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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“I think I was wired for family,” Meryl Streep says. “You know how they say people are wired for religion, or wired for this or that? I always knew I would like to, if I could find the right person, have a family. I can’t imagine living single. Although, frankly”-and here the 56-year-old actress gives me a deadpan glance through her blue-tinted glasses-“sometimes it’s rather attractive.” Streep laughs, loudly. One of the nicest things about her is her big, naughty laugh, the target of which is frequently herself. “The oven blew up just before I came here,” she tells me, merrily, a few moments later. We’re sitting in a downtown-Manhattan café, by the front window, where the late-afternoon light pays gentle tribute to her Spode-china complexion. “I thought I’d make something just so I could get ahead, and then-I hate electronics-the numbers on the oven lit up, and then they just went flicker-flicker-flicker and died.” Streep shakes her head. “I’m not a good cook,” she admits. “I’m working on it these days.” No matter the role-actress, mother or co-head of a busy household-Meryl Streep is always working hard. But in the kitchen? After all, we usually think the feet of movie stars-not to mention screen legends-never really touch the ground. The more you get to know Streep, however, the more you realize how insistently grounded she is. She wears her legendhood lightly, both thoroughly understanding her worth and constantly questioning it. “I get nervous calling myself an artist,” she says. “I feel I’m more like an interpreter or a violinist, you know.”
She’s one heck of a fiddle-player, figuratively and literally: Streep learned to play the violin, practicing six hours a day for eight weeks, for her role in 1999’s Music of the Heart. She is renowned for the totality with which she immerses herself in her roles, her chameleonlike skill at adopting foreign accents and her gift for serious parts as well as the broadest comedy. With a record 13 Oscar nominations (and two wins, for Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice), Streep has a legitimate claim to being called the greatest actress of our time. Her range is sweeping and unmatched. In A Prairie Home Companion (due out June 9), she plays the ditzy and hilarious single mother of a self-serious teenage daughter (Lindsay Lohan) who wears black-rimmed glasses and writes poems about suicide. Streep even gets to showcase her terrific singing voice. Her role in The Devil Wears Prada, premiering just two weeks later, couldn’t be more different: She portrays a high-strung, high-profile fashion magazine editor. With all her success, Streep insists, “I don’t look at my career as separate from my life.” She and her husband of 27 years, sculptor Don Gummer, have four children ranging in age from 26 to 14. In a profession where long marriages are rare, Streep had the wisdom and the luck to find a mate who was outside of show business yet on her wavelength. “My husband understands the compulsion to create things,” she says. “With somebody who had a regular job, I think it might have been harder to translate those creative impulses and the need to satisfy them.”
Though Streep has a very full professional plate these days, domestic matters always have a way of making their presence known. Her children are constantly on the phone, on her mind and on the scene. As we speak, her middle daughter is visiting for a couple of weeks. “I think you have to have somebody as a partner who shares what you value in life. I’ve always loved raising a family, and Don always gets that it’s a very big, important job and a hard job. A really, really hard job. And it never ends.” Streep’s work ethic has deep roots. She grew up in a comfortable New Jersey suburb, the daughter of a drug-company executive and a housewife who let their children know, early on, that good things don’t come easily.
“We were very aware of what everything cost,” Streep says. “We were made to be aware of the price of things. I was always security-minded-it’s that Depression Era mentality that’s built into you. I remember thinking: ‘If I take student loans out, if I make a certain amount of money, how long will it take me to pay it off and be free and clear?’ We were always encouraged not to incur any debt, except to establish your credit rating. It’s not a bad thing to tell your kids. It’s tougher now.” For all their practicality, however, both her parents had an artistic streak. “They fell in love over the piano,” she says. “My father loved to play the piano.” And her mother sang. “I remember her singing in the kitchen-sometimes that’s how we knew she was mad.” Streep laughs. “I heard every single song from the ’30s and ’40s. She knew the lyrics to everything.” Streep comes from a line of formidable women. “I look like my maternal grandmother,” she says. “The nose, the coloring. All the time I knew her, she had white, white hair, and she just had a wonderful chuckle about her. But she was also terrifying on a certain level. Mother said she was scared of her.”
Streep’s mother, Mary, worked as an artist for almost 10 years before she had Meryl, the first of three children. “She started a family when she was 35, which was unheard of. All of her friends were 22, 23 years old.” Mary Streep had an art studio behind the house, but raising her children took up most of her time. “I asked her once, if she could have had her druthers, what would she have done with her life. She said, ‘I would have loved to have been a lounge singer.’ I think she was telling the truth. She was funny, really funny. Just witty.” Meryl turned in her first standout performance in a seventh-grade chorus concert. “Everybody came and told my parents how wonderful I was and that they should get me singing lessons, and they did. It was a big sacrifice to take me into New York every week to this famous teacher. I knew it cost them a lot. But they sacrificed so that we could blossom.”
Streep’s mother died at age 86 in 2001; her father, Harry, died three years later in his early 90s. In his final years, her widowed father required constant care-a responsibility that largely fell to Meryl. She took it on gladly. “There are a lot of bad things about being the oldest, but that’s one of the good things about it,” she says. “It’s your job.” Streep’s sacrifice for her own children has been one of time and attention-lots of both. She sighs. “Parenting is really expertise on the fly,” she says. “You make it up as you go along. I back Don up. He is my backup. We agree. So thank God for that! But I’m not writing the book on parenting by any means.” But she could. From all appearances, her children seem lively, engaged, talented-and quite attractive. Two even have followed her professional lead: The eldest, 26-year-old Henry, is an actor, filmmaker and the co-founder of a rock band whose name, Streep laughingly tells me, “I don’t know if I’m allowed to say: A, he wants the publicity, and B, he doesn’t want it.” Her second child, Mary Willa (stage name: Mamie Gummer), 22, recently made her off-Broadway debut and, Streep says proudly, “has just been cast in another play here in the city.”
Mostly, though, she seems torn between delight in her offspring’s accomplishments and concern for their privacy. Of her second daughter, Grace, 19, Streep says only that she’s a college sophomore. And when asked about the youngest, 14-year-old Louisa, the actress shifts into only slightly tongue-in-cheek name-rank-and-serial-number mode: “She goes to high school in the New York area and will die if this appears anywhere.” When Streep and I discuss how quickly her own success came-she got work on the New York stage right after graduating from Yale Drama School in 1975 and was acting on TV and in movies soon afterward-I find myself making a flip remark about how she never had to wait tables. Streep shakes her head, vehemently. “All through college and graduate school, I always had that kind of job,” she says. “I still have that kind of job, by the way.”