Meryl Streep: “I’m not a fashionista”


Another interview was published here.

Starring in the romantic comedy, Hope Springs, opposite Tommy Lee Jones about a married couple of 30 years who attend marriage counseling, Streep is widely regarded as the world’s greatest actress. She’s in Los Angeles to promote the movie, and as always, looks elegant and seems to have defied the aging process. At age 63, she has retained a youthful appearance and her figure is obviously maintained well.

Her personal life couldn’t be more different than the character she plays. She has been married to sculptor Don Gummer since 1978 and they have four children: Henry, Mamie, Grace, and Louisa, the latter two children are both actresses.

Q. You are known for challenging roles. How challenging was it to fake a masturbation scene….

What makes you think I was faking? (laughs)

Q: Did you visit any marriage therapists to understand how people act in the office?

No, I didn’t. I didn’t visit any. But I think it’s a familiar trope. It’s very familiar, this idea of a therapist and the two people, and yet, every encounter is different. And so what you hope for in this kind of dramatic situation is that you will see something happen in front of you. That’s all. That you will really see it happen.

Q: You are looking really different than how we normally see you. How was it to become the perfect super wife with all the prints and the hair? How was the transformation for you? I don’t know if you went to the mall…

I did go to the mall, and I did do some shopping there, both for myself and my character, (laughter) so I don’t know, this person is not an alien to me. I’m from New Jersey, I grew up in the suburbs and it’s a world I’m familiar with. I raised my children in a very mixed neighbourhood in the country and I shop at the mall. What can I say, I’m not a fashionista. (laughter)

Q: Can you really shop at the mall?

Yeah.

Q: Don’t you get bothered all the time?

Well, in recent years it’s been harder, I will say that. In recent years, but yes, I used to be able to do that all the time.

Q: Did you ever wear sort of silly disguises or anything?

No, that’s more embarrassing to be caught in.

Q: Can you talk about how you related to this woman. This is a couple who become creatures of habit. They don’t appreciate each other anymore, they take each other for granted. How much do you relate to that, and how hard is it to actually fight against that on an everyday basis? To not let a relationship or a marriage or a friendship even fall asleep so to speak?

I think, and I can’t speak for all humanity, even though I often try, (laughter) for me, it’s very easy to imagine and to be caught being complacent. I mean, in friendships, in relationships with your children, in any intimate relationship to catch yourself thinking what the other person thinks. And thinking you know how they are going to react and you make assumptions and it’s not always the best idea. And we know this, we know this intuitively. Sometimes, I’m sure that that’s why I felt like this and I’m not completely alone in this thing because I don’t live alone, I have a wide circle of girlfriends, all of whom talk about the exact same things, so we all know where we are in our lives. We know this story is relatable by many people. I mean that’s sort of what really pulled me to the material because I thought, God, nobody makes a movie about this, about people my age wanting to be seen, heard, intimately known, I mean, that’s a really unknown landscape for the movies. And that was something that appealed to me.

Q: But what do you do to go against it?

You try to remain alert and awake. To stay awake.

Q: Did you at all, even just slightly, take it home when you were doing this? Maybe you had an extra conversation in your own personal life?

It’s nobody’s fucking business. (Laughter)

Q: I was just looking for a light-hearted small anecdote.

I mean, you are not going to get it. (Laughter)

Q: Why is actually the subject of sex so taboo to us? Even watching the movie I sometimes blush a little listening to you guys as actors say these things. So why are we so uncomfortable talking about that and we see people talking about it even though it’s an intimate therapy session?

I think it’s just allowing yourself to be vulnerable, to show your weakness, to show what you need, to show what you are not capable of doing all by yourself. And how much you need. I think that’s what it is. And that’s what’s embarrassing and hard.

Q: Do you think it’s more taboo to watch older characters talking about sex?

Not for older characters, (laughter) I think it’s probably uncomfortable for maybe younger characters, maybe it’s nice for them to see this, maybe they’ll think that, ‘Oh they are not like that.’ Young people can be calcified in their relationship and ignorant of each others’ needs and could take a page from the book.

Q: Because you said before there aren’t a lot of movies like this.

