Simply Streep is your premiere source on Meryl Streep's work on film, television and in the theatre - a career that has won her three Academy Awards and the praise to be one of the world's greatest working actresses. Created in 1999, we have built an extensive collection to discover Miss Streep's work through an archive of press articles, photos and video clips. Enjoy your stay.
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A young woman in a raincoat and blue jeans, long blonde hair tucked away in a bun, steps out of the subway at 57th St. She walks through the drizzle, looking in shop windows, rummaging in her pocketbook for coffee change. Peering in a window, she checks to see if a small sty in her right eye has gone down. Passersby don’t give her a second, or even a first, glance. That’s just the way Meryl Streep likes it.
“I’d be really upset if my life changed, if everyone stopped me on the street,” says Streep, a Nordic-Dutch beauty whose looks and manner suggest a wisecracking milkmaid. Keeping her anonymity will be a problem; one of New York’s reigning stage actresses after only three years in the city, Streep is now on a formidable movie streak. She’s already appeared in “Julia”; with Robert De Niro in “The Deer Hunter”, with Alan Alda in “The Senator”, in the new Woody Allen project, “Manhattan”, and as Dustin Hoffman’s estranged wife in “Kramer vs. Kramer”, currently shooting. A TV sting led to an Emmy her starring role in “Holocaust”, which led in turn to one of Streep’s not-very-conclusive brushes with the public. “The day after the Emmys,” she says, “someone came to me in Bloomingdale’s and said ‘Did anyone ever tell you that you look exactly like Meryl what’s-her-name?’ I said, ‘No, nobody ever did, but thanks anyway.”
Until the jaws of movie publicity close on her, Streep won’t sit around worrying about it. “Films are nice, but I don’t live in this world,” she says, looking at the shooting schedule tacked to the wall, the publicity shots and other movieland detritus in the “Kramer vs. Kramer” offices at Columbia. “Movies aren’t going to be my life. I come in, do my job and don’t hang around.” Her major passion, discovered during high-school days in Bernardsville, N.J., is the theater. “I can put more energy into plays, I can involve my whole body, I can open my mouth and scream. In films, everything has to be about this big” – she minces a styrofram cup around the table – “and it puts you right to sleep”.
Poised between plays and films, Streep is always comparing. “Doing a play is like being a little kid playing in the basement. You’ve got an hour, so you throw a blanket over your head and you’re a princess in a castle. You get in some concentrated playtime. In movies, you’re down there with the blanked over your head and your mother shouts ‘Get upstairs and brush your teeth’ After that, you go back down and just a soon as you’re the princess again, it’s ‘Get upstairs and clean your room!’ The only way to get through is to go upstairs as the princess. That’s why movie people stay in character all day, and sometimes even after the movie’s over. After a play, you can just go to a bar with your buddies and forget it”. Streep found work in plays as soon as she came to New York from Vassar College and Yale Drama School. Soon the work was pouring in: Roles in Brecht’s “Happy End” and in the experimental Andrei Serban production of “The Cherry Orchard” and Shakespearan roles including Catherine in “Henry V” and Kate in “The Taming of the Shrew”.
“It was the weirdest thing. I started getting all the jobs coming up in New York. Suddenly I was the one they wanted – except now the work came through my agent instead of through the Dean’s office.” Her self-confidence is disquieting: “It didn’t seem unusual, there was nothing extraordinarily heady about it. At Yale, I was sort of the class hotshot, which was hard psychologically. People resented my always getting the best roles – they were paying tuition, too. It was a relief to come to New York and compete with 200.000 people instead of eight.” Her greatest theatrical dream, aside from playing Hamlet – “all the best Shakespeare roles are for men” – is to put together “an American all-star traveling show. We’d take maybe three different Shakespeare plays to cities in America that don’t have repertory companies, places less glamorous than Gary. It sounds so pretentious, but I feel that this amazing writing is just slipping away from generations of people”.
Streep is seriously discussing her idea with New York Shakespeare Festival head Joseph Papp, as well as Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino. The tour would include a documentary film crew, something along the lines of “The Last Waltz”. For now, aside from recently marrying Don Gummer, a New York sculptor, and shooting “Kramer vs. Kramer”, Streep is rehearsing the title role in Elizabeth Swados’ musical version of Alice in Wonderland”. “It’s going to be a realistic fantasy, a tangible Wonderland.” She gives one of her sidelong glances around the Columbia offices. “It was a real job, convincing these people that I could do two things at once. But to be in a vacuum with just Joanna Kramer would make for a boring Joanna Kramer. It’s theater that sustains me.”