Creator Backlash:invoked The French Lieutenant's Woman is the performance she feels is her weakest (despite the Oscar nomination).
    "I didn't feel I was living it."
  • Creator Breakdown:invoked When filming that scene in Sophie's Choice, she did only one take and refused to do another. As a mother, she found the scene that distressing. She never watched the scene back until years later when she was being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey.
  • Deleted Role:invoked Her first film Julia had her scenes heavily cut down. She still impressed Robert De Niro enough to be cast in The Deer Hunter.
  • Doing It for the Art:invoked
    • Ricki and the Flash was put on hold for seven months so Meryl could learn to play guitar for it.
    • For a scene in Out of Africa where Karen meets and greets several servants, it was filmed as one long continuous take. As soon as the camera rolled, a beetle crawled into Meryl's jacket. She carried on with the take.
  • Dye Hard:invokedNaturally brunette, but best known as a blonde these days.
  • Dyeing for Your Art:invoked For The Bridges of Madison County she gained weight, feeling it was the right fit for the character.
  • Enforced Method Acting:invoked
    • On the first day of The Devil Wears Prada Meryl said to Anne Hathaway - "I think you're perfect for this part and I'm going to enjoy working with you" - and then to remember that, because it would be the last nice thing she said. She kept her distance from everyone, feeling she couldn't properly "chill the blood" as Miranda. Emily Blunt joked that as soon as the movie wrapped, Meryl ran across the car park shouting "you were so good!"
    • She and Mamie Gummer didn't see each other during production of Ricki and the Flash in order to create a feeling of isolation between their characters.
    • For the "Slipping Through My Fingers" scene in Mamma Mia!, she and Amanda Seyfried had heavy metal music blasted at them to get them to laugh hysterically.
  • Fake Nationality:invoked It's her specialty. The complete list is English (The Iron Lady, The French Lieutenant's Woman), Danish (Out of Africa), Polish (Sophie's Choice), Irish (Dancing at Lughnasa), Italian (The Bridges of Madison County), Australian (A Cry In The Dark) and German (Holocaust).
  • Fan Community Nickname: invoked The Streepers.
  • Fatal Method Acting:invoked Two near-misses.
    • The River Wild - an exhausted Meryl was persuaded to do one more take of a raft scene. She got swept off the raft and nearly drowned.
    • Into the Woods - she tripped on her dress and fell head-first towards a concrete floor. Emily Blunt swooped in and caught her. Emily Blunt who was five months pregnant at the time.
  • Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have!: She's nearly 70 and still looks great.
  • Hollywood Old: She was a full ten years younger than Florence Foster Jenkins and had to have her costumes padded to match Florence's more matronly appearance.
  • Irony as She Is Cast:invoked In Florence Foster Jenkins she plays a ferociously bad opera singer, despite demonstrating that she is quite a gifted singer in real life.
  • Money, Dear Boy:invokedAdmits that the miniseries Holocaust was done entirely for the money.
  • Old Shame:invoked When asked by a journalist to name one bad film she's done, she picked Still of the Night.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: She was nicknamed 'Meryl' as a child and only named Mary because it was family tradition.
  • Playing Against Type:invoked Played with, since she does have plenty of range. But most of her roles are serious and dramatic, and a film is automatically considered Oscar Bait if she's in it. The films that don't conform to that:
  • Playing Hamlet:invoked Her character Donna in Mamma Mia! is apparently supposed to be a good deal younger than her real age, made especially clear in the sequel when Cher, only three years Streep's senior, plays Donna's mother.
  • Real-Life Relative:invoked Her daughter Mamie Gummer has starred alongside her in Evening (playing Meryl's younger self) and Ricki and the Flash (as Meryl's daughter).
  • So My Kids Can Watch:invoked
  • Spell My Name with an "S": She laments that her last name isn't 'Street'.
  • Star-Making Role:invokedVery quick out of the gate with The Deer Hunter and Kramer vs. Kramer bringing her to national attention. You could argue that her Oscar win for Sophie's Choice really solidified Meryl as a star.
  • What Could Have Been:invoked
    • She initially was going to be the title role in She-Devil but found it too similar to A Cry In The Dark, so she opted to play Mary instead.
    • She replaced Madonna in Music of the Heart. Madonna herself was chosen over Meryl in Evita.
    • She was in talks to star in a remake of A Streetcar Named Desire in the 80s. She wasn't available, so it became a TV project with Anne Margaret as Blanche.
    • The four roles she's been turned down for? Elizabeth (played by Cate Blanchett), American Gigolo (played by Lauren Hutton), Sweet Dreams (played by Jessica Lange) and The Remains of the Day (played by Emma Thompson).
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