No.

Q: Especially with women of your age you said.

Yeah.

Q: Why is that do you think?

I don’t know, I think we are an evolving in an evolving place with movies and stories and they are recognizing that people are still awake and alert and wanting stories about them, that are in the audience and interested.

Q: So is it hard even for you to find the good parts?

No, I mean so far, so good. It’s been okay. (laughs) It’s been glorious actually. (laughs)

Q: You mentioned that you wanted to work with Tommy Lee Jones for 30 years but when you are Meryl Streep, we just imagine that you pick up the phone and say, ‘I want to do a movie with so and so.’

Yeah.

Q: And did you actually pursue him for this?

I definitely made my, I’m not a producer so, but I browbeat the producers, and I said, ‘This is the right person.’

Q: What was it about him for all these years that…

I’m not going to talk about him (laughter) because he’ll kill me. But I think he’s just a gorgeous actor and perfect instincts, and great taste, passion, and I’m sure part of it is because he’s a director. He’s economical.

Q: Do you think somehow, we were talking about being uncomfortable talking about sex, and with one another, do you think it’s somehow linked with religion, because some religious people say this is taboo and not really good?

No, I don’t think so. Well, maybe, maybe, in some cultures, I can’t speak for all of it, but I do think there are lots of people that talk about sex all the time that don’t talk about intimacy and there are needs and their own and sex is easy to talk about. What your longings are, what your loneliness is, what your sadness is, it’s very hard to talk about. And I think it’s less to do with sex really than longing for love. And to be felt and heard and seen an important and that reflection and the person that you are the closest to.

Q: Do you think human beings in general are capable of a huge change?

Absolutely I do. And it’s only in the change that isn’t anticipated that things move forward and things shift and absolutely.

Q. For Americans one of the most uncomfortable things is to talk about sex and you not only had to talk about it but act upon it too. Did it provoke interesting discussions between you?

It was a complete joy. As I said, I wanted to work with him for 30 years and never got the chance. And this presented itself. When you say it’s about sex I don’t think it is. Love is uncomfortable. Really loving someone and feeling stuck as to how to get out of the rut you are in and bring it out of your partner is important. It was a chance to talk intimately about things that matter and in a way we don’t get to see from people our age in the movies. I don’t think you get to see it at many ages. What was that film with Ryan Gosling? Crazy Stupid Love, that addressed it.

Q: Your character doesn’t have anything that makes her happy. If you were in that position would you walk out or would you do as much work?

Me? This is not a documentary. I didn’t write it. If I’d written a film it would be about me. This is about a specific woman in a specific town in a relationship with a man who is an accountant and she’s a housewife and her children have grown up and moved out.

Q. Do you think their generation imposed the roles? He’s working. She is perceived as the housewife and the unhappiness is a social factor of this model?

Yes but the model survives throughout many generations even through the hippest gen-y’s. Women make a religion of relationships and study how they work, just as a generalization.

Q. But how open are you to taking advice?

I think Kay is not likely to go to a shrink, she’d likely go to her pastor, but she breaks out of her shell of reticence to move. It’s a brave thing.

Q. You think having a routine kills romance.

I think we are filled with longing. Every human being is filled with longing and we all handle it in a private way. Where you put that, you can imagine it’s a spiritual longing, yearning for love, even if they are sitting right next to you. It’s all about staying alive in your life and that’s something the film plays around the edges of.

Q. He doesn’t hear her but his co-worker he hears. Why does it take the outside people that he can hear?

He’s very complacent guy. He’s in a grove or a rut. He’s comfortable living a life with no challenges at all. He watches golf. I doubt he plays golf. If he did he wasn’t any good.

Q. Why is it always the women who initiate these things?

Because women have the antenna up more. They get the 360 of the room. It’s all self preservation. It’s in the interest of the woman that the relationship works.

Q. Your skin is lovely. What do you do to look after it?

Thank you. At the Oscars they give you this free pack – and whatever is in that pack I smear it on for a year.

Q. But you don’t go into the sun?

I don’t really like being hot. I don’t like the sun beating down on me. I don’t like it. 

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