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Sitting down with two of Hollywood’s most acclaimed Oscar-winning actors is intimidating, especially when one is the most iconic actress of her generation and the other has a reputation for not suffering fools.
But Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are eager to talk about their romantic comedy Hope Springs, and the unique challenges it posed for actors of their generation.
What makes you think I was faking? – Meryl Streep
”This movie 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,” Streep explains. ”This was our Blue Valentine,” she adds with a giggle, referring to the sexually explicit 2010 film starring Ryan Gosling and Michele Williams.
”What attracted me to do it?” Jones retorts gruffly in his interview. ”Meryl attracted me to it, that was my motivation. I thought the script was pretty good and it was about real people with real problems that are universal, but I only had to think for two seconds when they told me Meryl was going to do the movie.”
”He’s lying,” Streep says, brushing off the compliment. ”He read the script and he knew that this was a great part for him and I think in a way it’s his character’s film, because she instigates the change and animates it with her love for him and her desire, but he’s the one who has the real journey.”
In Hope Springs, Streep and Jones play Kay and Arnold Soames, a mature couple married for 30 years. Kay convinces her reluctant husband to attend an intense week-long counselling session run by a top therapist (Steve Carell) to work on their relationship, with unexpected results.
The pair are acting thoroughbreds: Streep, 63, has a record 17 Oscar nominations, including her win last year for The Iron Lady as well as diverse credits such as Sophie’s Choice , Out of Africa, The Devil Wears Prada and Mamma Mia. Jones, 65, brags three Oscar nominations for The Fugitive, for which he won, and JFK and In the Valley of Elah, as well as credits including Men in Black and No Country for Old Men.
Streep says she’s wanted to work with Jones for more than 30 years. ”We were working at the Public Theatre at the same time, and he was in this Sam Shepard play and was incredible,” Streep says.
Asked if he was a good kisser, she laughs. ”You should try yourself; he’s all right!”
Streep has been married for 34 years to sculptor Don Gummer and has four adult children. The down-to-earth star looks amused when asked how she felt about her fake masturbation scene in the film. ”What makes you think I was faking?” she responds playfully. ”That’s an extremely comic moment in the film and the only thing I’m grateful for is that they didn’t put it in the trailer – like they normally put everything in the trailer!”
After moodily dismissing attempts to get Jones to talk about relationships (”Wait a minute, this is the third question that tries to relate the two of us to the two characters, and I question the relevance of that,” he interrupts at one point), he warms up a little when asked what he does to keep his third wife, Dawn Laurel, happy.
”I take her hunting and fishing and give her horses to ride,” he says with a rare smile.
”When we first began our relationship about 18 years ago, she began to take an interest in horses because I spent a lot of time on horseback and she studied the sport of polo.
”This year she won the US Women’s Open,” he adds proudly. ”Unlike my character in the movie, I’ve never engaged in couples therapy and my wife hasn’t brought it up so that’s a good sign.”
As her interview winds down, Streep is asked what she looks forward to after such an epic career. ”Grandchildren,” she replies immediately.
Her daughter, the actress Mamie Gummer, was the first of her children to marry last year – to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter star Ben Walker – and Streep sounds impatient as she adds, ”I’m waiting, but nothing is happening yet.”